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Extreme Cold Weather Gear - Part II

** Merry Christmas All **

This is a continuation of Nick Horner's original thread by the same name.

My own extreme cold weather gear has changed in the ensuing years since Nick first posted in 2015. Maybe some of yours has too


PARKA-> Eddie Bauer PEak XV -30 F. down parka (Great deal on the annual sale.)

SLEEPING BAG-> LL Bean -20 F, down bag (Best designed winer bag I've ever seen.)

MATTRESS-> REI FLASH All Season insulated mattress (R 5.3) Perhaps I'd also need my Ridgerest foam mat under it at say, -30 F.

HAT-> Duluth Trading rabbit fur lined ear& neck flaps on nylon billed hat (Looks dorky with the ear flaps up but very nicely warm in bad weather.)

PANTS-> Duluth Trading fleece lined nylon cargo pants (Best pants I've found for temps to 0 F. with a medium to heavy base layer.)


PANTS-> North Face GTX ski pants with side thigh venting and interior snow cuffs (Worn over pants insulated with Thermolite Micro.)

BOOTS-> Sorel felt pacs or Scarpa T3 Telemark boots if I'm skiing (Liners go inside my sleeping bag at night) 3 mm neoprene divers socks as a VBL always worn W/thin poly liner socks. No other socks worn or needed.

MITTENS/GLOVES-> GTX shells, Dachstein boiled wool mitten liners or double layer fleece mitten liners, various weights of fleece & pile glove liners

The best two sale deals were the LL Bean -20 F. bag and the Eddie Bauer -30 F. expedition parka. Both are top notch quality and design. I can use the parka when skiing B/C the hood is helmet compatible. My only modto the parka was to stuff the inside zipper baffle with down. 

Eric B.

Where are going 300 that you need all of that stuff?

To 10,000 ft. in my nearby Spring Mountains in Nevada. Brutal in Jan. Feb. and high winds with high wind-chill.

Eric B.

Sounds like Mt Baldy, out my way.  Recently there have been some brutal winds in the Sierras. I'd pack in a similar fashion.  Do you take crampons, axe on these trips?  What does your lodging consist of?


I'll play Eric :) This is my list for "extreme" cold, not just a bit brisk (20°f) or a tad chilly(0°f). Serious sub zero as opposed to just a bit frosty.

Parka: Old TNF Nuptse with enough down to make me look like the Michelin Man. Thick enough to block gusting winds and warm enough to stand still at -20°f Way too hot to wear while active since I generate a lot of heat while in motion.

Sleeping Bag: I stack quilts in cold weather, usually synthetic over down so the vapor turns to frost on the APEX rather than the down. If I'm pushing beyond the limits of my quilts I'll wear more clothes to bed though that risks waking up sweaty if pushed too far.

Mattress: I stack pads when ground sleeping in the cold too. Thermarest Trail Pro combined with a BA Double Z isn't very comfortable, but keeps the cold at bay. Not a fan of the tall BA pads. Slept on this combo last night and my back hurts this morning heh.

Hat: Well, hats is more like it, because I carry a lot in Winter. For day use I usually use a light beanie with a hood as needed. I'll usually bring three beanies so if I sweat one out I have others to wear while it dries. For standing around in camp I love my Mad Bomber. For sleeping I like to use a polypropylene balaclava which creates a vapor barrier to prevent my hats from frosting up while I sleep. I used to use the Mad Bomber to sleep in, but have found a down beanie to be more comfortable the last few years.

Pants: Usually I just wear hiking pants with a wool base layer underneath, but if we're talking serious cold I have Patagonia Nano Puff Pants which are great for camp. If we're talking extreme cold I have a pair of TNF Hyvent pants with a quilted lining. Major wind blocker with knee to crotch vent zips. These are great on the motorcycle when temps are around freezing :)

Boots: I have a lot of options to choose from. Generally I am finding I prefer my Limmer Standards to insulated boots when it comes to hiking, even when its really cold. Two thick wool socks are enough when I'm working, though in deep cold standing around sucks pretty fast. If I know I'm headed out for serious cold I'll bring insulated boots to wear in camp. My Baffin Impacts are not too shabby for hiking/climbing, but I really love them for standing around in the cold. The loose fit doesn't work for me when doing steep sections which is why I prefer to stick with my Limmers for action.

Mittens/Gloves: Again, I bring a lot of various things in this category. I have ECWCS mitts, the big leather ones with the wool patch on the back to rub on your face. They have big quilted mitts that go inside which have plenty of room to wear fingered liner gloves. That way hands are protected if I have to take the mitts off. I have another pair of those liner gloves for sleeping in as I find that the hands do strange things in the deep cold of night if left unprotected. More relaxing sleep if they are cozy. During the day I also have several active gloves/mitts that are designed to provide some protection, but also vent well. (Examples: Outdoor Research Lodestar Sensor Gloves Swix Star XC 100 Split Mitt) They don't keep you warm when standing around, but don't overheat when active...well sometimes they do heh, but they dry relatively fast if that happens.

You didn't mention base layers, but to me, they are very important. I like to have lots of options that I can layer. That lets me try to get the right amount and have spares if I guess wrong and end up sweating some out. Quarter or half zip tops are really nice because even when stacked a few layers high you can drop all the zips and do an emergency vent if a steep pitch gets you all worked up. Skin layers have to be wool, but synthetics have their place, especially if you want to create a vapor barrier.

Glad you are excited about getting out there Eric. Hoping to spend some time in the snow myself if Winter ever settles in around here. Right now I'm not sure if there is enough snow to make drinking water in my favorite spot. Most of it turned to ice after a melt.  Soon...

Lone Stranger, Those ECWCS mittens sound very nice. Where did you find them?

I've worn my Dachstein boiled wool liners inside mitten shells at -40 F. and had to remove the additional wool Army liner gloves I had on B/C they were too warm! 

Still trying to figure out how to locate my coyote fur ruff on my parka hood so it can flip forward as a "breathing tunnel".

Just returned yesterday from Mammoth mountain ski area where I did wear theEB PEAK XV parka the first day when it was 12 F. (8 F. at the top of the lift at 10,200 ft.) but it soon warmed up t 20 F. and I was too hot to ski in. That parka is just amazingly efficient. 

Eric B.

Those gloves are great, but they are heavy. I got them from a military surplus retailer, but you can find them online easily too. Search for "N-4B Mittens ECWCS" and lots of options come up. I paid $30 for them five years ago and they are still selling for the same price I see.

I use them some each Winter, but the liner is what really gets used. It is big enough to wrap around my kettle to keep the spout from tearing stuff up in my pack. Then in camp I can use it as a glove while mixing up my dinner bag before putting the bag inside so the mitt keeps it warm while rehydrating. Plenty of room in there on family trips for me to put all three dinner bags inside.

-jacket/tops: if i don't think it's going much below zero, Rab's infinity parka for throwing on top or sitting around. colder than that, the Eddie Bauer Peak XV. While i'm moving, some sort of synthetic or wool base layer (i have a number, warmest would be about Patagonia R1 weight), sometimes paired with Patagonia's nano-air jacket or a fleece, or perhaps a fleece vest, depending on conditions, topped by either a windshirt or a waterproof/breathable shell if the wind is bad (it usually is). because i sweat a lot, i tend toward synthetic or synthetic wool blends rather than 100% merino, but i have had some success with wool baselayers - they just take longer to dry. i have a couple of shells, choice depends a bit on what else i'm wearing.  one shell is fairly athletic cut, another has more room. the key, for me, is stopping and layering up/down when needed. usually, i'm dropping a layer or multiple layers in the first 30 minutes, especially if i'm working hard.  

-pants - base layer (again, they vary in warmth) alone or under a shell (wind shell or waterproof/breathable shell, depends).  super cold and moving, i'll use a thicker base layer (patagonia has a layer, capilene air, that's very warm under a shell, but like a sieve if not under a shell & the wind is mashing) and a pair of Patagonia grid fleece pants under the shell. two basic shells - a gore tex pair from arcteryx, an eVent pair from Wild Things, choice depends on which boots and whether i want full side zips (the GTX has side zips, eVent doesn't).  synthetic puff pants for sitting around - full zippers on the sides.

-gloves - I bring a pair of mitts and a pair of gloves. the coldest weather, Outdoor Research's alti-mitts and Black Diamond's guide glove. if the temps look zero or above, i have a pair of eddie bauer insulated guide gloves i like. used to use the dachstein mitts under shells, but i had a bad couple of days with those in harsh conditions, fingers all went numb. (hiking around in -25 and really big wind, knocked everyone down periodically). usually wear light gloves made of baselayer-thickness material underneath.  

-socks - Smartwool and Bridgedale expedition socks both work well for me.  i might wear a thin wool ski sock underneath in really bitter weather. i have a pair of vapor barrier socks; only used them once since beefing up my double boots. they work, but they're an acquired taste, and I'll only wear them if i know it's consistently well below zero when i'm out all day.  

-boots - if i'm flatlanding or can get by with microspikes, i have a pair of insulated Merrell winter boots I like.  great with snowshoes.  If i need crampons, Scarpa Invernos with insulated/high altitude liners.  (I also have the Scarpa regular liners if I figure the temps won't dip much below ten degrees F)

-hats - wool or synthetic beanies mostly; a warm, thicker fleece hat for sitting around. because I frequently use a base layer with a hoody, i don't often use thicker hats while moving around. i have a windblocker hat, Mountain Hardwear Dome Perignon that i pull out for super windy days, but i have a love-hate relationship with it.  the windblocking layer does the job but makes it impossible to hear anyone (wind makes that hard anyway, but this is like wearing those mufflers the airport crews wear).  

-only one winter sleeping bag, it's a mountain hardwear down bag rated to minus 40. though i'm 5 foot 9, i got it in a long so i can stow stuff in the foot of the bag. 

-i'm a closed cell foam pad guy in the winter, had an unfortunate deflate that made a trip miserable.  call me superstitious.  i bring two foam pads in the winter and stack them.  


Wow! A -40 F. sleeping bag! You should never, ever be cold in a tent or snow shelter (of course with the 2 layer pads as well).

As mentioned, my winter boots are Sorel felt pacs and Scarpa T3 Telemark ski boots but I also have a pair of civilian "Mickey Mouse" boots good to -20 F.. They never go camping because i can't put them in my sleeping bag to stay warm. 

This past week I skied at Mammoth Mountain (CA) using heavy polyester Cabela's bottoms under North Face Gore-Tex ski pants that have venting zippers on the outside of the thigh area. I was nicely warmly all the time. And I highly recommend this type of ski pants for any winter activity. 

My warmest sweater is a heavy Norwegian crew neck from LL Bean. The Norwegians know winter, that's for sure. My other Norwegian item is a really nice HELLA GT sheath knife. It is so well made I'm amazed it isn't twice as expensive.

Eric B.

I have come to the conclusion that 700 down jackets were and still are the warmest for the money. Been through the gamut of newer synthetics etc....I have a primaloft gold jacket but on a frigid -30 hike, nothing like my 700 fill....same for my gloves...down mittens for the very coldest of days...

I might be old....but why fix what ain't broke...yep, I've seen the 850-900 fill jackets....but a truly filled one runs 700 bucks...with that kind of money, ill get the boots with the boa closure....once they perfect that....

I used to work outside in Colorado and Wyoming.  Sometimes it was -40 degrees F.  I had some specialized equipment like down pants left over from the Alyeska Pipeline.  Once I moved to Nevada I got rid of most of it. 

Kato Baker said:

I have come to the conclusion that 700 down jackets were and still are the warmest for the money. Been through the gamut of newer synthetics etc....I have a primaloft gold jacket but on a frigid -30 hike, nothing like my 700 fill....same for my gloves...down mittens for the very coldest of days...

I might be old....but why fix what ain't broke...yep, I've seen the 850-900 fill jackets....but a truly filled one runs 700 bucks...with that kind of money, ill get the boots with the boa closure....once they perfect that....

 I think the key to warmth lies in how much dead air a jacket traps - the loft of the jacket while you wear it.  that is why baffled down jackets tend to be warmer than jackets with stitching that runs through from the inner to outer layer.  same for jackets with larger, puffier hoods.  

I wore a mountain hardware sub-zero parka for winter hiking for a long time. I think it had 650 fill power down. it was quite heavy and didn't compress very well compared to higher fill power jackets, but it was extremely warm.  

you can find extremely warm, functional jackets without breaking the bank. take a look at the First Ascent Peak XV, that's an Eddie Bauer line of gear for hikers/climbers.  a lot of jacket for a very fair price if you get it during one of their 40% off sales.  I have worn it in -30f weather.  it's great.


I've always contended that for down clothing it's better to have LESS compressible down because clothing is constantly being compressed by our movement, by wearing packs, leaning against a belay boulder, etc.

But still I feel a good DWR like Dri-Down or Down Tech is preferable. Yeah, it can be gradually washed off after many washings. But really, how many times do you wash your down garments? Not that many.

Eric B.

Hi Eric,

I own the Delta OL 3.0 winter jacket and pants from UF PRO. It uses a synthetic G-Loft thermal insulation filling.

The upside of using a synthetic fiber compared to down is that it works even when wet and has down like compresability when you pack it in a rucksack, but springs back and fills with air much quicker when you take it out.


There is now down/Primaloft synthetic mix on the market. but I can see no real advantage to this. Kinda the worst of both worlds.

Eric B.

May 28, 2022
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