Oct 7, 2010 at 7:04 pm #1264136
I'm fairly new to backpacking – definitely new to UL. I need info on EXACTLY what I should be looking at/getting for winter layering.
I have a pretty light down jacket and a waterproof shell, but under that, I'm all cotton, and I know that is a no-no. But everything I see seems to be either heavy or bulky.
I need very specific suggestions as I have no idea what I'm looking for. – as budget friendly as is reasonable.
No need to go below teens, but need to be comfy at 15-35 degrees.
JboOct 7, 2010 at 7:20 pm #1652497
@bestbuilderLocale: Pacific Northwest
Robert, I would do a complete search of this site. There is enough info to keep you home for months.
If you do some research you will be able to better pinpoint what should work for you and your location.
A whole article could be written on this and still not cover all areas.
You have not provided enough info, so any information that is given at this point would be like hunting sparrows with a shot gun.
Or not…Oct 7, 2010 at 7:31 pm #1652505
There are many variables here that we can't address since we don't know what climate you will be in. There is more to climate than just temperature.
Cross country skiers have to dress properly if they snow camp. That generally involves at least one warm hat. The base layer is generally polypropylene long johns, top and bottom. Some kind of medium-to-heavy synthetic trousers are called for. An old alternative is US Army issue 100% worsted wool trousers (also referred to as Class A uniform trousers). On top, you generally want one thin long-sleeve shirt for sun, and then maybe a thick one for cool weather. When it gets cold and the wind blows, you have your light down jacket and rain shell, top and bottom. Maybe two pairs of socks and some synthetic gloves. That will get you started.
–B.G.–Oct 8, 2010 at 4:15 am #1652561
It'll be dry Georgia/Carolina camping. I don't usually go out if rain is in the forecast, so most damp will be unplanned and exited as quickly as possible.
I've used polypro before (with Uncle Sam) and it didn't seem to help much. Maybe I had poor layering technique.
JboOct 8, 2010 at 4:50 am #1652563
@carlbeckerLocale: Northern Virginia
I live in Northern Virginia. I do not overnight in the winter but I do walk my dog every weekend regardless of the weather for 4 to 8 miles. When walking in your temp range I use a Event jacket over a med or heavy merino wool hoodie and light to med merino wool base layer under my pants. With snow I use gaiters and am looking at some traction devices to add to my trail runners with wool socks. If I where to be still in camp I would use my Montbell inner down parka for extra insulation. Synthetic may also work for you. Use layers so you can adjust depending on activity.Oct 8, 2010 at 7:02 pm #1652740
That's good useful info. I appreciate it.
JboOct 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm #1652955
> I need info on EXACTLY what I should be looking at/getting for winter layering.
The answer does not exist. It all depends on EXACTLY where you are going, what the weather is, and what your physiology is.
> under that, I'm all cotton,
Yeah, well, get rid of all of that for a start. Cotton might be OK in the summer around town, but it is a real no-no in the snow.
Your 'waterproof shell' may turn out to be a weak point. You can get so much condensation inside one when working hard in the cold it isn't funny. If you can rely on the weather staying cold, then a water-repellent jacket would be better. EPIC or Schoeller ($) come to mind.
CheersOct 9, 2010 at 6:34 pm #1653001
Thanks all. Sounds like maybe I'm looking for a more basic forum. Tone seems to be that I need to look more before I ask. or maybe I asked the wrong question.
Jbo.Oct 9, 2010 at 6:51 pm #1653005
> maybe I'm looking for a more basic forum
Not really, but you will get some very opinionated answers. Which is fine of course – just apply your own filters! Thing is, at least most of the replies here come from people who do know what they are doing. Winter is not the time to be taking large risks.
There's a good book on winter stuff – I forget the name of it but you will find it somewhere on this web site. That's a good starting point.
CheersOct 9, 2010 at 9:28 pm #1653034
Your conditions may vary somewhat from what I am used to, as I am in a very different part of the country – California – but I have spent a lot of time out in all weathers in the Sierra, and the temperatures you mention are pretty familiar to me. One thing I will start with is that I find it easier to get too warm than you might expect if you are not used to those conditions, and you have to pay close attention and adjust your layers as needed BEFORE you get too hot or too cold.
So here is my arrangement:
I start with very light wicking base layers. I have used both wool and polyester with success – currently it's mostly polyester as I've had durability problems with wool(plus wool costs more). When you look at catalogs or websites you'll usually see various weights of base layers – what I use is either called "lightweight" or "Silkweight" (but note, is is NOT silk). I wouldn't use anything called medium weight for any active pursuit such as hiking, XC skiing, or snowshoeing.
Next step for me is a light shell layer. For pants, I currently use home made pants (EPIC fabric), but I have used Gore-tex pants in the past with success. I have side vents on my pants always – full side zips would do the same thing but are heavier. I consider the vents essential to prevent overheating on the uphills.
I never wear more than just those two layers on my legs while on the go, down into the teens which is as cold as I have to deal with. I often go without the shell pants on warmer days if it is sunny.
On top, I use a Marmot Precip jacket. It could breathe better, but it vents well, keeps me dry in wet snow, is pretty light and pretty cheap on sale.
I also have an expedition weight long underwear zip-t that I use as a mid-layer. I sometimes use it over my base layer, and sometimes I use the shell over the base layer. Often I am in just the base layer shirt. On the coldest of days, I might use the shell and mid layer together while moving, but that is unusual.
For camp, I have polarguard insulated pants and anorak (homemade). Your light down jacket is probably close to my polarguard anorak, and light down pants like the Montbell or Western Mountaineering pants would be close in warmth to my pants. Thick fleece pants would probably be warm enough, though not quite as warm as the insulated pants, plus heavier and lots bulkier, but they can be had cheap.
Hands and head: CRITICAL. I use powerstretch glove liners, homemade knit mittens, and Paclite mitten shells, combined in various ways. I take two pair of the liner gloves, having lost one glove once in the middle of a week-long trip.
On the roof, I use a lightweight balaclava (like lightweight underwear fabric) and a really warm fleece hat. Plus a sun hat for the nice days.
This works for me in the temperatures you mentioned,but your needs may vary. I seem to generate a lot of heat while on the move, and need less clothing than some, while when sitting around I seem to need more than some do. Go figure.
In general, I would say stick to synthetics for stuff you'll wear while active(down is fine for in camp or at lunch), and if in doubt bring more thin layers rather than one thicker one, and at first it's better to have too many clothes rather than not enough until you know what really works for YOU.Oct 13, 2010 at 5:50 pm #1654315
That's precisely the kind of answer I was looking for.
Thank you very much.
JboOct 14, 2010 at 8:03 am #1654479
Paul gave a great breakdown on layering.
Once you get a selection of clothing, give yourself a good "breakdown cruise" day hike where you can take time to experiment– no heavy deadlines and I would go solo, so you can concentrate on just that. You may find that what felt right at the trailhead is all wrong after some steep switchbacks. Stop and fiddle with your layers and find what works for you. Breathability and wicking are really important. Wet is bad— really, really, bad. That is why they say "cotton kills."
Try different venting options too. I have just unzipped my windshirt and pushed it up above my waist belt without completely removing it or my pack to get some air and vent a little steam on a hard grade and pulling it back into place when things flatten out or drop. Sometimes you just need to stop and work the layers around. If you find yourself hot and sweaty, or too cold, stop and fix it. Done right, it really is amazing how well this stuff works.
As Paul said, you don't need much insulation when you are moving and working harder, but you will when you stop. Keep that extra insulation layer where you can get to it. It's not unusual to be hiking with just a long sleeve base layer in conditions that would seem cold if you were commuting. You have a thick layer of insulation on your back all the time too (your pack). Look at photos of cross country skiers– you will see light stretchy layers, hats and gloves.
Gloves and hat really change the perception of cold to me. When my hands are cold, everything feels colder. My hat is the first thing I take off if I'm too hot. Good socks are important too. A foam sit pad is a great thing to have for stops.
Be smart and have fun!Oct 14, 2010 at 2:40 pm #1654612
Good stuff Dale.
Using day trips to learn – YES.
I find that you need much less clothing when actively travelling than most people think. Very wise to plan on travelling on the cool side so as to not fill clothing with sweat.
Ventilation is important: I find the neck area to be easily controlled, via front zips. Open up and let the excess heat out.
CheersOct 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm #1654618
sweat is the enemy in winter … too much can lead to hypothermia when u stop
base layer, MAYBE a fleece and windshell …. when active
ANYTIME you stop throw on a big puffay immediately … this should go over all other layers
get good socks with liners, some light gloves for when active, and some heavier gloves/mitts when stopped
bring something light to cover the ears and head when moving (or base layer with a hoof) … and a hood on yr puffay for when stopped
general rule is … dress fairly light when moving to control sweat … bundle up when stoppedOct 14, 2010 at 2:54 pm #1654623
Another tiny help.
Often winter travelers will use thin liner gloves until they have to stop or hang around in camp. Then they get out the heavy mitts.
When you carry the heavy mitts, don't stick them in some pack location where they will get cold or wet. Instead, I carry mine inside my shell jacket or inside my vest. They stay warm that way.
Similarly with socks. If your socks have gotten cold and wet, then change into some warm and dry socks. Then take the wet ones and put them inside your shirt while you are moving. They will dry out from body heat.
–B.G.–Oct 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm #1654631
That first contact with your skin is a little thrilling, isn't it? Like cold wet boots first thing in the morning– the shrieks echoing down the canyon….
Freeze dry them on your pack :)Oct 14, 2010 at 4:11 pm #1654646
Ears are a good point. Do people use muffs or just something like a fleece band?
Thanks for all the good advice.
I've got some single nights planned as temps drop down that I'll be testing on. Certainly will be very careful to maintain safety.
JboOct 14, 2010 at 4:17 pm #1654650
I have a winter hat that I like. For those warm days, it is a waterproof baseball cap. Then when it gets cold, there is a fleece liner with earflaps that fits under the main cap. You can wear it with the earflaps up or down. That works for me.
–B.G.–Oct 14, 2010 at 4:24 pm #1654655
i use a fleece band with ear flaps …. since i already wear a climbing helmet alot of the time i find a hat /beanie overheats when moving
if im not climbing the fleece band when moving … and if it gets colder , base layer's hood
also if you wear glasses or sunglasses they will fog up under a baclava … i use either some anti fog cream or gogglesOct 14, 2010 at 4:29 pm #1654659
[sotto voce]Outdoor Research Windstopper Peruvian Cap, young man.
2oz, warm, compact, effective. It has a removable chin strap too. Be an Incan god!Oct 14, 2010 at 4:34 pm #1654662
Though of a couple more things: Bob's thoughts on the heavier hand layers are great – I usually do the same. And I have a hard and fast rule on gloves and hats – I never put them down anywhere outside of the tent. If I take off a glove or mitten or hat, it goes in my pocket or gets shoved up under my shirt or goes into the pack. ALWAYS. I can't afford to lose any of those items when I'm three days from the road and it's snowing.
And here's a trick I learned from a buddy on taking off a layer without having to stop and take off your pack: lean forward at the waist, slip your arms out of the shoulder straps while leaving the hipbelt buckled, and then you can take off an upper body layer while you still have the pack on. Slip your arms back into the straps, tuck the jacket thru one shoulder strap so it hangs there, and you're off. Knowing this trick makes it less likely that you'll keep that shell on too long and get sweaty – and you can put it back on the same way if you get to the ridge and the wind starts to cool you off.Oct 14, 2010 at 4:40 pm #1654667
I'm from your neck of the woods and spend a lot of time in the GA and NC mountains in the winter. The first question I would have is how much idle time are you expecting. I am on the move or sleeping so my clothing list wouldn't work well if I spent an hour sitting around. But here it is:
1) Wind shirt – IMHO a must.
2) Base Layer – LS Capilene 1 or equivalent.
3) Mid Layer – Capilene 3
4) I may take a fleece (soon to be replaced by a lightweight down jacket) but I never wear it hiking. It normally only goes on when I stop or sleep.
5) I wear a bandana with a visor on top when hiking. When sleeping I take a fleece baracleve (sp)
6) Pants are my normal lightweight REI Sahara pants. At night I also wear Capilene 3 bottoms.
7) Gloves – I recommend getting a good pair of gloves with removable liners. That way you can wear only the liners when hiking but also if they get wet you can dry them out.
8) Shoes – I wear standard trail runners. (Also wear these on showshoe trips in the sierras.)
9) Socks – I generally will wear wrightsocks but often take a single midweight pair of hiking socks for night or extreme cold.
My experience has been that the cold is not that hard to combat, rather, the wind can be very nasty in the winter.Oct 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm #1654680
@tomclarkLocale: East Coast
As you get advice, keep in mind that "winter" in Michigan is very different from "winter" in Georgia/Carolina. The difference can be temperature (35F vs -10F), rain vs. snow, 1" snow vs 12" snow, etc. Of course, a 35F rainy day can be as dangerous as -10, but it takes different strategy. I often check the poster's location in their on their profile. I live in PA, but used to live in northeast TN.
Also think about how much hiking vs camp time you expect. Do you hike fast, far and carry lots of stuff, so you'll be more likely to work up a sweat? Will you be out for 1 week, or just overnight trips so you don't have to worry about drying out down?
I get cold easily, so carry more clothing than most. For a more mild, rainy winter I like thin base layers if it's 20F, but above that I don't wear any base layers on the bottom because I tends to hike lots of hills. 30-40 F is very common for my winter hiking. A thicker fleece or another synthetic shirt with a wind shirt works while hiking. I keep a thin hat and liner gloves handy (those items are SO versatile). If rain is in the forcast, good raingear is important.
At camp I have a heavier wool or synthetic shirt to change into (a BPL or Patagonia hoody is nice). A puffy jacket is important for me. Maybe thicker gloves/mittens and hat (balaclava is better) if it's cold (<20F). I recently got some synthetic Montbell Thermawrap pants to wear over the thin liners, and really like them. When it's cold, some down booties are appreciated around camp. Warm, dry socks are important in the sleeping bag.
Always keep your camp clothes in a dry sack since cold and wet is a BAD combination. I use a liner bag AND dry sack. Down is great for me for it's weight/warmth and volume/warmth ratio since I'm usually doing 1-2 nights, and don't have to worry much about losing loft.
I still use sneakers and relatively thin socks while hiking since there usually isn't any snow on the ground. I might upgrade to heavier shoes, gaiters, and rain pants if snow/rain is on the ground or in the forecast. Rain pants
Try some different combinations and sit around some winter day/night, or better sleep in your backyard to try them out.
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