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Winter Hiking Needs

Info on gear, conditioning, and preparation for hiking/climbing. Gear Classifieds
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Winter Hiking Needs

Postby chrismjx » Sat Dec 29, 2012 3:18 pm

Hi Everyone,

Just trying to get an idea about what gear we need in order to be comfortable and enjoy our time hiking during the winter. For instance, I assume gaiters are a necessity to keep snow out of boots? Would a pair of North Face zip-offs work for winter hiking or likely be too cold/susceptible to getting soaked?

We have good base, mid, and outer layers already, kinds just worried about the below-the-waist areas... We're not planning on climbing any peaks or anything, just maybe to the Loch at RMNP or something similar. We made it past the Loch last spring tromping through some fair-size berms on the trail, in basically summer gear of just hikers w/o spikes, zip-off pants etc. and weren't totally uncomfortable then...

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Re: Winter Hiking Needs

Postby Dave B » Sat Dec 29, 2012 4:00 pm

I, personally, think you'll be fine in TNF convertibles as long as you've got a warm base layer underneath.

I do most of my winter hiking in a pair of Prana Stretch Zion pants which are similar thickness to most convertible pants. If I don't plan on getting above treeline or it's not a super windy day I'll often skip the base layer altogether.

I do hike incredibly warm however. My wife will often wear a pair of Patagonia Alpine Guide softshell pants with polartec power stretch base layer on the same hike I just wear pants.

Mostly you're going to have to experiment and see what works best for you. If spring romps in convertibles didn't work last year, take that as a cue to wear more. However, you're far more likely to get wet from snow in spring.

And yes, gaiters are quite helpful.
"There is no cheating in climbing, only lying." - Semi-Rad

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Re: Winter Hiking Needs

Postby shearmodulus » Sun Dec 30, 2012 6:47 pm

To be a successful winter hiker/climber you need three things:

1. A high tolerance for pain/misery.
2. A short term memory.
3. I forget what #3 is....

That being said, I LOVE being out in the winter. Far more than any of my summer climbs. The sheer solitude alone is worth it. The views are fantastic. The conditions are epic.

Gaiters are a must. TNF convertibles (I wear them a lot during the summer/fall) will still get wet from snow contact. If you are in deep snow, say cutting a trench with snowshoes up the side of Mt. Elbert, you will likely be in waist deep snow even with snowshoes on after a good dump. I tried spring snowshoeing with TNF convertible pants and got soaked a couple of years ago. Invest in some un-lined gore-tex ski pants. You can pick up some from Columbia or REI for about 75-100 bucks. 1/4 zips are probably fine, but a good full-length zip is the way to go because you don't have to take off your boots or snowshoes to upgrade or downgrade layers as you climb.

Another must-have (IMHO) for winter climbs is a good balaclava and ski goggles. Face exposure to windchill can make a tolerable day turn our quite nasty when the wind picks up above the treeline. I think we're generally all pretty good at keeping the core warm with layers, but don't neglect your extremities. $140 may sound like a lot for mittens, but there is a distinct difference between a $20 pair of gloves from Big 5 sporting goods and a good pair of OR gore-tex mittens. I still have all my fingers and toes and plan on keeping it that way.

Lastly, don't over-tighten your snowshoes. If you cut off circulation to your toes just a teensy bit, you'll find they get cold much, much quicker. I turned around once for fear that I might lose some toes because of this mistake.

Have fun! Winter hikes are worth it!!
"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads...."

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Re: Winter Hiking Needs

Postby Djslais » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:44 am

This is helpful for me too. I too did the Timberline Falls/Sky Pond hike this spring and trapsed through several snow berms, but no extra stuff was needed that day. I received some Crescent Moon snowshoes, gaiters, etc from Santa and am going to venture back up there for my first winter hike in the next week or two..

Was wondering if anyone has been on that trail lately and what conditions are like. Not sure I'll make it much past The Loch but am curious if conditions are good for snowshoeing up there yet.

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Re: Winter Hiking Needs

Postby chrismjx » Tue Jan 01, 2013 3:25 pm

Djslais wrote:This is helpful for me too. I too did the Timberline Falls/Sky Pond hike this spring and trapsed through several snow berms, but no extra stuff was needed that day. I received some Crescent Moon snowshoes, gaiters, etc from Santa and am going to venture back up there for my first winter hike in the next week or two..

Was wondering if anyone has been on that trail lately and what conditions are like. Not sure I'll make it much past The Loch but am curious if conditions are good for snowshoeing up there yet.


We're planning on heading up Thursday or Friday, I'll try to take some good pics and post conditions when we get back...

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Re: Winter Hiking Needs

Postby Djslais » Tue Jan 01, 2013 4:51 pm

Thanks, have fun!

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Re: Winter Hiking Needs

Postby pseudoghost » Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:33 pm

Don't forget to bring lots of disposable hand/toe warmers. Those things can easily be the difference between a cold, miserable day, and a pretty decent day. In an emergency, they also provide lots of warmth for the weight.

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Re: Winter Hiking Needs

Postby Mindy » Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:50 pm

Trust me... you will want EDIT: a face mask and goggles. Also, there have been a few threads on this topic the past few weeks (months) which you should take a look at.
Last edited by Mindy on Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Winter Hiking Needs

Postby TallGrass » Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:03 pm

Mindy wrote:Trust me... you will want both of these. Also, there have been a few threads on this topic the past few weeks (months) which you should take a look at.
Doesn't that also come in handy when making anonymous withdrawals from various lending institutions?
Last edited by TallGrass on Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Not sure if I'll do more 14ers. The trip reports are too tiring. :wink:

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Re: Winter Hiking Needs

Postby d_baker » Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:03 pm

TallGrass wrote:
Mindy wrote:Trust me... you will want both of these. Also, there have been a few threads on this topic the past few weeks (months) which you should take a look at.
Doesn't that also come in hand when making anonymous withdrawals from various lending institutions?

=D>

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Re: Winter Hiking Needs

Postby Mindy » Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:08 pm

TallGrass wrote:
Mindy wrote:Trust me... you will want both of these. Also, there have been a few threads on this topic the past few weeks (months) which you should take a look at.
Doesn't that also come in hand when making anonymous withdrawals from various lending institutions?


I don't think it matters these days. Believe it or not, I was actually witness to a bank robbery earlier this year. Guy walked right up to the counter (one window down from me) in a sweatshirt and fake beard, which he later pulled off and threw as he was running.

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Re: Winter Hiking Needs

Postby pvnisher » Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:49 am

shearmodulus wrote:Invest in some un-lined gore-tex ski pants.


Skip the Gore-Tex (or similar waterproof) pants. A decent softshell pant is by far superior for nearly every situation you will encounter in CO, and you won't get as sweaty. Windstopper is ok if you are on the cold side, Schoeller or Powershield is better if you are more aerobic and warm up quickly.
You can bring a hardshell jacket, as well, but a softshell in winter will again be better nearly all the time in winter.

And zips/vents are key. My favorite softshell (Mammut Ultimate hoody) has zips from the waist to the bicep. You can open it up like a poncho if you want or seal it up tight.

And bring multiple pairs of gloves. I always go out with a thin pair or running gloves (powerstretch or similar), a thinly-lined pair of leather or softshell gloves, a ski-weight glove, and often a pair of fat mittens (liner+shell). If your hands are cold/hot/sweaty/frozen then you'll turn around.

One surprising thing I've started doing is leaving my hat behind. If I've got a hooded fleece and hooded softshell, what good is a hat? I do bring along a very thin earband since sometimes I like to keep my ears warm but the hood is too hot. But I don't even carry a hat anymore.

Don't forget sunscreen, lip balm (with SPF) and water! And navigation in winter can be harder since there aren't as many visual clues (trail, cairn, other hikers).

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