Rivers & Roads



January 2015



Winter Gear List

Written by , Posted in backpacking, Uncategorized

Had a couple people ask about how we manage to stay warm and have fun on some the crazier trips into the backcountry. Preparation is key, but once on the trail the most important thing is staying ahead of the weather. In extreme weather having to quickly throw things on and hope to ‘warm up’ is when things can get dangerous. You know the temp is going to drop when the sun goes down, put on the extra layers before it does.

winter backpacking gear list…


-Boots – Zamberlan Vioz GT  leather is preferable.

-Wool Socks – 3 pairs  (Smart Wool, or Damn Tough)

– sock liners – 3 pairs. good polypropylene liners keep you dry and comfortable.

– Thermal Underwear – 2 sets… midweight and expedition weight.

– Fleece/Polyster blend midweight pants

– Water/Wind proof jacket and pants… (not resistant)!

– Down Jacket – Marmot Quasar 900 fill. ultralight and super warm. lots of good cheap down options tho.

– Wool Sweater  – heavy/warm wool. Pendleton quality.  Expedition weight fleece also works.

– Gaiters – calf height. I have a cheaper pair by Mountain Hardware, but lots of good options for keeping the snow/mud out of your socks.

– Gloves – 2 pairs. utility gloves and ski gloves. I rarely break out the ski gloves, because utility gloves + hand warmers work perfect for me in almost anything.

– Goggles – pair of typical ski goggles for when the snow and wind kick up.

– balaclava – merino wool, fleece, or thick poly blend.

– MicroSpikes – save your knees and butt on icy trails. love my new Kahtoola’s 

– Wool hat – thicker the better.

– ultralight/quickdry shorts… I like wearing over my midweight thermals on days when the sun comes out or for taking a dip in a spring.


Tent & Sleeping 

-Sleeping Bag – Igneo 19 degree bag have used down to 5 degrees w/o a problem and ultralight/packable.

-Sleeping Bag Liner (Emergency only) – Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor +25degrees 

(haven’t used yet, thankfully)

Emergency Bivy  – also haven’t used, thankfully.

– Tent – you need a good one.  not some big heavy spacious thing from Sports Authority. the two I use the most are Marmot Limelight 3p and an old but ultralight NorthFace Starlight. They’re both listed as three season but has used them in blizzards and cold down to -10 degrees and 50+mph winds. Have seen tents collapse and break on fellow campers from snow and wind.  You do not want to be one of those people.

– Groundcloth/tarp – tent should be waterproof but protect the bottom of it, and limit the chances of failure w/ a waterproof groundcloth.

– Sleeping pad – i get by with a ultralight thermarest foam pad. UPDATED: I picked up an EXPED UL9 air mattress w/ an R=6… it’s insanely warm and comfortable.

– Fleece blanket second layer of ground insulation on cold nights and for the dog to wrap herself up in.



– Pack – something bigger. I still use an old Kelty Super Tioga external frame that i’ve had for about 20 years now. You need something w/ the space to carry all the extra clothes and various emergency shit. UPDATE: finally went the route of internal frames, which most people switched to 15 years ago. Picked up an Osprey Xenith 88 (Large version 92L)

– Topo Map & Compass… you gotta know how to use them too. I have a GPS on my phone, but that can’t be trusted in the cold.

– Headlamp – in the winter i use a Black Diamond Storm. a little heavy but water proof and powerful enough to shine through a blizzard.

– Stove w/ gas.  I really like MSR stoves, but JetBoil is apparently great too.

– Backpacking Saw – Trusty Sven 

– Lighter + waterproof matches. ( a firestarter is also helpful insurance when there’s been a lot of rain/ice/snow)

– cookset – something lightweight. one 2.5L pot w/ a lid works. have some cheap aluminum stuff that i like along w/ a MSR kit.

– Rope(s) –  I carry 50-100ft of parachute cord and 75ft of heavy duty 300lb rope. From typing up the bear bag and a windshelter to safety net when crossing flooded streams. worth having.

– Lantern – not req’d but nice to have one especially on nights with low visibility from snow/fog. Black Diamond Apollo is the best but a little heavy. BD Voyager is light and bright.

– Mess Kit – winter camping we avoid bowls/plates/etc. And simply use a  Stanley insulated mugs for all meals/drinks. Along w/ a camping Spork. 

– First Aid Kit.

– Knife – good locking blade buck knife. I have the lightweight and affordable Gerber Paraframe which is great.

– extra stuff sack – especially on multi day trips you want to give the bear bag it’s own stuff sack… from absorbing smells to getting coated in ice/snow.

– Hand warmers – really nice to have a couple of these in your gloves or pocket when setting up camp in subzero temps.

– tarp – we like having an extra tarp to set up a wind/snow shelter by the fire. makes cooking easier and safer.  and it’s a lot more comfortable for everyone to hang out by the fire longer.

– Miscellaneous – Watch, Camera, Phone…


ALSO – Several states allow hunting during the winter. From bear and bucks to boar and varmints. Make everyone in your hiking party, especially dogs, wears blaze orange in the backcountry.