Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
I finally have money for quality gear. Help me figure out what clothes I need for colder weather
Display Avatars Sort By:
Julian Bender
(jbphilly) - F
I finally have money for quality gear. Help me figure out what clothes I need for colder weather on 07/13/2012 16:05:00 MDT Print View

So although my backpacking experience is decent enough that I consider I know what I'm doing, it's only recently I've had enough income to spend on decent-quality gear, and I'm slowly phasing out my cotton stuff in favor of better options.

My two big upcoming trips are to the Cascades in Washington (early August) and the Beartooths in Montana (mid-late August). I'm in Philadelphia so all we have now is muggy heat, and of course even in winter it doesn't get that cold normally. But I like mountains so I want to be prepared for three-season hiking in them.

Here's what I have now, that's of a weight and material to be used backpacking. Almost all the clothes are things I got on clearance and so forth, and none of them were purchased with an informed understanding of layering principles, and without too much thought toward weight since they were on what was cheap. But I think it's all a decent start. I thought I'd show this forum what I got and ask for suggestions on what to use, how to use it, and what to buy next...

Tops -
Lightweight, 100% polyester longsleeve REI top
Stoic Merino crew (mix of wool and some synthetics), short sleeve
Stoic Breathe 150 Zip-T, Long sleeve
REI Windstill Jacket
...and for past cold trips, I've also taken a flannel shirt and a light cotton jacket, which needless to say, are gonna be the first things to go. I lugged them on 600 miles of the Israel National Trail and enough is enough...

Columbia convertible hiking pants (nylon/polyester) - these have served me well, even if I went wrong in picking a light color (they sure look grubby after much use).
For night warmth, I've added a pair of cotton long johns.

Feet - Merrell hiking boots
1 pair thick-ish Smartwool hiking socks, 1 pair similar REI wool socks, 1 lighter pair REI wool socks. I'd take 2 pairs on any trip, generally

Head, hands etc - I have some nice Smartwool gloves and a Patagonia wool beanie I got for cheap off these forums recently. I have not had a chance to use them yet.

Sleeping bag - I have an insultex top quilt that weighs about 8oz and does a great job down to around 50, although I haven't pushed it past that. I also have a North Face Cat's Meow 20 degree bag, which is heavy and bulky, but I'm not dishing out the money for a down quilt just yet, so that's what I'll be taking to Montana.

On my upcoming trips I'm not worried about daytime warmth (and really, anytime except winter I wouldn't be) but I get cold easily at night (that's referred to as "sleeping cold," right? I can never remember which is which) and once it gets down below 40 I get cold in the North Face bag. My feet in particular get really cold.

So, I'm looking for something to keep my core warm on cold nights in camp, something to help my feet stay warm in the sleeping bag at night, and a good wind/water resistant layer/shell/soft shell/whatever. I'm willing to shell out for high quality and lightweight pieces of gear, so I'm open to any suggestions. Also to tips on staying warm that don't involve buying gear!

Jen Churchward
(mahgnillig) - F
sleeping cold on 07/13/2012 19:54:05 MDT Print View

I'm a cold sleeper too, so here's what I recommend:

- Midweight wool or synthetic long undies instead of cotton... they are much warmer!
- If your feet still get cold, try out some down booties. I have some old Sierra Designs ones that weigh less than 3oz and keep my feet toasty when worn in combination with a clean pair of wool socks.
- If your feet are still cold, fill a Nalgene or Platypus bottle with hot water, wrap it in a sock & put it in the bottom of your bag.
- Finally, a down bag/quilt instead of synthetic. The difference between my 20 degree synthetic bag and my 22 degree down bag is astonishing!

I usually don't need to wear it inside my bag... but a down jacket is great to have when sitting around at camp. Same goes for a warm hat and a fleece neck gaiter. I like to know I have options for extra warmth if it suddenly turns chilly.

Hope this helps!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: sleeping cold on 07/13/2012 20:35:27 MDT Print View

You don't have a down or synthetic jacket/vest. I like a vest but many people like arms also. That will give you the best warmth for the weight.

Wear that inside your quilt and you should be warm enough, but that might be pushing it. You could experiment with that and see how cold you could go.

I think the fewer of all those mid layers the better - not much warmth for the weight.

You do need something to give sun and insect protection that's as light as possible, and that will provide a little warmth if it's cold.

I don't go into the North half of Washington much, or past the Oregon border into Idaho much, but August should be pretty warm. Above 40 F?

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: I finally have money for quality gear. Help me figure out what clothes I need for colder weather on 07/13/2012 21:46:26 MDT Print View

I don't think you'll need long johns at those temps, although if you need them for warmth while sleeping, you can find polypropylene or polyester at decent prices. You could probably find this used at a surplus store for really cheap. I even found a new pair which was polyester on the inside and merino on the outside at a decent price. As long as they stay dry, the cotton ones will work too though.

What do you use for insulation underneath while sleeping? What is the R-value? If you sleep on your back, consider putting some spare clothing under your knees, as having your legs unnaturally straight in a mummy bag can reduce circulation to your feet, making them cold. Also, try to sleep on a very slight slope with your feet downhill. You don't want so much of a slope that you're sliding at night though. Stretch and massage your feet before going to bed. Wear a hat to bed, and maybe even a jacket. This is because if the rest of your body is a little on the warm side, some of this heat will make its way down to the feet.

You might want to experiment with using trail runners instead of boots.

Julian Bender
(jbphilly) - F
warmth on 07/14/2012 08:22:38 MDT Print View

Thanks for the comments. Can anyone recommend a favorite down (or synthetic) jacket or vest?

Also looking for a good lightweight rain/wind resistant shell. Any recommendations? The REI jacket is nice and does keep me fairly warm, but it's relatively heavy and not very water-resistant at all. I'm actually not averse to using a trash-bag-based poncho if that's functional, but can anyone tell me if there are reasons I'd regret doing that in a big rainfall?

In long johns, what material would be favored? Wool? REI has some silk ones - would those be any good?

As for bottom insulation, I normally sleep in a hammock. In Washington I plan to take it along, but in Montana I'll be sharing a tent with someone else. I have the Ozark Trail mat from Walmart, which has found favor among hammockers for being 24 inches wide, but for Montana I'll probably take a narrower mat I got from EMS. I haven't really used either of these on the ground, but in the hammock, I haven't had problems with them giving me cold butt syndrome - it's mostly my toes that feel the cold unless things are really nippy.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: warmth on 07/14/2012 15:19:25 MDT Print View

"Can anyone recommend a favorite down (or synthetic) jacket or vest?"

I make my own

Lots of threads and articles about this

2.5 ounce Apex for summer. Or a light down one

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
I finally have money for quality gear. Help me figure out what clothes I need for colder weather on 07/17/2012 19:14:29 MDT Print View

This is how I do it...
I always have "camp clothes" that is a first layer that is only used at camp so it does not get wet (from sweat) nor dirty for at least 6 days or so.
That is for me the way to be warm : be clean ad dry (this is why I always recommend a wash (at least a wipe down) at camp.
Night socks need to be loose otherwise any compression will make your feet cold.
I always have some spare bread bags or thin plastic bags that sometime I put over my feet at night to give me a quick boost but I take them off as soon as I start to feel some sweating.
Silk pants will be lighter and will help in keeping the sleeping bag clean. Merino is heavier but will be warmer.
I would opt for the Merino because you can always open up the sb if too warm.
Try to go to sleep with some good food in your stomach , clean and not cold.
(to keep warm your body needs fuel, that is food...)
If you are cool/cold before going to bed , walk or skip about to warm up. (don't sweat...)
Hat and gloves come also very handy for a temperature boost in bed.
BTW, for a great (in specs at least...) vest look at Black Rock
I use a Western Mountaineering Flash jacket but the Black Rock stuff has more down for the same weight.

Julian Bender
(jbphilly) - F
gear on 07/18/2012 07:20:04 MDT Print View

I found a Montbell ExLight jacket on for about 90 bucks shipped, so I went for it.

In the Beartooth trip, I'm assuming I want to cook in my daytime clothes, then switch to my night clothes and hang the daytime ones - so should I bring a spare pair of pants? Or is that overkill?

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
down coat / sweater on 08/05/2012 21:12:37 MDT Print View

I sure like my Western Mountaineering down coat. Expensive, but light and warm. I put on on my sleeping at night if I start to get cold.