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Winter Backpacking Gear List

Mt Guyot (4580') I'll be headed back here to try and get a better view this time!
Mt Guyot (4580′) I’ll be headed back here to try and get a better view this time!

I believe in creating a new gear list for every trip I take that takes into consideration the environmental conditions (weather, terrain, water, navigation, sunlight, etc) I’m likely to encounter. There was a time when I had one static gear list, but ever since I started hiking year round in a variety of different climates, countries, and seasons, that changed. While it’s useful to look at other backpackers’ gear lists and see what they’re carrying, you can’t assume that their gear choices  will be appropriate for the conditions you expect to encounter. Do your homework and figure out what you need for your own trip, and a way to modify your gear list enroute if required. See My Gear List Philosophy for a longer explanation.

This winter backpacking gear list is for a three-day, two-night, 25 mile winter backpacking trip that I’ll be co-leading for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Mid-February. We plan to hike into a remote part of the White Mountains in New Hampshire and establish a base camp to hike The Bonds (Mt Bond, West Bond, and Bondcliff) and The Twins (North and South), two hikes that normally require very long approach hikes in winter.

Conditions and time permitting, we also plan to practice emergency firestarting skills for winter survival.

This winter backpacking gear list doesn’t include the weight of the water, food, fuel and a few other consumables I’ll be carrying. Those items will probably add another 10-12 pounds of weight to my pack.

The environmental conditions asessement I researched and wrote before deciding what gear to bring is listed below the gear list.

Just a couple of notes about the gear.

  • We’ll be spending a considerable part of each day melting snow for drinking water
  • We’re likely to dig out a kitchen area and a wind break for cooking and socializing: hence the shovel. Chances are we’ll bring fewer shovels than people, so it might not be needed.
  • Since this is 3 day trip, I will need to dry out my boot liners each night and sleep with them to prevent them from freezing. That’s why I’ll definitely be using vapor barrier socks. Moisture management will be a major issue for everyone.
Paradox Packs Unaweep 4800 External Frame Backpack58
Lowepro Dashpoint 20 Camera Pocket1.9
Fox Emergency Whistle (Attached to Pack)0.1
Assorted Cuben Fiber Stuff Sacks 3
Shelter and Sleeping
Black Diamond FirstLight Tent46.3
Brooks Range Mountaineering Drift -10 Sleeping Bag47
Sea-to-Summit Compression Sack3.5
Therm-a-Rest Xtherm NeoAir Sleeping Pad15
Gossamer Gear Closed Cell Foam Sit Pad2.1
Clothing (Not Worn)
Big Agnes Third Pitch (Down) Jacket13.5
Mountain Hardware Dome Perignon Hat2.8
Montbell Thermawrap Insulated Pants12.4
Marmot Precip Rain Pants (Full Zip)14.2
Supernatural Wool Jersey6.7
Helly Hansen Long Underwear5.2
Gold Toe Liner Socks1
REI Expedition Weight Wool Socks4.7
OR Cornice Waterproof Mitts4.9
OR Alti Glove Liners (only, for dexterity)3.5
Knowledge OTG Ski Goggles w/ Fan6.2
Serius Blaclava w/facemask2
Montane Tigertooth Pro Softshell Gloves7.5
Traction Aids
CAMP NanoTech XLC Crampons16.7
MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoes64
Kahtoola Microspikes12.5
CAMP Corsa Ice Axe10.2
MSR Whisperlite Stove11.5
MSR Liquid Fuel Bottle (20 oz)5.2
Evernew 1.3 L titanium Pot/w Mesh Stuff sack5
Wind Screen/Base Plate4
Sea-to-Summit Insulated Mug4.1
Aqua Mira for (liquid water sources)2
3 X Hunersdorf Bottles13.5
1 X 40 Below Neoprene Bottle Cozy4
REI Plastic Soup Spoon ($1)0.8
First Aid Kit3.4
Firemaking Kit (vaseline soaked cotton balls, firesteel, esbit cubes, matches)3.3
Misc Tools
Black Diamond Icon Headlamp7.8
Petzl eLite Headlamp0.9
Classic Swiss Army Knife1
SPOT Gen 3 Satellite GPS Messenger3.9
Suunto M3 Compass1.5
Lithium Backup Batteries (camera, AAAA, AAA)4.4
Lens Cloth0.2
Small Roll of Duct Tape0.9
Voile Telepro Shovel20
Panasonic Lumix LX5 Camera9.4
Personal Effects (Wallets, Keys, etc.)6.5
Silky Gomboy 240 Folding Saw9.3
Mora Bushcraft Black Knife w/Scabbard5.5
Clothing (Worn)
OR Foray Jacket (Hard Shell)17.1
Supernatural Wool Jersey6.7
OR Acetylene Jacket15.1
Helly Hansen Odin Guide Light Softshell Pants17.9
Under Armour Heatgear Boxer Jocks3.5
OR Crocodile Gaiters9.8
Mountain Hardware Fleece Beanie1.4
OR Versaliner Softshell Gloves2.8
Gold Toe Socks (as Liners)1
REI Expedition Wool Socks4.7
Scarpa Omega Mountaineering Boots w/ Vapor Barrier System65
Aluminum Pacerpoles w/Neoprene Mitts29.5
Carried (oz)484.1
Worn (oz)174.5
Carried (lbs)30.26
Worn (lbs)10.91

Environmental Conditions Assessment

  • Locale: White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire (USA)
  • Date: Mid-February, 2015
  • Planned Route
    • Mountains: Mt Galehead, South Twin, North Twin, Mt Guyot, Zealand Mountain, West Bond, Mt Bond, Cliffs of Bond
    • Trails: Gale River Trail, Twinway, Bondcliff Trail, Wilderness Trail,
    • Mileage: 25 miles
    • Elevation Gain: 8,000 feet cumulative
    • Duration: 3 days/2 nights
  • Climate/Weather forecast
    •  Seasonal
      • Daytime temperaturess: 30 degrees to -20 below zero (fahrenheit)
      • Evening temperatures: 10 degrees to -20 below zero
      • Wind Speed: 0-80 mph
      • Trip is likely to be postponed or re-routed if temperatures fall below -20 below zero or wind chill exceeds -30 below zero.
    • Gear
      • Cold weather sleeping bag, rated between -10 and -25 below zero
      • White gas (liquid fuel) stove
      • Above treeline insulation and wind protection
      • Extra camping insulation for snow melting
      • Avalanche shovel
      • Snowshoes and crampons will be required
      • Double insulated boots
      • Saw and survival knife for practicing emergency firecraft
    • Source
      • Mt Washington observatory weather forecast
      • Previous experience in area
  • Water availability
    • Expected
      • Primarily snow, melting required.
      • Only flowing water sources are likely to be major streams and rivers at beginnning and end of trip
        • Gale River
        • Black Brook
        • East Branch, Pemigewasset River
    • Gear
      • Bring three Hunersdorf 1 liter wide mouth bottles
      • One insulated bottle holder, store other bottles inside pack or sleeping bag at night
      • Repackaged Aqua Mira to treat flowing water that does not need to be melted
    • Source:
      • White Mountain Guide and maps
      • Previous experience in the area
  • Water purity
    • Expected
      • Beaver live in the area at lower elevations
      • Melted snow does not require purification
    • Gear
      • Aqua Mira purification recommended for flowing or standing water
    • Source
      • Previous experience in the area
  • Wildlife Issues
    • Expected
      • Very low probability of moose encounters enroute
    • Source
      • Previous experience in area
  • Daylight
  • Trail conditions
    • Expected
      • Depends on recent snowfall
        • Frequently hiked sections are likely to be broken out, but more remote sections or sections prone to drifting wil be unbroken, including:
        • South Twin to Mt Guyot
        • Mt Guyot to West Bond Spur
        • Mt Bond to the North End of Bond Cliff
    • Gear
      • Insulated mountaineering boots with removable liner
      • Traction aids: microspikes, snowshoes, crampons, ice axe
      • Trekking poles with snow baskets
    • Source
      • Previous experience in area
  • Sun/Snow Glare protection
    • Expected
      • Large areas of open ledges and sun exposure on top of mountains
    • Gear
      • Bring sunglasses
    • Source
      • Previous experience in area
      • The White Mountain Guide and maps
  • Navigation
    • Expected
      • Detour required through cross-country ski area to get to Gale River Trail
      • Trail signs are likely be buried in snow.
      • Twinway Trail will be difficult to follow as blazes will be buried below snow
      • Depending on snow depth, bushwhacking may be easier than following the Twin Way
      • White out conditions often occur over Guyot and The Bonds
    • Gear
      • Bring compass, map, altimeter watch
    • Source:
      • Previous experience in area
  • Remoteness
    • Expected
      • We’ll be basecamping in one of the most remote parts of the White Mountains, in terms of distance from a trail head.
      • Cell phone access is unlikely to exist
    • Gear
      • Bring SPOT Gen 3 Satellite Communicator
    • Source
      • Previous experience in area.


  1. Great list Philip but 25 miles in plastic boots! Ouch! You find you still need the warmth even with a vapor barrier liner? I have been toasty to 0 degrees with old squished 200 gram insulated boots, gaiters, a VBL and outer wool sock. My boot stays dry at the end of the day as well.

    Also any reason for the microspikes and crampons? Lately I just take crampons and no spikes when I think I might need something with more bite.

    • Mike – it’s really not a big deal. How do you think I got across the Bonds in winter the first time? Plus I really prefer using step in crampons over strapons on mixed rock and ice, and that requires a full mountaineering boot.

    • I have actually started taking crampons over microspikes this season too. I was coming down liberty springs and my microspikes broke(snapped some rubber) so I switched to my crampons. Even on the mixed rocks it wasn’t that bad. If i think that the whole trail will be snow and ice I’ll go with crampons and snowshoes.

      • There’s that. I have also snapped microspikes at the beginning of a walk and had to rely on my crampons instead.

        While I have often barebooted when everyone else is wearing microspikes, the reality is that there’s probably less energy expenditure with slipping and sliding on slush to wear and carry them. 12.5 ounces isn’t going to kill me. I guess this means I’m not a UL winter backpacker. Oh my.

      • Nothing to do with weight. I don’t like changing footware mid hike. Last weekend on the tripyramids I put my crampons at the car and didn’t take them off until we were back off the slides.

  2. Wow – very thorough. I wish I had that kind of time. Just a caution about the whistle. I lost a participant once while stealth camping. He had a whistle, but it was half a mile from where he was found. It was on his pack. I always carry my referee’s whistle in my pocket, with my knife and lighter.

  3. Great list, Philip. Having documented two such lists myself for online consumption, I know how time-consuming they are to assemble.

    I also wanted to thank you for including the “Environmental Conditions Assessment.” This component is missing from nearly every other gear list online — as if gear selection happens without any context and that the list is relevant for every situation. That’s absolutely not true. But again it takes more time to explain when and where a gear list is appropriate.

  4. Thanks for the list. I’m trying to gear up for winter and this helps a lot. I have to adjust to a bit for northwest weather conditions.

    By the way — seems like the sunrise and sunset times are off.

  5. Great list Philip, only one or two comments, I would make sure that Whistle is Plastic and NOT Metal..I would add a Plastic Drinking Cup for the same reason, cook in the Titanium pot and pour into the plastic I hate burned lips in Winter and bring two tubes of Chapstick Moisturizing lip balm with a PF of 2-5 if you can find it. I also carry a Knitted Scarf. .Lastly I have been testing out a “Radar O’Reilly” G.I. type Knitted Cap, which has a small Brim or Bill on it and enough material on the sides to come down over the Ears… I just came back from a Day on the lake fishing with the temperature reaching its’ high at 38 degrees and I am thankful I had that hat to warm my head an ears and to provide a bit of sun block from above. I also would carry, as I did today in the Boat, My Coleman Tent Heater. It works off a Backpacking size as in the SNO PEAK Large size, Propane canister and is safe to use inside a tent. No open flame and a CO2 automatic turn off and if you tip it over it turns off automatically as well… I do not sleep with the Heater on, only when playing cards or reading and or dressing or undressing, warms up the hands nicely too……

  6. I just read in one of my Fishing Magazines a guy recommending wearing those Nitrile gloves underneath your regular gloves while fishing and I am wondering about that because My hands sweat when wearing those gloves…So I was wondering if any one else has hands that sweat when wearing those gloves and has any one worn them as a base layer while hiking and what were the results????

    • I’ve worn nitrile gloves underneath fleece gloves to keep them from wetting out with sweat in winter and it works pretty well. But if you take the nitrile gloves off while you’re still in the cold, and you’re hands are damp and sweaty, it’s really unpleasant.

  7. Good list but even better analysis. Not sure your packing list includes map, altimeter watch, etc. So I expect you are like me and end up a little heavier than planned. I know I carry a survival kit on me and I don’t include it in my weight planning.

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