We’ve said it before: Hiking season never ends. If you want to extend your outdoor fun into the coldest months, though, you’ll need the right gear for the job. Here’s everything you need to stay warm, safe, and comfortable during your winter trip into the backcountry.
Black Diamond Stance Belay Insulated Pants
Conserving body heat becomes even harder once you stop moving, and the Belays kept our bottom halves toasty in camp or during long snack breaks. “The 180 grams of insulation kept me from turning into an icicle. These pants are the greatest things that have ever hugged my legs,” one tester reported after spending a week on Alaska’s Davidson Glacier in 50-mph winds and temps as low as -20F. A DWR-treated exterior prevents wet-seat syndrome, and full zips on the sides make layering with boots on a breeze. Note: The Belays might be too warm for uphill exertion, as one tester found out on a moonlit skin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
$149; 1 lb. 3 oz. (m’s M); m’s S-XL
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Marmot Guides Down Hoody
It’s not the lightest jacket on the market, but the Guides Hoody’s primary function is to keep you warm, and it exceeds at that. “I practically lived in this jacket during a week of huddling in snow shelters while ski touring near Breckenridge, Colorado, in single-degree temps, and never felt the cold’s bite,” our tester says. The Guides’ 700-fill water-resistant down and sizeable baffles are enough to keep you comfortably warm in camp, and for the times you don’t need it, it packs into its own pocket down to about the size of a football.
$250; 1 lb. 7 oz. (m’s L); m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL
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Osprey Kamber 42 / Kresta 40
Wet clothing on winter camping trips makes for severe discomfort. That’s why we turned to Osprey’s Kamber and Kresta packs, which are designed with nasty conditions in mind. Water-resistant, 420-denier nylon withstood us burying the pack in snow and sloshing through winter rain during a hiking excursion near Conway, New Hampshire. “I kept my camera and my emergency puffy in the packbag’s separate dry pocket as we trudged through heavy New England snow,” one tester says. “I was soaking wet by the time we finished, but all my gear was dry as a bone.” Ski and snowboard attachment points on the exterior allow both A-frame and diagonal carry, while an easy-access compartment allows quick access to avy gear. We found that carrying up to 40 pounts was quite comfortable over layers, especially with Osprey’s glove-friendly adjustment straps and a robust suspension that distributes weight evenly between hips and shoulders.
Icebreaker BodyfitZONE Winter Zone Long Sleeve Half Zip and Leggings
Baselayers are the keystone for a cold-weather outfit, and we donned the merino Winter Zone tops and bottoms again and again due to their laudable temp regulation. “While skiing laps in Mayflower Gulch outside Leadville, Colorado, their versatility really stood out,” one tester says. “The thermometer swung from 20° F in the morning to 45°F at midday, but the Winter Zone kept me warm and then wicked sweat to prevent me from getting swamped out as the sun rose.” Bonus: One tester spent 24 days skiing in the backcountry of Alaska’s Coast Range in March while wearing the Winter Zone, and she proudly reports that it resisted stink like a champ.
Top – $130; 11.6 oz. XS-XL.
Bottoms – $120; 7 oz. XS-XL
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Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Torch 0F
Less is more with the Torch, which kept us warm in frigid conditions due to several sleek design features. Mountain Hardwear forgoes traditional sewing in favor of heat-sealed seams, which trap more warmth and decrease heat loss from excessive stitching. A slim mummy shape with rounded shoulders and a narrow footbox eliminates excess weight and keeps the 200 grams of synthetic insulation close to your body. The half-zip design prevents even more heat from escaping. “Winter camping never appealed to me, because I’m cold enough sleeping outside in the summer,” one tester says. “But in 5°F-degree temps at 9,000 feet near the base of Colorado’s Mount Princeton, the Torch kept me in the comfort…