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Which down pants to extend my backpacking season?
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Patty L

Locale: Colorado Rocky Mountains
Which down pants to extend my backpacking season? on 01/30/2013 20:25:05 MST Print View

I am hoping to extend my backpacking season in Colorado to include late spring and early fall. Instead of buying an additional sleeping bag, I'd like to use my three-season 32 degree bag, but add a down top and pants, which will be nice to have on when I get out of my sleeping bag in the cold. Which of the following would you recommend for this purpose?:

- Montbell Thermawrap TEC Pant
- Montbell UL Down Pant
- Western Mountaineering Flash Pant
- Western Mountaineering Flight Pant

In order of importance, I'm looking for pants that:

1) Enable me to use my three-season sleeping bag in cooler temperatures
2) Are lightweight
3) Being able to get them on and off over boots would be ideal
4) I can buy at the store because I have a pretty quick deadline and do not have time for a custom order


Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Which down pants to extend my backpacking season? on 01/30/2013 20:30:48 MST Print View

I use the WM Flash jacket and pants just to do that.
With a 32f bag they take me down to 20f (+/-)
Both are better used as an under layer and no you should not pull the pants on or off with the boots on.

Patty L

Locale: Colorado Rocky Mountains
Re: Which down pants to extend my backpacking season? on 01/30/2013 20:56:13 MST Print View

Hi Franco,

Thank you for your response. Please excuse my ignorance as I have been mostly a fair weather backpacker until now and I'm trying to figure out how to go out in the cold more comfortably. I was thinking that I would keep these pants and down jacket on even after I start hiking in the morning since I expect it to be pretty cold if I'm using them, but if I cannot take them off over the boots once I warn up, I imagine that would cause an inconvenient undressing on the trail if I have to take the boots off to get the pants off.

Is it safe to assume you do not hike in your WM Flash pants?

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Which down pants to extend my backpacking season? on 01/30/2013 21:13:30 MST Print View

At 20 f I still hike with my thin merino underlayers , std hiking pants on top and rain pants (eVent)over that if the snow is wet, thin mid layer over my merino t, my rain jacket over that (eVent with Cordura around the shoulders)
That goes with a warm hat and gloves or mitten shells (both with cold rain/sleet), insulated boots and gaiters
Most of the time our snow is wet or iced.
I never hike wearing down.
The best way to remain warm on snow is not to sweat, so you hike cool/cold and layer up at rest.
If you are warm at the start of the walk you are wearing too much.....
Let everybody else wear puffy stuff walking and then disrobe when resting.
mind you , that is what works for me, we are all different.
BTW, DO NOT GO OUT in winter on snow for the first few times without folk that have a lot of experience.

Patty L

Locale: Colorado Rocky Mountains
Re: Which down pants to extend my backpacking season? on 01/30/2013 21:16:43 MST Print View

That makes a lot of sense. I'm actually taking a winter camping class through the Colorado Mountain Club right now. I'm hoping to buy these pants and try them out on our next field trip.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Cold weather hiking on 01/30/2013 21:37:16 MST Print View


I can't speak to the down pants as I don't own any and they are not anything I'm personally interested in but I just wanted to comment on layering for cold weather hiking/camping.

My experience has been that the legs (not including feet of course) do not need as much insulation as the rest of the body. I would live for a week or two in the field in brutal upstate NY winters (20* - -20*)with just polypro bottoms and BDU trousers even though I would bundle up more everywhere else. I had other layers issued to me but they weren't practical for anything more than sitting still.

For hiking, having thermals and soft shell pants should serve you well for the most part and having a pair of hard shell pants on standby for when it gets really nasty isn't a bad idea. Honestly if it gets that bad it’s time to head for camp livingroom in my book unless you’re a glutton for punishment/type II fun.

Everyone is different so try out your gear in conditions where you can bust a move back to the car quickly if you find you've bitten off more than you can chew.

Sorry I know I'm wordy.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Which down pants to extend my backpacking season? on 01/30/2013 21:48:47 MST Print View

"I'm actually taking a winter camping class through the Colorado Mountain Club right now."

Ask the class instructor for a recommendation for something appropriate to your area.


Patty L

Locale: Colorado Rocky Mountains
Re: Cold weather hiking on 01/30/2013 21:48:59 MST Print View

Thanks, Ian. I have about 20 years' experience with mountaineering-type activities, so I've got the layering thing covered (pun intended) while moving around. The part that I'm trying to figure out with this thread is the bare minimum weight I can carry in my backpack to be warm overnight when it gets down to 20 degrees or so.

I'm leaning towards just adding layers of clothing to my 32 degree sleeping bag rather than buying a new bag because my theory is those clothing items can also be used to keep me warm around camp, whereas a warmer sleeping bag only helps me while I'm in it and then I still need to carry more weight in clothes to be comfortable around camp.

I really want to hear from people who are using this system and find out more about how it works for them.

Patty L

Locale: Colorado Rocky Mountains
Re: Re: Cold weather hiking on 01/30/2013 21:55:34 MST Print View

Hi Bob,

I have asked the instructors for their recommendations, but not one of them subscribes to the Backpacking Light philosophy. I'm getting stiff opposition to my goal of finding the optimal lightweight gear for the task. Their answer is consistently "buy more, carry more." That's why I'm here on this forum. Last night they demoed four different sleds you can use to carry all this extra gear in ADDITION to your backpack. It's a winter CAMPING class and my goal is to do winter BACKPACKING. It's been a great opportunity to go out and try different gear in a low-risk environment, but I'm not getting great advice on doing it in a lightweight fashion.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Insulated winter pants on 01/30/2013 21:57:31 MST Print View

You are thinking of 3-season pants, right? Not for full-on winter conditions?

I think the MontBell Thermawrap pants with full side zippers would be a good choice. Second place would be the WM Flash pants, which are lighter but don't offer the side zips. The WM Flight pants are overkill in all but the most frigid conditions (they do have the full side zips though). I own all 3 of these, and my favorites for our shoulder seasons are the Flash pants, for the weight. But while snowshoeing, I rather like the Thermawraps. The MontBells are probably warmer, have more bells/whistles (pockets, front zipper, snap front), and are more easily laundered. They're probably cheaper too.

If you are in the Denver area, contact Raquel Rascal, BPL member (not her real name)--she's also into the winter gear thing, she has taken the CMC snow camping class, and she might be able to help you with your choices.

Edit to add a couple of comments:

Your 32* F bag won't really make it in winter conditions, but it certainly will do fine in our shoulder seasons when coupled with the top/bottom insulated layers you are asking about. Bite the bullet for your CMC class and rent a 0*-20* F synthetic bag at REI for that weekend, and forget about the extra weight for one weekend (they won't make you carry it very far).

Boulder has the only MontBell store in the U.S. Come up here and check out their products and confirm the correct sizing you need (then buy it at when they have a sale, if your timing permits). Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder stocks the WM pants, as does Bent Gate in Golden (probably a more complete selection than Neptune's).

Edited by Zia-Grill-Guy on 01/30/2013 22:11:52 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Cold weather hiking on 01/30/2013 22:07:47 MST Print View

I have a bag that's maybe 45 degree F and wear an equal amount and take it down to 25 F. All MYOG so it has no official rating. 4 oz Apex sleeping bag and 4 oz Apex vest, booties, hat, fingerless mittens,...

You have to take more than you need initially and see just how much you really need to stay warm. Each person is different.

I don't camp in snow much but that doesn't change the principal

Oh - your sleeping bag needs to be big enough so it doesn't compress the stuff inside too much.

Edited by retiredjerry on 01/30/2013 22:09:24 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Cold weather hiking on 01/30/2013 22:11:13 MST Print View

Patty, I don't think that you will get an answer from me about down pants.

I've led a lot of beginner snow camping classes where half used cross country skis and half used snowshoes. We would typically travel in only about 2.5 miles to camp, basically because I didn't want beginners to be completely wasted when they need to set up camp.

So, during the travel, they would be wearing really thin stuff, maybe only thin Lycra. As camp got set up, they would often be donning wool trousers over the Lycra. Then only if it got super cold would they put on rain pants over the wool. I don't believe that anybody ever wore down pants.

When we do long ski tours, like six days, nobody would ever take down pants.

Now, if you have a sleeping bag and you need to stretch its temperature rating, there are a couple of practical ways to do it. If you need the stretched rating for only one or two trips, then they way is with an additional sleeping bag used as an overbag. That can be just about any old sleeping bag that you borrow from a friend. Besides, you have friends who would loan you one, and they wouldn't be using it in winter, would they? The other way is to put more insulation inside your sleeping bag. I've seen all sorts of things used there including wool blankets, down jackets, wool sweaters, etc. Some people have used multiple hot water bottles inside the bag.

Plus, you need about twice as much insulation in your sleeping pad as what you would use in summer.


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Which down pants to extend my backpacking season? on 01/30/2013 22:13:53 MST Print View

One of the more practical methods of stretching the rating is to use a solid fabric bivy sack. Put the sleeping pad in it, then put the sleeping bag in it, and then stuff extra insulation into all remaining space between the bag and the sack.


Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Gotcha on 01/30/2013 22:17:17 MST Print View

My apologies if it came across as if I was patronizing you. Good luck with your class; sounds like fun.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Montbell UL Down Pant on 01/30/2013 22:28:22 MST Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/19/2015 09:45:09 MDT.

(mountainwalker) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area & New England
Ranking puff pants; Patagonia DAS synthetic pants on 01/30/2013 23:17:46 MST Print View

What about the new Patagonia DAS synthetic pants, with side zips, 100 Primaloft One, similar to the previous Micropuff Pants?

Can anyone who has tried all or most of the available models rank various synthetic pants in terms of warmth, least to most warm, and the same for various down pants? Curious how they stack up.

Insulative pants really made a huge difference in winter comfort and safety for my wife and me. But I only have experience with the Patagonia Micropuff pants (most recent ones had Primaloft One like new DAS Pants, older versions had Polarguard Delta).

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Ranking puff pants; Patagonia DAS synthetic pants on 01/31/2013 01:46:07 MST Print View

"Insulative pants really made a huge difference in winter comfort and safety for my wife and me."


For evenings around camp in the snow, I find I really appreciate down pants. It helps keep your entire body and especially your feet warm. I use the Montbell UL down pants.

Patty L

Locale: Colorado Rocky Mountains
Re: Re: Ranking puff pants; Patagonia DAS synthetic pants on 01/31/2013 20:13:48 MST Print View

I really appreciate everyone's insight and experience in this matter and thought I should let you all know what I ended up buying. I went to Bent Gate Mountaineering in Golden, CO today and bought the Western Mountaineering Flash Pants. Since I'm taking the winter camping school through the Colorado Mountain Club, I received a 20% off coupon and paid only $150.

They did not have the Montbell Thermawrap TEC Pants in stock, so I didn't even get to try them on. The Montbell UL Down Pants were nice and long, but they didn't seem as warm and I think a couple people had mentioned that. Finally, the Western Mountaineering Flight Pants seemed like overkill. I was actually starting to overheat in the dressing room. I loved the full zips on the Flight pants, but since I'm very handy with a sewing machine, I can always add zippers to the Flash Pants if I decide I need them.

Edited by pcaspen on 02/01/2013 15:15:13 MST.

Rusty Beaver
(rustyb) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Which down pants to extend my backpacking season? on 01/31/2013 20:32:19 MST Print View

For the same reasons you're thinking and Franco, I also use a WM Flash jkt and WM Flash pants in a 32 bag...Summerlite. I wear the jkt and pants at camp, morn and eve, and sleep in'em at night. Works well.

Patty L

Locale: Colorado Rocky Mountains
Re: Re: Which down pants to extend my backpacking season? on 01/31/2013 20:33:41 MST Print View

Thanks, Rusty. It sounds like I'm on the right track!