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Winter Hiking Clothing and Gear for the White Mountains of NH

Winter Hiking Clothing and Gear for the White Mountains of NH

When gearing up for winter day hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains you want footwear, clothing, and traction aids that can be used across a wide range of temperatures, wind speeds, sun, precipitation types, and surface conditions. For example, typical winter weather includes:

  • Temperatures: from 40 degrees down to 10 below zero (Fahrenheit)
  • Wind speeds: up to 40 mph (over that, you get knocked down)
  • Sunlight: from intense sunshine and snow glare to heavy clouds or dense forest cover
  • Precipitation types: including blowing snow, freezing fog, sleet, freezing rain, and rain
  • Surface conditions: ranging from deep snow to bare rock, bare ground, packed trails, powder, frozen bodies of water, and soft or hard ice

Layering Clothes

In addition, you need to dress for a wide range of activity levels, such as when you are exerting yourself and generating lots of body heat or when you are at rest and need to bundle up.

The recommended approach for winter dressing is to add clothing layers when you get cold and take off layers when you start to sweat. Sweating should be avoided in winter because wet or damp clothing, particularly baselayers, will chill you when you stop moving. Take off layers if you start to sweat or slow down your pace to generate less body heat.

When starting a hike in winter, you’ll probably be wearing gloves, a hat, long sleeve jersey, long underwear, boxer jocks, hardshell or softshell pants, a fleece pullover, a hardshell jacket, warm socks, insulated boots, and high gaiters. After about 15 minutes, you’ll probably take off your hardshell and unzip your pants to vent body warmth. That’s called layering and it occurs when someone in your group shouts out “layer break!”

Important: Do not wear cotton on winter hikes because it takes so long to dry. The same holds for clothing made of wood fibers including modal, rayon, viscose, Tencel, and lyocell.

A hooded fleece is a versatile layering piece. Mt Madison in March.
A hooded fleece is a versatile layering piece. Mt Madison in March.

Winter Day Hiking Gear List

The following day winter day hiking clothing and gear will keep you safe and comfortable in below-treeline conditions. Below-treeline hikes are usually protected by forests and are warmer and less windy than above-treeline hikes, which are on top of exposed mountains or ridgelines.

  • Footwear
    • Insulated hiking boots
    • Warm socks (sock liners optional)
    • High gaiters
  • Hats
    • Lightweight fleece or wool hat
    • Heavyweight fleece or wool hat
  • Gloves
    • Lightweight fleece or wool gloves
    • Waterproof shell mitts or gloves, with insulated liners
  • Jackets
    • Puffy insulated jacket with attached hood
    • Waterproof and windproof jacket with attached hood
  • Pants
    • Rain pants that are waterproof and windproof with full-length zippers along the sides
    • Softshell pants that are moderately windproof
  • Mid-Layer Insulation
    • Fleece jacket, fleece pullover, fleece vest, insulated vest, or softshell jacket (at least one, possibly several)
  • Base-Layer Insulation
    • Long sleeve jersey
    • Long underwear (good for people who run cold)
    • Boxer jock underwear to prevent chafing, wool or synthetic only
  • Spare Clothing (optional, but sometimes useful)
    • Long sleeve jersey
    • Long underwear
    • Extra pair of socks
  • Winter traction aids
    • Microspikes
    • Snowshoes (depending on conditions)
    • Crampons (depending on conditions)
  • Water Bottles
    • Two or three 1-liter wide-mouth water bottles (hydration system hoses freeze up and should be avoided)
    • Water bottle insulation, if bottles are stored outside your backpack
  • Backpack
    • 35-45 liter backpack with side compression straps or a shovel pocket for attaching snowshoes and microspikes to the pack
    • Extra webbing straps as needed for attaching more gear
  • 10 Essentials
    • Map
    • Compass
    • Whistle
    • Headlamp (1 or 2)
    • Personal first aid kit
    • Fire starting materials (wax in paper egg containers make the best firestarter)
    • Small knife or multi-tool
    • Gear repair supplies
    • High-energy snacks that won’t freeze
    • Sunglasses and sunscreen
    • Toilet paper
  • Survival Gear – this can be distributed among hiking group members, or carried if hiking alone
    • Sleeping bag
    • Sleeping pad
    • Lightweight bivy sack or tent body without tent poles
    • White gas stove, fuel, pot, stove base
    • Group first aid kit

Extra Gear for Above-Treeline Day Hikes

If you’re headed above treeline on a day hike, you’ll often want to carry extra wind protection for your face and beefier traction aids, like full crampons. Avalanche tools are rarely needed in the Northeast unless you are hiking in high-risk mountain areas.

  • A face mask or combination face mask/balaclava
  • Snow goggles
  • Crampons
  • Ice ax (depending on the route)
  • Avalanche shovel, beacon, and probe in hazardous terrain
Dressed for wind. North Kinsman in February
Dressed for wind. North Kinsman in February

Winter Hiking Clothing and Gear Buying Guide

While gear lists are useful, I’ve also provided some advice below about what to look for when purchasing gear for winter use to steer you in the right direction about the capabilities you want in winter hiking gear. I’ve used every single item listed below so I know what’s good and what’s not good.

Insulated winter boots

Most people day hike in “soft” insulated winter hiking boots that do not have a removable liner and are compatible with microspikes, snowshoes, and crampons that are compatible with non-rigid boots.  These are available with 400-gram insulation and 200-gram insulation. This refers to the thickness of the insulation used, not its weight. Boots with 400-gram insulation will keep you warm to 20 below zero degrees (F), while boots with 200-gram insulation are good to about 10-20 degrees above zero degrees (F). These temperatures assume you are walking, not standing around. If you plan on hiking where temperatures get below 10F-20F degrees, I recommend 400g insulated winter boots. Otherwise, a 200g insulated boot should be sufficient.

We recommend:

You can also wear mountaineering boots which have a rigid sole capable of being used with crampons for ice climbing and mountaineering. These are harder to walk in for any distance, but some are available with removable liners which are useful for winter backpacking because you can dry them in a sleeping bag at night. Avoid so-called Pack Boots, which are less comfortable for vigorous hiking and are too large for use with microspikes and most snowshoes.

Warm socks

Most hikers wear heavier wool socks in winter than during other times of the year, but this is an area of personal preference, and the sock “systems” people use vary widely. Sock liners are optional but can be beneficial if you are blister-prone. Whatever combination you use, make sure that there is plenty of space in your boots to wiggle your toes around as this increases blood circulation and foot warmth.

We recommend:

High gaiters

High gaiters help prevent snow from entering your boots or making your socks wet and provide extra insulation below your knee. If you use crampons, they also protect your ankles from self-inflicted wounds when you tire. Avoid gaiters that close with zippers because they break quickly. Look for gaiters that seal around your leg using velcro instead.

We recommend:

Hats

A minimum of two hats is recommended for winter day hikes: a lightweight wool or synthetic hat for high-exertion activities and a warmer, heavier-weight hat for later in the day when temperatures drop. You’ll probably sweat at least one of them out.

We recommend:

Gloves

A minimum of two pairs of gloves is recommended, although hikers often bring three or four pairs if their hands sweat a lot while hiking. Experiment with this. You’ll be glad to have extras if you wet out your gloves with sweat.

One pair of gloves should be modular with an unlined outer waterproof/breathable shell layer and an inner insulating glove liner. Mitts provide more warmth than gloves, but gloves provide more dexterity. One approach is to use an insulating fleece liner glove inside a waterproof mitten shell to provide dexterity and warmth. When purchasing a modular mitten system (mitten plus liner) or a mitten shell, I recommend getting ones with wrist gauntlets, which will insulate your wrists and keep your hands warmer. If your hands are too warm with a mitten shell and liner and they start to perspire, you can remove the mitten shell and pack it away until it’s needed.

We recommend the following modular mitt systems and mitten shells:

I usually carry multiple pairs of inexpensive REI fleece gloves or Decathlon liner gloves, so I can swap them out if one pair gets wet or soaked by perspiration. Hint: Buy multiple pairs, all in the same color, so you can swap in a replacement if you lose one of a pair or wear it out.

If you need to grip an ice axe on your hikes, you’ll also want to shop around for an insulated high-dexterity glove so you hold the pick in the ice-axe ready-position. A mitten shell doesn’t provide enough dexterity to wrap your fingers around the pick and a glove liner doesn’t provide enough insulation from the cold metal. Black Diamond has some good gloves for this, including the Black Diamond Punisher Glove and the Enforcer Glove.

Short Food break on Mt Moosilauke in February
Wearing puffies during a short food break on Mt Moosilauke in February

Puffy Insulated Hooded Jacket

When you’re taking a break during a winter hike and have stopped moving, it’s best to pull a big puffy insulated jacket out of your backpack and wear it over your other clothes to stay warm. You’ll want a parka-weight jacket and not a lightweight 3-season jacket. This coat should be sufficiently warm that you could stand around in it for a few hours if someone in your group has an accident and you need to stay with them until help arrives. You want something with an integrated hood that will really keep you toasty warm in frigid weather.

We recommend:

Lightweight insulated jackets like the Mountain Hardwear Hooded Down Ghost Whisperer 2 are too lightweight and are more suitable as a mid-layer.

Mt Israel, December

Hard Shell or Rain Jacket

You also want to carry a windproof and waterproof rain jacket/or hardshell with an adjustable hood that can be worn while you are hiking. They don’t have built-in insulation, but they’ll shield you from high winds and trap the heat held by your mid-layer garments. Look for jackets with at least two exterior pockets to stash hats and gloves. Hardshell jackets or rain jackets with pit zips provide the most flexibility for regulating your temperature. For example, the Outdoor Research Foray II with full torso-length side zips is an excellent option that I use in winter. The women’s version is called the Outdoor Research Aspire II Jacket.

Hard Shell Pants or Rain Pants

Hardshell or rain pants are completely windproof and waterproof. Many people find it helpful to use pants that have full zips along the sides to help vent extra heat while hiking. Ankle zips are required at a minimum, so you can put them on or take them off without having to take off your boots. Test this out before you hike with them. Most hikers who wear hardshell pants as their primary pant layer, also wear long underwear underneath them for warmth. Marmot Precip Full Zip Pants are an excellent, economical full-zip waterproof pant option.

Softshell Pants

Many hikers, myself included, prefer wearing softshell pants in winter because they are more breathable and form-fitting than full-zip hardshell pants. If that’s the case, you still need to bring a pair of hard shell pants for protection against sustained precipitation and high winds since most softshell pants are water and wind-resistant but not waterproof or windproof. Softshell pants tend to be much warmer than hardshell pants, so you often don’t need to wear long underwear with them except in very cold weather. REI makes an economical softshell pant called the Men’s Activator 3.0 Pant (and Women’s Activator 3.0 Pant) that I use and recommend.

Mid-Layer Insulation

There are a lot of options available for mid-layer insulation and it’s best to experiment to figure out what you like best. Midweight fleece jackets, hoodies, pullovers, or vests are all cost-effective and well-performing options because fleece will keep you warm when it is wet and wick moisture away from your skin and base layers. The same holds for wool sweaters if you prefer it over fleece. There are many manufacturers that sell fleece garments. You can also augment a mid-layer with a softshell jacket or an insulated vest for more warmth depending on whether you run hot or cold.

Here are some of our favorite layering garments and ones that we recommend:

Base layer insulation

Most winter hikers wear a wool or synthetic base layer consisting of a long sleeve jersey, long underwear pants, and some kind of boxer or bikini underwear under that. All of your base layers must be synthetic or wool and not cotton because they’ll dry faster and won’t cause chafing if they get damp.

The most important factor in choosing a base layer is that it should be wicking so that it transports sweat away from your skin to the next highest layer of your clothing. Lightweight and thin layers do this better than heavier layers, but again this is an area of personal taste. Patagonia Capilene Lightweight, available in jerseys and long underwear, is an excellent option. A Smartwool Merino 150 LS Baselayer shirt is also a good choice. If you run really cold, try a fishnet-style jersey from Brynje. They really do work!

Route-finding in winter is very different than in the summer
Route-finding in winter is very different than in the summer.

Spare Clothing

It’s important to bring some spare clothing on longer hikes (jersey, long underwear, socks, gloves, hats) in case yours get wet, either from sweat or because you’ve had some kind of accident, such as falling into a stream. This is fairly common when you have to do any stream crossings on a hike and a snow shelf you’re standing on collapses into the water. It’s also nice to have a dry layer to change into if you need to stop for an extended time and the clothes you are wearing are damp with sweat.

Winter Traction-Aids

The traction aids that you bring on a hike are likely to vary, depending on the weather and whether you are hiking on a trail that others have hiked previously and packed down. Most hikers carry microspikes on all hikes because they provide extra traction on packed snow and ice and they’re quite lightweight. Snowshoes may also be required, particularly on less traveled trails or after a snowfall. Heavier-duty crampons may also be required for steep routes covered with rock or thick ice, while snowshoes provide floatation for hiking through unconsolidated snow. It’s not uncommon for you to have to carry some or all of these on a hike, depending on where you go and how many other people use the trails you follow. When buying snowshoes for mountainous terrain you want ones that have a televator lift under the heel, which makes it easier to climb hills. We recommend the following traction aids, which are compatible with all types of winter boots.

Water Bottles/Water Bottle Insulators

Hydration reservoir hoses freeze very easily in cold temperatures, so it’s best to carry two or three 1-liter wide-mouth bottles on winter hikes since narrow-mouth bottles also freeze shut more easily. If you carry your water bottles outside of your backpack, it’s best to store them upside down in an insulated sleeve so the cap won’t freeze shut. White wide-mouth Nalgene bottles are the best for winter use because they don’t crack.

For insulation, try insulated Nalgene water bottle sleeves or 40 below Neoprene Bottle Boots. Insulated Hydroflask 32oz. metal bottles also work but are heavier. You can also store your bottles in a wool sock inside your pack, surrounded by your down parka. Boil your water before putting it into the bottles and it will stay warm for a good part of the day. Add tea, electrolytes, or other flavorings to make it desirable to drink so you stay hydrated.

A synthetic vest keeps the torso warm. Mt Moriah in March.
A synthetic vest keeps the torso warm. Mt Moriah in March.

Winter Dayhiking Backpacks

You’ll want a 30-50 liter backpack for winter day hiking because you’ll be carrying more extra clothes, food, and water than the rest of the year. Winter packs should have a lot of external attachment points, daisy chains, and side compression straps to which you can attach traction aids such as snowshoes, crampons, or microspikes. These are either too large to pack inside a backpack, they have sharp points that can slice up your extra packed clothing, or they will be encrusted with snow and best kept separate. A full complement of traction aids can add as much as 6-8 pounds to your backpack load, so you’ll want a pack with a frame that can carry the extra weight on your hips and not on your shoulders.

Daisy chains, which are webbing loops found on shoulder straps or the sides of a pack, are good for hooking gear, including water bottles or Nalgene bottles filled with bite-size snacks that you can shake into your mouth. It’s also convenient to have a top lid on a winter backpack with one or more pockets to store gear you want easily at hand like your headlamp, extra hats, more snacks, and gloves.

The following backpacks are excellent for winter day hikes:

10 Essentials

The 10 essentials are just as important in winter as during the rest of the year, perhaps more so, since winter hiking requires more self-sufficiency.

A map and compass are important because it’s easy to lose one’s way, trail blazes are often buried in snow, and there are far fewer landmarks visible in winter when everything is covered in white. A plastic whistle is better than a metal one which will freeze to your lips, and useful if you get lost because it is louder than a human voice. You should use lithium batteries in your headlamp and other electronic devices because they are resistant to cold temperatures: nickel-metal hydride and alkaline batteries drain much faster in cold weather. Rechargeable headlamps are also okay since most have lithium batteries. You might also want to carry two headlamps because you’ll be hiking after sunset because there are so few hours of daylight.

While you can buy commercial first aid, gear repair, and fire-starting kits, they’re also easy to make by yourself at home. It also helps to bring some kind of multi-tool or plastic ties with you on a winter hike to repair gear, especially traction aids which take a lot of abuse. Sun protection, including sunglasses and sunscreen, is important to carry because it’s very easy to get a sunburn, from light reflected off the snow.

Survival Gear

If you’re winter day hiking alone, it’s important to bring extra insulation including a sleeping bag and sleeping pad in order to prevent hypothermia if you are immobilized and you need to survive until help arrives. A 20-degree sleeping bag, a foam accordion sleeping pad like a Therm-a-rest Zlite, and a lightweight bivy sack will usually suffice to keep you alive if you also put on all of the clothing you’re carrying. These can be split among different hikers if traveling as a group.

If you have to spend an unexpected night out, you also need to have some way of melting snow to create drinking water. While carrying a liquid fuel stove like an MSR Whisperlite and a cookpot is the most reliable way of doing this, a Jetboil can also work if you can keep the fuel canister warm. Hypothermia is accelerated by dehydration and can have dire consequences. When hiking in a group, this gear is usually distributed between group members, otherwise, you’ll probably need a bigger backpack to carry it all.

Full face protection on Franconia Ridge (March)
Full face protection on Franconia Ridge in March

Extra Gear for Above Treeline Hikes

For above-treeline hiking, your biggest priorities are extra wind protection for your face and extra traction to prevent uncontrolled slides on ice and snow. The easiest way to protect your face is to use a balaclava with a fully integrated facemask like the Serius Comboclava. You’ll need to combine that with ski goggles to protect your eyes from blowing snow and prevent them from freezing shut. Practice wearing these before you get above treeline as they can fog easily.

For extra traction, you’ll want to buy toothier crampons and possibly an ice ax. This is a fairly advanced stage of winter day hiking, so it’s best to learn how to use these tools from a qualified instructor, either a mountaineering guide or in one of the winter hiking schools run by outdoor clubs in the northeast such as the Appalachian Mountain Club or the Adirondack Mountain Club.

See Also:

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About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 9500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 3000 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its backpacking gear reviews and hiking FAQs. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip has hiked all 650+ trails in the White Mountains twice and has completed 11 rounds of the 48 peaks on the White Mountains 4000 footer list with over 575 summits in all four seasons. He is also the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in New Hampshire. Click here to subscribe to the SectionHiker newsletter.

Updated December 2023.

23 comments

  1. A problem that I encountered was hiking above treeline in strong wind with blowing snow and some freezing fog. My eyeglasses frosted quite fast and cleaning them was an exercise in futility as they were covered again in a couple of minutes. I took them off which was a very bad idea, my eyes were hurting a week later. Thing is, even if I had snow goggles, how do you deal with them being covered in ice within minutes and impossible to see through?

    • I’ve never had that happen to me. If it did, I would probably turn around and hike out. But I suspect that the warm air inside the goggles would prevent ice from forming on the exterior lens.

      • The net effect was that of a freezing rain. My camera was covered with ice and so were most of my outer layers. Visibility was terrible and my hiking partner took a wrong trail, luckily I was able to shout loud enough to be heard.
        In retrospect turning back was the wise option but I still felt in some control of the situation and in the end I got some nice photos and some stories to tell.

        • Also, I learned the hard way that if you miss drinking from a bladder every few minutes it will freeze and there’s nothing you can do about it, so I’m done with hydration bladders and winter.

        • yep – wide mouth bottles carried upside down either in an insulated sleeve outside your pack or wrapped in a wool sock inside your pack and surrounded by your other insulation.

        • I have had similar problems with glasses. Have switched to plastic frames and lenses, which helps. Sometimes apply anti-fog.

          I used to wear contacts with goggles. However, this is risky as goggles can fog up – so testing with your balaclava needed. And how do you test until you are already committed.

          In very extreme conditions (-20 & +30mph wind and blowing snow) I once had to remove my goggles to see where I was going. This actually resulted in my windward contact freezing to my eyeball. Got most of it out later but it tore and I needed a medical procedure to remove the rest of it. After that my contacts have remained in the drawer.
          So, now I simply wear glasses until they start fogging, then put my glasses safely in my pack and go without glasses and use only goggles (glasses will always fog under goggles – even the custom prescription inserts that are made for goggles). This results in reduced vision (a problem at night), but the lesser of risks for me.

          Next I am going to try the heated ski goggles.

          Ultimately if one plans to do a lot of cold winter sports, then consider lazer eye surgery . To eliminate the fog prone prescription lenses entirely.

    • Many ski gloves (decent ones anyhow) will have a plastic or rubber piece molded into the back of the thumb or index finger. Looks like a little windshield wiper. The intent is to be able to clear/scrape goggles of any ice.

      Blowing snow shouldn’t pose a problem with goggles since it would wipe right off or not even adhere.

      • I’m familiar with it, I only have it on few which are a little too bulky for hiking though. Even so, my issue was with how fast the lenses got covered, you had to clean them every few minutes.
        I’ll have to figure out something workable before I face similar conditions.

        • Armand,
          A Navy Seal friend of mine recommended Rain-X for my car windshield. It repels rain, sleet and snow. I don’t even have to use my windshield wipers. I’m sure it would work for your glasses too. Walmart sells it for $3.26.

  2. Thanks for the updated list, very helpful. What do you think about the Outdoor Research Mt Baker mittens? I had been thinking about picking up a pair, they seem to be a bit warmer, but not sure if that’s overkill for day hiking. I’m new to longer winter hiking so putting together my list of gear to buy and these gloves are expensive (although they are on sale now) so just trying to make sure I get the right kind.

    • Depends on where you plan on hiking. There are very warm mitts designed for high-altitude treks. The shells are not insulated so you can use them with a lighter weight liner and they’ll probably last at least 10 years. I have a bunch of modular mittens and gloves like this and NEVER use the primaloft liners. They’re simply too warm for me and they take a while to dry, but then again I don’t stand around and get cold on summits (I take off and get moving). But some have Raynaud’s or very cold hands and they might be perfect. But if you’re “normal” and in New England, these would probably be overkill. For day hiking, you may find you’re fine with just a pair of fleece gloves with a simple waterproof mitten shell (that’s what I use). I’d encourage carrying extra gloves or liners and doing a lot of experimenting. Also, if you buy these at REI, you can return them if they don’t work out. Note: It’s perfectly normal to blow through 2-3 pairs of gloves mittens on a hike.

      • Ok, thanks for the detailed response. I’m in Northern Utah and I’ll be winter hiking in the 5,000 to 8,500 ft elevation range (temps probably low teens to low 30s). I expect to keep moving too so I really just need to worry about cooler hands on the downhill, I suppose, or in inclement weather. Is that when you normally put the mittens on? Which mittens do you typically bring with you? And what do you mean by blowing through 2-3 pair on a hike? Just need different types based on different conditions? Thanks for helping out a newbie!

        • Pretty similar conditions to me, it sounds like. I usually carry two mid-weight fleece gloves and a waterproof/breathable mitten shell with wrist gauntlets on hikes, along with a very warm pair of waterproof/breathable gloves also with gauntlets (they take liners, but I don’t bring them and they’re still super warm without them). My hikes are usually all-day mountain climbs, 10-15 miles in length but sometimes longer with 3000-6000 feet of elevation gain. I avoid temperatures below 10F due to cold weather asthma and wind speeds over 30-35 mph because I like my face. I mostly just wear the fleece gloves, but the mitten shells come in handy if it’s windy or cold. But it’s normal for me to go through both pairs of fleece gloves which I either soak with sweat or get wet when I brush up against snow. I don’t wear the really warm gloves that often, but I need them sometimes for warmth and dexterity. I’ve got this pretty dialed in, but I used to go through many 3 or 4 fleece gloves per hike when I started winter hiking. The reason I like fleece gloves is that they’re warm, even when wet, and have good dexterity. The perspiration in my hands can also evaporate through them so they stay drier. However, if you wear fleece gloves, you have to be real vigilant to prevent snow from sticking to them because it will melt and make them wet. That’s the logic of it all. You also use softshell liner gloves – all the same logic pertains.

  3. great post regarding the gear list. I appreciate

  4. Speaking as a former Nordicski patroller (in the snow belt near Erie, PA) I can say this list is very complete and thorough, “covering all the bases”. Thanks for posting this timely list.

    ** I would state again that even for day hikes I STRONGLY recommend using Vapor Barrier Liners (VBLs) over thin synthetic liner socks. If you use 3 mm thick divers closed cell neoprene socks (as from US Divers) instead of waterproof nylon VBL socks. They work very well and are warm, instead of using heavy wool blend socks over the nylon VBLs.
    VBLs, even plastic bread wrappers held up with duct tape, will keep your sweat from ruining the insulation of your boots. Why are military “Mickey Mouse black winter or white Arctic boots really “sealed felt pacs”? Because they have a built in VBL. The felt insulation never gets wet from sweat.

  5. Curious in thoughts on the range of one-time use emergency bivy sacks (when paired with a 20 degree bag and other gear). I’ve been looking at the Blizzard 3 Layer Survival Bag. Of course, there is also a range of lighter products by SOL. Any thoughts on these versus a standard bivy?

    • It’s a bad idea to use a Sol Escape Bivy (or similar) over a sleeping bag in temperatures colder than 30F. The pores in the bivy plug up with frozen condensation and render it unbreathable, resulting in a more wet sleeping bag. However, I have used the Sol Escape Bivy as a liner inside my quilt/sleeping bag in temperatures colder than 20F; it works good for increased warmth.

  6. I have to say I disagree with the gaiter recommendation. I have had 2 pairs of hillsound gaiters that have zippers. I hike 2-3x a week in winter. I have never had a problem with the zippers. They are strong, don’t catch, and have never broken. They are easier to put on than velcro gaiters, and I find velcro catches, wears down, and doesn’t always close properly. I’ll take zippered hillsound gaiters 100% over velcro.

    • My current gaiters close with (redundant) snaps and velcro. Much more reliable even if one of the snaps fails. Hillsound sent me several pairs of their zippered high gaiters and thgey didn’t last a season. I hike about the same as you, year round.

  7. About hats. I carry them but find them too hot,especially when climbing. I mostly wear ear muffs as your bare head sheds a lot of heat and the muffs keep your ears warm.

  8. Do you find much value in a light (40-60 gsm) synthetic vest in addition to a midlayer fleece like the R1 for colder days? I hate feeling like my arms are constricted under a shell but they don’t seem to be too popular.

    • I do. I have one I frequently wear (no longer made – about 15 years old) when it’s really cold and it’s so lightweight and packable it barely weighs anything. A heavy fleece vest also works but is much heavier to carry.

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