When I started enjoying winter activities here in Colorado, I went through many iterations of a shell.Circa winter 2001/2002 I believe. A heavy-duty Marmot shell. I still have the same trusty balaclava!
Somehow I needed a burly mountaineering shell. I rarely do lift-assist skiing, I am not into real mountaineering, and the shell is overkill for the snowshoeing (and later, ski touring) and winter backpacking I found myself doing as my initial forays into the Colorado backcountry. This Marmot shell was a Sierra Trading Post special, but still too much money spent for what I was (and am) doing.
I wised up a little and bought a much more appropriate Campmor house brand “mountaineering” shell that is oversized for layering, much lighter, has a stiff visor, generous pit zips. While it does not breathe well when exerting myself (like most shells!), it works for a combo driving snow and cold weather esp when stopped. I still have it and use it for winter backpacking.
However, as I transitioned from snowshoeing into ski touring, the shell did not work for that in-between time when I need wind protection, and there is light precip. It was not breathable for the mixed highly aerobic activity mixed with pauses in-between for downhill glides. The shell would quickly ice up inside from my sweat.
Then I discovered the site WinterTrekking.com.
After diving into the site, my view of winter clothing systems changed.
Breathability, more so than waterproofness, is the goal of winter for me, especially in the colder and drier climate of a Colorado winter with its “fluffy” snow.
And I finally found a use for a windshirt..or rather a windbreaker.
Many people enjoy using a windshirt for three-season backpacking. For various reasons, it just does not fit into my system. A thermal layer works well enough for me in light wind, and I can mix and match my rain gear and light fleece as needed. Not saying the windshirt has no utility, it has no utility for my way of backpacking.
For winter, though? It is perfect. Just enough to keep off the fierce winter winds and the light, fluffy snow. In frigid weather, it is enough to keep me warm while I am moving without overheating.
And, I emphasize again, it is a windbreaker I use and not a windshirt.
What’s the difference? About fifty dollars or more difference because it is sold at outdoor stores. 😉
A windshirt is more form-fitted, made of a lighter material weighs less.
A windbreaker typically has even less waterproofing versus a windshirt, which is a little more substantial and is more durable. Less form-fitted.
I use a windbreaker because it is looser to fit over my bulkier winter clothing and allows more ventilation. And I like the durability as even the best of skiers ( which I am not! 😉 ) will occasionally snag on branches, fall over, etc.
And I use an anorak. The classic anorak shape, with the deep zipper, allows more ventilation more so than a jacket.
I use a simple polyester one as it breathes reasonably well. I do not feel Colorado is quite consistently having the frigid and dry weather to use a cotton anorak as these gentlemen suggest.
A simple item and design that works.
And has worked for a long time…