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11/22/2011 11:45 AM

I recently got asked about staying warm in cold temperatures and decided my response would be a good thread starter. Here's what I had to say:

First, everyone's body is different of course. If you've got a pretty low BMI, then you're bucking a stacked deck to start with. Second, keeping the metabolism burning will help. The granola bar recipe under free resources on our site is a good one. Third, we've become such fans of the hydroflask water bottles that we're going to be selling them with our logo on them. Put in steaming hot coffee or tea first thing in the morning and it will still be piping hot 3 hours later even in sub-freezing temps. Having something like that to sip on will make a difference.

On to clothing. I've come to the conclusion that there are only two modes in any temperature above 10 degrees. You're either moving and generating a lot of sweat and heat even with minimal clothing, or you're stopped and needing to wear everything you've got. Everything you've got needs to be lightweight puffy layers that go on over everything else. If you're going to be stopped for a short period of time, just throw on the insulation over your moving clothes. You'll at least heat them up. If you're going to be stopped for a longer period of time, switch out your soaked long underwear top and probably wet socks for dry spares that you should have close at hand. I've always sweated a lot, and for me at least there is no such thing as a layering system that doesn't get soaked when I'm moving. Pit zips and zippers will help extend the comfort range of a piece of gear, but only incrementally. We wear lightweight wool longies and windshirts just about any time of year for moving in. For the legs, lighter weight softshell pants with or without long underwear seem to do pretty well. On top, softshells just trap too much moisture.

If you were to emulate what we do, you'd get lightweight or microweight smartwool or similar, and invest in a good windshirt. The Propper ones on sale through US Cavalry right now for $30 look pretty good, and Scot just got a $150 Arcteryx one that is damned nice. That would be my first pick if money were no object. I'm using one from Helly Hansen that they no longer make. Those are lighter weight windshirts. Then in more sustained cold temps, I add the Dimension (it doesn't come with the ruff, btw, I added that). It is called a softshell, but it's not really because it doesn't have any insulation. It is just a heavier duty windshell. REI has some similar models. Just look for "softshells" that have little to no insulation in them. On bottom get something like the REI softshell pants with smartwool lightweight to go under them depending on temps. Now you need to get insulation. The absolute first pick right now for pants are these:
I've got the patagonia version made to the same mil specs and they're more compact, but the Propper ones are good too. With the zipper arrangement, these go right on over your boots. For a top, we like the Cabelas Insulator jacket (made on and off), or the Propper jacket that matches the pants above is a good choice. Cabelas has a newer one with synthetic insulation and no hood too. We tend towards lighter weight puffy jackets paired with our own HPG Mountain Serape. So we wouldn't get something as warm as the Propper jacket. If you didn't have a Serape, that Propper would be a good choice. Keep your insulating pants and top in a stuff sack on the top of your pack. When you stop, pull them out and put them on.

For headwear, about the only thing I use right now is a microweight merino beanie. Everything else has hoods, and I just throw on hood after hood depending on temps. That is one way of mechanically adjusting that really is effective. We use overmittens in the largest size possible. Made by OR. Maybe the adrenaline? Whichever model I have, they don't have removable liners, those are a PITA. They have some sewn in insulation. Since they're the largest size possible, it's easy to just shove my hands in regardless of what I'm wearing on my hands. Either lightweight polypro with rag wool fingerless over them, or a nice pair of softshell with leather palm gloves. Used to LOVE the REI one gloves but then they made them thicker so they're not of much use.

As I said before, this is in above about 10 degrees (at least the way my body is tuned right now. I know that if I lived in AK, this would go down, probably significantly). Below that, your only choice is to wear your warm stuff and *never* move so fast that you generate moisture next to your skin.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
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11/22/2011 3:16 PM

They are the OR Meteor Mitt and come with both a removable fingerless style mitten liner and the internal liner.  I on the other hand am not a huge fan of hoods. So I also carry a heavier softshell beanie from REI for when a warmer head is indicated.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
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11/22/2011 10:23 PM

Absolutely agree on the hydroflask bottles. I got a couple of the growlers to get beer from a local brewery, but filled one with coffee and it stayed drinkably warm for nearly 24 hours in 50-60F temps. The kleen kanteen insulated 20 oz. is good for a morning mug, but is as big as they make.

I have more issues staying cool than warm. I run hot, and will generally have just a shirt on down to about 50F. What I would really like to see is a pair of non-insulated bibs, like brown duck, but an upgraded fabric. I missed out on some of the gore tex issue bibs they had some time back, but I don't know if they were that good. I have had mixed results with breathable DWR stuff, and usually end up back to duck, wool or fleece. Not really a hood guy, but the merino beanie is good stuff. It is much colder long term where you live than it is in the SSW.



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11/23/2011 9:30 PM


Followed up on the links above.  Pretty surprised at the prices on some of the gear you listed.  Very attainable.  Can't believe it US made, as I'd prefer to spend my money on US products.  I assumed that ALL US clothing cost a premium.

The Wind Shirt thing has got me though.  Isn't it like wearing a trash bag while working out and attempting to Cut Weight? (OK, maybe not everyone wrestled).   I am guessing that is the one, or similar to the one, that Scot has on in many pictures?

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11/23/2011 11:41 PM

One of the biggest keys for me personally is trying to not get too cold in the first place.  

Jesse- I'm pretty familiar with wearing trashbags to cut weight, and I can tell you the wind shirts of today are nothing compared to that.

I have a Patagonia Houdini windshell, which is probably pretty close to the propper offering from US cav. It breathes really well, and stuffs down to the size of a baseball, so there's never really any reason for me to NOT have it with me. Currently it rides in my daypack or Tarahumara all the time. It's kind of lacking on the DWR, but I don't really wear it expecting to shed much water. 

The REI Acme pants are really great. They have a really wide temparature range and fit really well. 

The layer that I have really been liking is my Ibex merino wool hoody. It's a slightly heavier fabric, but still light enough to move in. The hood is awesome with a baseball cap because it allows me to keep my ears and neck a bit warmer. I couple it with a Patagonia nano-puff pullover and one of the Cabelas insulator jackets. If I am going out where it's pretty cold, I might switch the insulator jacket for a Patagonia DAS parka. 

Incidentally, all the Patagonia stuff I have has been bought on sale from the "web specials" section, saving a bunch of money. For that matter, most of the outdoor clothes I own were bought on sale or clearence.

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11/24/2011 1:17 AM

I must have purchased something from Ibex as I am now plagued with a flyer nearly weekly.  Seems like good stuff but a hooded pullover at full price would make me choke.  I also purchased a Patagonia micro puff pull over jacket a few years ago at the suggestion of many backpackers.  Another good piece of gear in my opinion.  Would not really have thought of putting BOTH on as a regular practice, but since I kinda started the whole thing by PMing Evan, I should listen.  Most of my questioning as really stemmed from being simply much colder than other people.  I see many "burly" North Country men up here in the dead of winter and the mercury near 0 wearing a Carhartt vest and aT-shirt.  They are able to pump a tank full of gas, load a truck with bales and carry on like it's a non-issue.  I am not wired like that at all.  And I would say I am still "in shape" at 40, but I am not 2% body fat.  So my inquiry was really "What am I not doing".  I can certainly gain elevation or XC ski or whatever in -2 deg weather and sweat like anyone else.  But when it comes to sitting still after that period, forget it.  Feet, fingers, everything is gone.  And I have grown tired of reading Filson Mackinaw ads of how "Even in Minnesota at -42, my Filson is making me sweat.  Too warm for me".

So I have to adopt a weasel or shrew mentality for winter, and always stay moving or cutting my stationary activities to a minimum.   Which leads to at least a bit of hesitation about winter survival.  I see many camping during the winter, winter rendevous, etc.  I think my PMA would be out the window about 2 hours into it.  Embarrassing but true

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11/24/2011 9:18 AM

Gotta keep that PMA!

One thing that's helped me stay warm say, in camp when I'm not moving is wearing better boots. Currently I've got a big pair of sorels that I am going to try out this winter. They're huge and clunky, but should be pretty damn warm. Prior to this I used a pair of insulated Kamik muck boots for in camp. I only really make use of these on camping trips, and they ride in the pulk sled until I get to camp. They're easy to slip on and off, and have a removeable liner so that I can dry them out.

I also tend to wear loose clothes in the winter- none of the under armor stuff for me. Most of my stuff is pretty loose fitting for layering, so I supposed that helps with keeping maximum circulation. Of course they say the brain will sacrifice other parts of the body to save itself, so if you can keep your hands and head and feet warm, you've got a much better chance of keeping your core warm, and feeling more warm throughout. 

You should check out the Zippo handwarmer. It's similar to the Johnny ones of the past, but it's a bit less clunky. Might be a good option to keep in your pocket to warm your hands up. You could carry a small bottle of lighter fluid to recharge it after the 8 or 12 hours it takes to die.

I also got the Ibex hoody on sale from their "outlet" section for about 30 or 40% off IIRC. I hate paying full price, but I like buying stuff tha's going to last even if it means paying a bit more. Made in USA is a plus- most of Ibex's stuff is made here.

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11/25/2011 7:39 PM

Great subject, thank you all for posting conditions, and solutions.

We spent about 4.5 hours today chasing mule deer.  Saw'em, couldn't get close enough for a shot.

Two of us spent the time outside in the Propper windshirts from US Cav, purchased last week(for $30 ea.), one in a Otte windshirt.  We pay a fair bit of attention to headgear,as well.  Today we used some merino beanies, balaclavas, neck gaiters and hoods from the windshirts.

The Propper windshirts have a stow away hood.  The hood is trim, and has an eslatisized opening.  We used the hood over the merino/fleece, which stopped the wind and kept us warm.  The layering, coverage of head, face and neck, and using the windshell hood( to stop the wind and wind chill) all were effective through varied activities(including pursuit, and sitting and observing).  

This is the first straight windshell I have used in many years.  Very light, and compact, and fits well with layers, and protects head and neck.  In contrast to heavier shells, including what are called "soft shells", I prefer the Propper windshell with layers.

The Propper wind shirt/shell also breaths well.  The breathability is critical for me, as managing moisture has a direct bearing on warmth and comfort.  

Temps were high 20's, and low 30's.  15mph was a dead calm today, some gusts in the high 20 mph range.

All were warm with the windshirts and layers. We use mostly merino wool, mostly Smart wool, and Minus 33.  For us, very effective combination, adding and taking off layers as activity(condtions) vary.

The Propper is very lightweight.  The garment works as advertised(have not checked the DWR yet).  The garmet fits well(I am not a small person).  It appears to be reasonably well made.  The garment is a good value at the price offer by US Cav.


edit for update:  11-26-2011

We were back out again today.

Conditions were a little warmer, with less wind.  Windshirt/shells performed well.

Noticed that the Scout(with minimalist overnight loadout, read heavy, w/padded Omni belt) would "swim" when placed over the Propper windshirt.  Not a deal breaker, just sayin'.  Makes sense, given the texture characteristics of the material(slick).  Other shells with more "coarse" surface do not swim with the Scout.  We are curious about the use of a "paclok"(sp?) type arrangement in the lower center lumbar area, similar to a K shell garment(RIP, maybe?).


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11/29/2011 8:57 PM



I have the K windshirt with the packlock, and use it frequently with the scout, though mine is not usually as heavy as yours.  I don't find that it does much, though I have no experience with the Propper version.  The K windshirt is so fragile (for my use), that in cold weather, I just go with a very dense weave wool shirt, and strap my scout over it.  No slip, and no wind chill either.

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11/30/2011 9:09 AM

My last windshirt was made out of Rhino Skin, and as Evan has stated I am now using an Arcteryx windshirt. I have a propper one because they sent Evan the wrong size and color, and for the price I just decided to keep it. I haven't used it yet, but my guess is that the propper one is more like the Arcteryx than the K one. Here is what I have found.

The RS one was a lot hotter, it held more mositure, and when it held the mositure it got clingy.  On the other hand the Arcteryx is cooler so I don't sweat as much, and when I do it does a better job of not holding mositure and drying quickly.  The only place it really holds moisture is under my pack. Even then it doesn't get clingy.  The ironic thing is the material of the Arcteryx is heavier.  Looking at the propper I think that it will be a great shirt, but I just haven't found occasion to use it yet.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
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11/30/2011 10:31 PM

SLG and Scot,

Thank you.

SLG:  Would you have some more info about the tight weave wool shirt?  Manufacturer, model, sources?

Scot:  Model of the Arcteryx?

For us, the Propper worked well under the conditions(around freezing, moderate, to moderate + wind), with the wool layers we were using,  the windshirt did not seem to hold moisture.  There search continues.


112Papa(and crew)


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11/30/2011 10:35 PM

Leaf Wraith

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
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12/1/2011 9:19 AM

I wear a USGI surplus wool shirt from the '50's, I believe.  I should clarify that it is not as effective as a windshirt in really heavy wind, just that for most applications, it works fine.  I do carry the K windshirt to throw on over it if the wind picks up too much, or if it starts to rain or snow.  Even when the windshirt wets out, I stay pretty dry underneath.  I'm thinking of replacinf the windshirt with a true rain top, but I'm just not sure yet.

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12/1/2011 12:56 PM

112, don't worry about those Korean War wool shirts -- they became unavailable in my size 15 years ago, and they never made them in your size.  In any event, the weight is such that it is more of a mid-layer. Very nice shirts though.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
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12/1/2011 4:11 PM

 On the subject of warmth, I seem to have lost my favorite hat. Can anyone recommen a good replacement beanie?

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12/1/2011 4:56 PM

Mountain Hardwear hats with windstopper are the best in my opinion, I have 3 of them.  Mountain Gear out of Spokane,WA is the place to order them from, best prices on Mountain Hardwear stuff.

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12/1/2011 8:55 PM

For active wear an icebreaker merino silk weight beanie. For warm wear I have a couple of heavier REI softshell beanies, but I don't think they make them anymore. I also have a filson merino that I wear for dress warmth for non-active wear.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
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12/3/2011 1:01 PM

Just sipping my morning coffe and playing catch up on this thread.  Here are my thoughts in no particular order.

Wool-----made by God, and The Standard, IMO.

Fleece/Polypro-----man's attempt to best God by using turned in pop bottles.

The only negative I can see with wool is a possible weight penalty.  But layering various weights and weaves of wool will get a guy there and back.  Adding a lightweight windshirt/pants to cut wind, and a light but warm down or synthetic layer is OK too, and adds flexibility.  But the core clothing "sytem" should be wool IMO.  It maintains most of its insulative value when damp or wet, won't melt to your skin, and fights body odor on longer trips.  It's a PROVEN clothing material that's so simple, I don't think it gets the respect it deserves.  The collective conscious of today's market sees wool as stinky, itchy, and something Grandpa wore.  Modern attempts to improve on wool may succeed in some areas (mostly in weight I'd guess), but still won't provide all the benefits of wool.  Throw in the superb economic value of quality wool mils-surp (where style/size/weight is appropriate for the application) and it's a shutout!  Rant over for now.

I'd heard about the Hydro Flask from a co-worker, who knows Travis, but couldn't remeber the name of the company.  I finally joined the PBA-free movement a couple months ago by throwing away my 2 and 3qt cranberry juice jugs and Gatorade bottles and consolidating with a pair of 64oz  Kleen Kanteens. They're suprisingly small for being a half gallon, and I'm not missing the dirty water taste I always got from the plastic bottles. Since they're single wall, I can always boil water in them if I need to.  For hot beverages, I've got an LLBean 24oz vacuum bottle that keeps coffee for at least 12hrs if I pre-heat it.  And as Evan stated, a hot beverage is VERY nice when it's cold.

Pocket warmers like those from Zippo and Jon-E are wonderous little devices when they work.  In my experience they take quite a lot of mothering to stay running, and they're either full blast (very hot and using fuel quickly) or going out from lack of oxygen.  Chemical warmers are much more simple, but don't give off nearly as much heat.  They're better than nothing, but fall short of my expectations when I'm cold and looking for some extra warmth.  So, I continue to experiment and learn the black art of keeping the little burners running.

Hats and gloves are a subject in and of themselves.  My short answer is still wool, but I also have some fleece beanies with and w/o a windstopper membrane.  They work well.  I finally started a collection of Stormy Kromers (should have done so long ago) so I can't speak to their effectiveness yet, but they've been around for over 100 years, so I'm not expecting to discover anything new.  I've put elkskin chopper mitts on my Christmas list, and will buy a pair if nobody comes through.  They're Yooper tested and approved, and make a lotta sense to me.  Removeable wool insulation with a rugged leather shell to block wind and moisture and provide durability.  Keeping all four fingers together inside a mitten is great when you can get away with it.  I've worn out a lots of wool gloves and mittens and also tried the great down mittens.  I have a strong feeling that choppers will what I've been looking for all along.

It's taken over an hour of coming back to the computer just to get this typed out, and now I've got to get on with the day.  I'll let you guess what material my socks are made of.

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12/4/2011 3:02 PM

    This post is so JM... I've got to tell a story on him. The first time we met him, he was coming into a winter rendezvous. We already had camp in, a little ways off of a well traveled trail. The only guy we hadn't met was JM. Of course, you never know what to expect -- was he going to fit in? Mid afternoon, we heard snowshoe steps headed our direction, wondering if it was JM, or perhaps someone lost. Into view strides a guy with an external frame pack, red and black plaid wool shirt, and wool whipcord pants tucked into a pair of White's Elk Guide packs. The plastic pistol on his hipbelt was out of place, but you've got to give a guy a pass on a pistol he was issued. I think I was the one who said "he ain't lost, and he'll fit in just fine".  Indeed...

JM, hope you make it to winter Rondy this year. We're looking at the weekend of Feb 24-26, south of Sisters unless there is good snow over on the Ochocos or Pine Mt.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
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12/4/2011 3:54 PM

Thanks Evan.  Truth be told, I was really wondering who I'd meet also.  Having a Rondy only minutes from Bend, I'd mentally braced myself for a full weekend of ribbing, and defending my gear choices.  I had NO idea that I'd actually make a favorable impression-----------------------or that I'd meet so many great, like-minded individuals.  IIRC that same winter you wore your Utilikilt and already knew that a 5" 1911 would fit in the cargo pocket. ;)

That was my first winter camp out, so a plastic pistol made sense, even though it really clashed with the rest of my gear.  Subsequent years I've brought my 1911 in an EPS Tanker.   I was wearing it on the Death March a couple winters ago when the X-country skier asked me why I had a gun.  Glad I could add that memory to my Kimber.

I choose my gear for it's practicality,  field proven history, AND admittedly because I long for the bygone era that I wasn't born in time to enjoy the first time around.  One of these winters I'd love to throw all practicality into the wind and go full-retro with my canvas Whelen lean-to, ash snowshoes, and a wool blanket bed roll.  I've got a track record for showing up late the first afternoon, so the extra prep time would take more planning and dedication.  I think it'd be worth it though. 

I've got weekends off in December and January, so I'll have to schedule vacation time or something to swing a February weekend.

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