Extreme Cold Weather Gear

12:31 p.m. on November 13, 2015 (EST)
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Hi all.

This is my first message.. O_O

Anyways, I have a question hopefully I can get some help on.


I'm a major fan of cold weather. It's part of my life....and therefore I'm not looking merely to put in the minimum money I can and get by, I actually collect the gear as a hobby. (I currently live in Northern Maine and, when finished getting my RN, plan to move north to northern Canada to work in some rural town as a nurse.)

Anyways - I'm looking for a really good parka that will function well from a hiking/climbing standpoint. I know that as far as hiking goes the best bet is with Canada Goose. Outside of that tho, where space matters, where tight movements and freedom to move are valued - it's a different story. What would be a good parka in that regard? I just got, as a gift, a Marmot 8000m parka...and I've read much good about it, but had personally been planning to buy a parka such as Mountain Hardware's Absolute Zero Parka, etc.

Does anyone have any experiences, knowledge, anecdotes...anything thoughts or opinion on any or all or anything tangentially related that they'd like to share?

Thanks so much!

~ Nick

12:59 p.m. on November 13, 2015 (EST)
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A parka is great for rest stops, and for being in camp at night. Most of the time on the move they are too warm. There are plenty of good down ones out there. Heavy fleece is worth considering.

For cold weather a mixture of wool and fleece in layers works well, with nylon or canvas on the outside. I like gaiters in the snow, a watch camp, and warm insulated pants and a heavy fur hat at night.

Adjusting clothing for the conditions and the level of exertion is one of the hardest things to learn about traveling and living in winter conditions. I like to have dogs along to help pull the load and for keeping morale high.

 

11:59 a.m. on November 14, 2015 (EST)
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ppine said:

A parka is great for rest stops, and for being in camp at night. Most of the time on the move they are too warm. There are plenty of good down ones out there. Heavy fleece is worth considering.

For cold weather a mixture of wool and fleece in layers works well, with nylon or canvas on the outside. I like gaiters in the snow, a watch camp, and warm insulated pants and a heavy fur hat at night.

Adjusting clothing for the conditions and the level of exertion is one of the hardest things to learn about traveling and living in winter conditions. I like to have dogs along to help pull the load and for keeping morale high.

 

 Normally by the time I get around to planning out the smaller points of a cold weather outfit...it's just too cold and throwing on my Canada Goose Expedition Parka is all I need or have patience for. That's to go snowmobiling or for short to medium range length hikes/walks with (ie, 5-10 miles tops.)

I guess around the time I switch from hoody/jacket to my Expedition Parka is somewhere between 20 degrees and 0 degrees with wind. That parka seems to do everything I've ever needed...I've had it since I was a kid, 15 years running (and it still looks new), but am really finding that I am a fan of this subject and want to find out more so that I can actually get more involved. Coming from northern Maine...we don't really have anything steeper than minor hills, definitely nothing amounting to 'technical' climbing, etc. About the worst I run into is that starting around mid December...and lasting through the beginning of April...the snow gets over a foot deep, and by February it's often approaching 4 feet or deeper. So I guess that's the biggest obstacle, aside from somewhat severe cold (0 to -50)

I'm mostly talking about theory, tho. I'm really curious what the reasoning behind the differences in Mountaineering Parkas is...and Canada Goose style parkas. Beyond the obvious 'less bulk' line of thought. Is there more to it? Stuff I can't deduce from the top of my head? etc?

Thanks!

10:25 a.m. on November 15, 2015 (EST)
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I am in a different camp. I like uninsulated parkas. I reserve the down to a seperate insulation layer. In extreme cold i find i still prefer the ecwcs goretex parka. I have tried many, but have finally settled on this.

once i am in camp i have a waxed cotton down jacket that i love. 

12:00 p.m. on November 15, 2015 (EST)
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ppine and Rambler have the right idea - layers work best. I have looked at Canada Goose over the years (they always have a huge booth at the Outdoor Retailer Show. Their biggest problem is that they make (mostly) single layer lots of insulation, hence "single temperature" gear. This may be fine for standing around in the farthest part of Nunavit or riding on the runners while your dogs do all the exertion (but don't overheat the dogs).

As you will note by glancing over at my avatar, you can generate a lot of heat when moving in cold conditions (the avatar photo was taken in Antarctica, where we carry the gear in our packs and/or man-hauling the sled - that's a Dana Terraplane on my back). You will notice that at that point, I am stripped down to longjohns base layer and a gtx bib with a toque (what ppine mistyped as a "watch camp", when he meant "watch cap" - I nevr mstype, of cors), no down or fleece, much less a wpb shell. Temperature at that point was about -20 or -25 °F (don't remember at exactly that point, but that's the range recorded in my journal for that day)

When stopped or in camp, yeah, I use a down parka, though sometimes it's a  fleece jacket or down vest under a gtx or eVent shell plus down or fleece pants under an eVent bib. If moving, something like the Canada Goose gear is way too hot. Also, their gear is much heavier (weight, and bulk as well). You end up either having their parkas in the pack or on the sled or wearing them completely unzipped - an "all or nothing" situation.  It is way too easy to get overheated with those heavy, bulky parkas.

With layers, you can easily adjust to match the conditions and the exertion level. Often in places like Antarctica, Alaska on Denali, or at 20,000 ft in the Andes, I will be using a thin base layer, a light insulating layer (like a Nanopuff), and a wpb gtx shell (with the pit-zips fully open and front zip mostly open) while moving, especially if it involves climbing steep slopes. You mention you are in northern Maine - when we lived in Boston (you want cold? - there's nothing like a cold wind blowing off the Charles River for cold), we used to go up to Maine several times each winter. You said something about "not much climbing in northern Maine". Guess you haven't spent much time around Katahdin in winter.

5:22 p.m. on November 16, 2015 (EST)
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big down parkas are great for sitting still in the cold or doing things where you don't work up a huge sweat.  snowmobiling, dogsledding, hunting (unless you get something and have to haul it, which is hard work), sitting still in the middle of a winter hike or at night, they make good sense.  Canada Goose certainly makes parkas that fit the bill.  Marmot's 8000 meter, Mountain Hardwear's absolute zero are about as puffy and warm (and heavy) as you will find.  and there are others - feathered friends amd western mountaineering both make multiple super-warm jackets, throw valandre in there too if you can find somewhere in the US to buy one.  personally, as a native new-englander, i think these are too  much jacket for most conditions.  

like the others above, i don't view any of these as winter walking-around jackets, unless you mean walking to your car or the corner store.  they're too warm for that, and i would overheat doing any serious walking in them.  you mentioned deep snow? you would never see me snowshoeing in any down jacket because the nylon shell material is a poor candidate for managing the moisture most people generate when they are really working and sweating - the norm for nordic skis or snowshoes.  in really cold weather, i usually have a combination of fleecy layers (or patagonia's relatively new nano air, which is is really great mid-layer for colder weather when you're working hard), under a windproof outer shell if it's windy.  

because i don't expect to take excursions in antarctica or at high altitudes (denali, himalaya), i tend to look for down jackets that are a step down in terms of bulk, insulating value, and cost for hiking in Northern New England (the white or green mountains, primarily) and New York (adirondacks) in the winter.  again, though, the goal is something i can wear an an ugly cold day during a stop that's longer than a few minutes, or for cooking dinner, sitting around where it can get to -25 to -35 on the colder weekends.  (on the truly barbaric weekends when it storms in the northeast, winds 80+ miles per hour and sub zero weather, i stay out of the mountains, take the snowshoes or skis out for day hikes, and enjoy a warm fire at night).  

 Eddie Bauer's First Ascent has a down jacket, the peak XV, that you can find on sale periodically but that will keep you very warm; it's probably enough jacket to take up a solid high altitude climb in the summer, actually.  it is a workhorse - pretty big, very warm, very hard to damage because the outer fabric is highly durable.   http://www.eddiebauer.com/product/peak-xv-down-jacket/388322243/_/A-ebSku_0880999907000060__388322243_catalog10002_en__US   it replaced a mountain hardwear subzero parka, which worked equally well for me.   some other warm jackets are lighter, more geared for sitting still a little less, yet they still offer a lot of warmth - made more for people who climb in the winter.  Rab's endurance jacket  http://rab.equipment/us/shop/neutrino-endurance-jacket-4093  or the mountain hardwear Nilas.  http://www.mountainhardwear.com/mens-nilas-jacket-1568701.html?cgid=mens-jackets-insulated&dwvar_1568701_variationColor=842#start=16  these aren't the same weight or loft as the beasts you mentioned, but they will take you through nearly anything northern new england can throw at you.  

11:58 p.m. on November 16, 2015 (EST)
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Cold weather is all about well thought out layering if you are going to be seriously active.

A casual walk or stroll, you can get by with a heavy parka because worst case scenario is you sweat a little and you end up back home where you can warm up and dry off.

Hiking in challenging terrain, where you sleep overnight in the mountains, that approach fails, and you might die in the process.

I use all sorts of gear depending on temperature, activity, and time out. A list is in my profile. What I don't own is a singular overly bulky parka, because unless I plan on dog sledding in the Yukon, I am better off with layers.

4:18 a.m. on November 17, 2015 (EST)
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TheRambler said:

I am in a different camp. I like uninsulated parkas. I reserve the down to a seperate insulation layer...

 +1 on using separate articles for shell and insulation.

Edl

9:54 p.m. on December 17, 2015 (EST)
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Living in the Canadian Rockies you have to like White. All you guys are right. I'm a big fan of the big puffy parka if you are not getting your heart rate up. Other wise it is too warm. Layering - base, mid , protector. Synthetic base layer to draw moisture away. Down mid layer for warmth. the heavier the weight the warmer I have 3 . Gortex protective shell to trap the air ? Go out side and grab a metal post and see how long you can hold it. It is heavy and a great conductor  Now the opposite. Air is light and a great insulator. That rule of thumb also goes with hands and feet. 

7:44 a.m. on December 19, 2015 (EST)
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Most of the expedition designed, baffled down filled parka's weigh over 2 pounds and the stuff sack is as large as that needed for a 3 season sleeping bag. The MH Sub Zero's are filled with 650 grade and thus are heavier than need be. Reinforcing overlays help handle the abuse when it is to cold,  technical, or demanding to be fussy or careful but add to the weight total. I have owned various down filled jackets with stitched through construction over the years. They are considerably lighter and can have a place in any layering system. Especially so with todays lighter weight fabrics and the use of higher fill power goosedown. I now own a Montbell Permafrost Parka, previous generation. Box baffle construction, 800 fill power, and ultra light Gore Windstopper shell. Total weight is 22 oz. Incredible loft and warmth to weight ratio. As winter backpacking or car camping backup warmth, or ice climbing belay parka, it works well for me. Size XL for easy off and on over stuff and to maintain the loft. By that I mean, not constricting the garment loft from the inside out. If inside sleeve or body circumference is to small, you will be able to stuff your arm into the sleeve or zip the parka up but the down is being compressed from the inside out thus losing loft. When the cut is proper, the parka will just sort of float on your body.

4:16 p.m. on December 24, 2015 (EST)
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I belong to another website, www.wintertrekking.com If you are into cold weather camping, that is the site for you. I don't know of any others that focus on winter camping like they do. Most of the members are in Canada. 

Much of what the wintertrekkers use is old school-wooden snowshoes, canvas tents with stoves, toboggans, wool clothes, mukluks, etc. but they wear modern gear as well. When I joined several years ago, I started a thread on "traditional v. modern" clothing which is still an ongoing discussion.

My winter gear is modern-I have two TNF parkas, including a Baltoro, now called the Himalayan, a big down parka with Goretex shell. Incredibly warm. I have a pair of full zip synthetic pants, Capilene base layers, a fleece jacket, a down vest (Eddie Bauer First Ascent) a collection of gloves and a pair of big mitts. I have a couple of beanies and a fleece balaclava from Seirus. I also have a rabbit fur Russian style Ushanka with the big ear flaps- looks really goofy, but is very warm. I've got some of this stuff on in my photo which was taken up by Badger Pass in Yosemite.

Some of the wintertrekkers wear canvas anoraks in sub zero weather-either surplus European army stuff or from companies like Empire Wool and Canvas.

5:04 p.m. on January 6, 2016 (EST)
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Mushing is a lot of exercise.  A parka is too warm unless it is well below zero. Most dogs can't run in weather warmer than about 30 degrees F or they overheat.

January 19, 2019
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