With the cold weather hitting Colorado, my mind is turning to winter.
Winter has its own unique set of challenges but also its own unique beauty:
The strikingly blue and clear skies framing the mountains. The softly falling snow making the barest of sounds as you are gliding along in the powder. The stark landscape that is both austere and captivating at times.
Enjoying the beauty of winter means you have to be warm, dry and comfortable in the snow, the cold, the wind and the surprisingly warm days at times.
Getting warm in winter is easy. It is staying warm and DRY in the winter is perhaps the most difficult feat of all.
There are strategies to achieve this goal in winter but seem to come up short: Gore-Tex shells leave your clothes damp. Soft shells don’t seem to work quite as well as thought and synthetic puffies wet out when worn continuously.
After fumbling around myself, I stumbled a few years back on one of my favorite websites: Wintertrekking.com
Odd ideas (at first) for someone used to carrying minimal gear when backpacking. But then you realize winter has its own rules.
You are wearing many of your layers often. Weight and bulk in your pack is not quite the issue during winter as rest of the year.
And the holy grail of being warm and dry in winter is often achieved through less fashionable items that work rather well:
- Wool pants that repel snow, are warm and breathe well
- The seemingly out of favor fleece (at least by most “modern” outdoors people) deserves to be looked at for cold weather use
- A simple windshirt works quite well for the cold and dry winter conditions in lieu of a Gore-Tex shell
- And for really cold and dry conditions, a cotton anorak does wonders
Besides clothing, this site has excellent information on tenting, food, using a gear sled (pulk) and other information pertinent to enjoying the joy of winter.
The information is laid out in a clear, concise and useful manner. None of the intense debate and number crunching that is found on some other websites that some people seem to thrive on.
Not all the information is applicable for the type of backpacking myself and others do. The information is also aimed for more cold and dry conditions, but the information is too good not to use, adapt and enjoy.
Wool pants, a wind shell and a wool shirt? Absolutely! Fashionable and effective. 😉
On some more so than others… (Photo courtesy of Andrew Skurka)
So check out Wintertrekking.com .
You may not necessarily want to be decked out to look like an old school mountain man, but you’ll probably find a useful tip or two or three!