Winter gear list

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    Adam G
    BPL Member



    I’m trying to get some feedback on my winter gear list. I’m reasonably experienced in 3 season backpacking, but still a novice at winter camping. Think Pacific Northwest. Lows in the 20s, maybe as low as 0 F. This doesn’t include my clothes worn. I think I have that mostly figured out.

    I’m thinking about adding some down pants. Maybe taking a second set of hiking pants in case mine get wet, likely by falling into a creek (this has happened). I’m also thinking about switching to a Kovea Spider since the little pocket rocket knockoff doesn’t heat that well since it doesn’t have a windscreen.

    Edward John M
    BPL Member


    So add in 15 grams for a foil windscreen plus a few grams for a base plate?

    0F is borderline wet-cold and my conservative nature says synthetic insulation for the legs but not my AoO so no experience at all

    Adam G
    BPL Member


    I have a baseplate but forgot to add it in the list. I think I need a windscreen but it won’t work for an upright canister stove due to the danger of the canister overheating. Thus, considering the Kovea Spider or another inverted remote stove.

    Mike B
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado

    What is the purpose of the trip and how long will you be out?

    I am going to assume you have the proper shoes, pants, base layer for the legs. I would have another pair of heavy wool socks and a couple of bread bags to protect those socks if you soak the ones you are wearing. Are you going to be somewhere where an ice axe / avalanche probe is needed or required? Asking because you have microspikes and not crampons  / snowshoes / ski’s listed.

    I use a liquid stove in the winter but there have been plenty of discussions on here about upright canister stoves in the winter and how to use them properly and safely in the winter. Basically make sure the canister does not get to hot to touch and watch the outside air temperatures and the boiling points of the propane+butane liquids inside the canister to make sure you get good flames all the way through the canister. Search for “Moulder Strip” and you will find a ton of information on using an upright canister stove in the winter.


    Have fun



    Locale: The Cascades

    What are the daytime temps? (will you really need rain gear). If you do need the rain gear, then you can always use your rain pants as a second pair of hiking pants if the first get drenched, so no need for a second pair of hiking pants.

    Don’t overdress – that can be easy to do in the winter. Try to hike cool, not warm. I run warm, and find myself wearing very little during the hike (often just a thin wool baselayer with nothing else over it, unless it’s windy, then perhaps a windshirt over it). Remember, you’re probably carrying heavier gear because of the weather, and a heavier pack will make you work a bit harder.

    I know plenty of people use down pants in winter, but I’ve never found them that useful, perhaps because I’m a hike-all-day guy. Since it gets dark so early in winter, by the time I’ve got my shelter up and my belly full, I’m climbing into my bag (with a book).

    I’m a big fan of 40 Below stuff – specifically their neoprene water bottle boots (they also sell the Hunersdorf bottles, which I like for winter) and their Light Energy TR overboots (you can’t hike ‘on’ them, you need to be wearing snowshoes or crampons or microspikes when you hike in them). I did a pretty cold trip in Michigan’s UP wearing the overboots and my feet never got cold (even at rest) or overheated, FWIW.

    And bring some matches, I’ve had bic lighters fail in the cold.

    If you’re camping on deep(ish) snow, you don’t really need the stakes, just use sticks as deadman anchors. And make sure you have something to keep your center pole from just sinking into the snow.

    No groundsheet of any type, or did I miss that? You don’t want to roll over during the night and have your bag in contact with the snow – it’ll be wet in that spot by morning. But I’m a rock and roller sleeper, so if you never move it might not be a problem for you.

    You only list an overview map, is that detailed enough for navigation?

    Adam G
    BPL Member


    Most trips would be overnight. Once I have that down, I may try 2 or 3 nights. Probably not any longer than that.

    I didn’t include the weight of snowshoes since I’d typically be wearing them. Probably wouldn’t need crampons. Ice axe is useful on steeper but not icy slopes.

    The Bob Moulder technique looks interesting. I’m not entirely confident that I wouldn’t blow myself up.

    Daytime temps are variable. Maybe as low a 10 degrees, as high as 40. I will need rain gear. It’s often raining near the trailhead but snowing just a little above. Also, we can get some pretty wet snow up here.

    General hiking clothing include my ExOfficio boxer briefs, sometimes long underwear if it’s really frigid. Outdoor Research Ferrosi pants over that. Capilene 2 shirt on top with a quarter zip fleece on top if it’s colder. I have various gloving systems, still trying to dial that in.

    I bring waterproof matches and vaseline soaked cotton balls. They’re buried in the first aid kit.

    I’ve tried sleeping with no groundsheet twice. It seemed to work. A groundsheet just seems like it would be good place for a puddle of water to accumulate. I generally don’t roll off the sleeping pad. My CCF pad is reasonably wide.

    I take a zoomed in map. Just didn’t list it.

    David Hosmer
    BPL Member


    I wonder about the wet conditions, down sleeping bag, and no groundsheet.  It seems to me like a heavy risk to be taking but I often find parts of me have abandoned the sleeping pad by the morning.

    Adam G
    BPL Member


    I experimented with a Tyvek groundsheet last trip. I really liked it. It really helps keep things dry. I will now suffer the weight penalty.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    While liquid-fueled stoves are one solution in winter, if you already have the Pocket Rocket, and your’e doing 2-3 night trips, I’d stick with the canister stove.  The learning curve on liquid-fueled stoves is as much as learning to use a canister stove at cooler temps.  A Moulder Strip can’t blow up your stove – you’d never use it when the weather is above freezing.

    I didn’t seem a ground cloth of any sort.  In summer, one’s pad (or your two) suffice, but in winter, some polycro sheeting (sold in the hardware aisle as window-sealing kits) is very light and far tougher than I first thought it would be.  It doesn’t last forever, but it does for dozens of nights.

    Bring a back-up Bic lighter (remember to remove the child-safety bit first so it’s easier to use with cold hands) or a ferro-rod.

    In summer, I just bring a Victorinox Classic, but in winter, I’d step up to a small Mora knife or a small folding pull saw.  If you need a warm up fire, cutting a bunch of dead branches from low on conifers is the quick way to do it.

    The snow shovel is a fairly heavy one.  You don’t need a snow shovel to go snow camping.  Until you do.  Then it can safe your life – every tent has a maximum wind speed while a snow cave doesn’t.  And constructing a bench, table, etc in camp makes everything more comfortable.

    James S
    BPL Member


    I’m with Doug on the down pants, as long as you can keep moving you probably won’t need them. Even hardshell over softshell trousers can be uncomfortably warm. Look at alpinists and you will see they rarely wear down layers except at belays and high altitude. Once you’re done for the day, get in the sleeping bag and try not to leave it!

    My winter base weight comes in at around 8kg (without a shovel) so I think you could make a few savings depending on the trip. My first thoughts are ~1kg worth of gloves seems excessive, what liners do you have that weigh 140g? I like Powerstretch liners (40g). I carry 2 pairs, a warm glove (240g) and the same mitts as you for alpine climbing. For winter hiking, you could probably get away with a 3 glove system. As you are not bringing crampons, you could use a UL axe and save ~250g, although there’s no point replacing a perfectly good axe. I would consider taking just the XTherm and using a UL foam mat as a groundsheet (see this thread for a good discussion: Winter groundsheet) I haven’t tested this yet but it would save ~250g and the XTherm has a high R-value anyway. I would try and find a lighter shovel, you could save perhaps ~250g there also. Depending on your trip, I would take lighter weight rain pants as they probably only need to keep snow off. Everything else seems good, although you don’t have any communication device? A spare hat always comes in handy also.

    Adam G
    BPL Member


    You’re right that down pants are not particularly useful if you get into the bag immediately. My backpacking partner likes hanging out outside the tent for quite some time to chat. Sometimes he does that when it’s dumping snow! I do like chatting with him rather than running into our tents at 4 pm and waiting for dark to arrive. Also, I ended up with the earlier stages of hypothermia when the wind blew on a ridge I was camping on from heat loss in my legs. It was scary. That prompted purchasing the down pants. I know, camping on the ridge was asking for that, but our entire goal was to get up on that ridge. The views were great.

    My liner weight was an error. It’s 40 g each, not 140. I fixed that. I’m very happy with my gloving system. Unfortunately, I have Raynauds, so my hands can get painfully cold. I’ve tried going lighter, and I suffered. In fact, my finger once turned blue and went numb for 6 months because it got so cold (!!!). I rarely need the beefier gloves, and usually only wear them for a few minutes. But when I need them, I’m so glad I have them. Typing without sensation in one of your fingers is super weird and unpleasant.

    Regarding the ice axe, I do sometimes bring crampons. My trips can get technical. I like the beefier axe because it works really well in mixed terrain.

    Yeah, I bought an InReach since I posted this. It’s heavy. I bought it shortly before they announced the mini. Whoops. I’ll upgrade at some point. After I’ve heard so many stories, I’m increasingly convinced that it’s the 11th essential.

    Maybe I’ll get a lighter shovel. I bought it for avalanche rescue after I saw someone’s aluminum shovel fracture. The heavier one is probably not necessary, although I just used it to shovel my driveway when the snowpocalypse came to the PNW. I think I was the only person within a 50 mile radius who owned any reasonable shovel.

    Regarding rain pants, I want them to be full zip so I can take them on and off while wearing snowshoes. That adds a lot of weight.

    I still need to figure out my pad and ground sheet system. I’m still not super happy with it. I’ve recently started carrying a heavy Tyvek groundsheet after reading Trauma and Pepper’s book on ultralight winter travel. It’s heavy, but I really like having a dry surface to keep my gear on. It keeps things so much drier! I definitely will take a look at that link.

    I’m considering replacing the Catalyst with a Seek Outside Divide. It has more capacity and is waterproofish. It also carries loads better. The Catalyst is acceptable for this, but not great.

    Unfortunately, as I get more experience with winter camping, my base weight gets heavier and heavier! Funnily, my 3 season kit gets lighter and lighter with experience.

    James S
    BPL Member


    I think you’re on track. Their base weight for the winter PCT was not much lower and they shared gear. Your wording implies that you don’t share a shelter with your partner? If all your trips will be with a partner I would share some weight by splitting the shelter/stove between you.

    I hear you on the full zip pants, convenience is probably worth the weight. I have used an XTherm with a Zlite as well but I’m not convinced it’s necessary in those temps. I’ll feedback on the foam groundsheet once I’ve tried it out. If you’re staying clear of avalanche terrain and only carrying it for shelter building, some of those alu shovels weigh ~300g. Otherwise, you need a probe & beacon too. Depends on the trip really.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Most of your list looks good.

    I question the stove for cld weather but you could do with a DIY copper “Moulder strip” to strap to your canister. It gets up to the burner and heat transfers down to the canister to keep it warm enough for continuous operation in cold weather. An insulating “cozy” is also required for this to work well. (Don’t ask how I know.) GOOGLE “Moulder strip” for stove canisters and get the whole story. This thing really works!

    If the terrain is not too rocky or bushy, I highly recommend skis with climbing skins and Balata type bindings. I have Lightning Ascents and even with my tail extensions they sink deeply into new snow. Skis are SO much easier to use if you have enough basic skill to turn and stop. You can get old alpine skis, remove the old bindings and buy some Balata type bindings which adjust to fit most winter boots.

    ** Finally let me recommend the very best VBL socks ever. Get some 3 mm closed cell neoprene divers’ socks (I like US Divers brand with Left and Right shaped socks and factory seam sealing.) Wear them over thin polyester liner socks and take one pair of liners for each day you will be out. (Put used liners in a Ziplock quart freezer bag)  BEFORE BED: remove VBLs and liner socks. Turn VBLs inside-out to dry for a while before putting them in the bottom of your bag WITH your boot liners to stay warm overnight. VBL socks will absolutely keep your feet warm by keeping your sweat from wetting out your boot’s insulation. If your boots have no removable liners then put them in a dry bag and into the foot of your sleeping bag. Putting on frozen boots in the morning is agony for the next hour or so!

    BTW, maybe you could list your X-Therm air mattress with your “sleeping gear”.

    My “3rd season” bag is the same as my summer bag, an overstuffed (to 20 F.) Western Mountaineering Megalite. I use it with an REI FLASH Insulated 3 season mattress. With puffy jacket and pants over mid weight polyester long johns and fleece balaclava it’s good to about 10 F. inside my solo tent. My fleece lined Duluth Trading Co. cargo pants go beneath the mattress for a bit of extra insulation. As you likely know WM’s Megalite bag is larger so wearing puffy clothing inside, even in the overstuffed mode, is not a problem.

    For winter (below 10 F.) I have an REI FLASH All Season Insulated air mattress (R 5.3) and an LL Bean 750 fill -20 F. down bag. Even that bag will accommodate puffy clothes should I get caught out in an extreme cold snap.

    Adam G
    BPL Member


    Fixed the sleeping pad. Misclassified it as shelter. I thought about a Moulder strip, but believe it or not, my stove actually works quite well. The main issues is that I don’t have a wind screen. My friend as a Kovea spider, and he’s not particularly happy with it.

    As for skis, I don’t ski. The gear is too expensive, I have no room for ski gear, and also, I have no idea how. I just ran into my friend in an arm brace. She fractured her clavicle and dislocated her shoulder. I asked her how she hurt it, and she replied, “Skiing, what else?”

    At least she hurt herself doing what she loved: writhing in pain on the snow after wiping out on skis.

    I am very happy moving at a turtle’s pace on snowshoes. I am trying to convince myself to buy a lighter shovel. Then I will have two shovels. I guess I can gift one to my wife when we go into avy terrain. I guess I can then justify why we have two shovels.

    Do you hike in the VBL socks?

    Edward John M
    BPL Member


    So get a windscreen

    So long as your naked finger can touch the canister without saying “Ouch” it won’t blow up. Also snow melts faster, water boils quicker and you use a lot less fuel.

    A sheet of aluminium foil wrapped cardboard & foam as a base and some Titanium foil for the windscreen don’t weigh much. Even the thin ply plus CCF I use and the Aluminium flashing I use as a windscreen don’t weigh a lot

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