View Full Version : Opinions on clothing for my first cold weather overnight

01-24-2015, 01:25
The wife and I are planning on hiking a 30 or so mile section of the foothill trail in SC in med February. I'm anticipating lows anywhere from the 30's down to the teens should a system move through the area.
I have zero cold weather hiking experience but I'm warm-natured.
I plan to hike in the following:
lightweight REI brand long underwear underneath Convertible hiking pants
Darn tough mid weight socks
Keen Targhee gore-tex boots
mid weight Smartwool base layer top
cheap poly t-shirt
Marmot precip hard shell if wind is really whipping
I think I'll be comfortable in that combo if I'm moving and may even be too warm if temps are reasonable
My sleep system is where I'm a little more unsure
I have a BA q-core pad and a Sierra Designs Zissou 23 down bag. I also sleep warm, but have never ever slept in temps in the 20's. I'm hoping I can sleep warmly enough in heavy weight wool or synthetic bottoms and another mid-heavy weight wool top.
I also plan to bring a synthetic puffy along for camp/sleep if I temps get dangerously cold.
I'm primarily concerned about safety over comfort.
Will this set up keep me safe and relatively warm?
Thanks y'all!

01-24-2015, 01:27
Oh, and are rain/wind pants a necessity? Or will I be fine so long as I have something dry to change into at camp?
Thanks again

Feral Bill
01-24-2015, 01:45
Wool or poly hat, scarf, and mittens+shells.

01-24-2015, 06:04
Oh, and are rain/wind pants a necessity? Or will I be fine so long as I have something dry to change into at camp?
Thanks again

That depends on the weather forecast. If you're only doing 30 miles, maybe this is a section you'll complete in 2-3 days, and the forecast should be reasonably accurate. If the forecast is reliably dry and not terribly cold, you might be okay without them. However, you're talking about February, and you've said this is your first cold-weather overnight trip. Why not substitute rain/wind pants for a regular pair of hiking pants? In those temperatures, they shouldn't be too hot to hike in. Once you've got experience in cold temps, you'll be in a better position to decide.

If you're expecting low temps from teens to 30s, then your high temps may be from 20s to 50s. Depending on elevation/wind/etc, I would plan to hike in just a single layer on my legs, and one or two on my trunk (with a jacket handy if I get chilled). Long johns under long pants would make me too hot while actually hiking.

01-24-2015, 08:09
Methods are more important than gear. The hiker who dons the highest quality down garment at the trailhead and proceeds to hike uphill in the rain will quickly have a useless piece of expensive gear. Similarly, if you don't properly ventilate your sleeping shelter, you'll end up with wet insulation. For some, sleeping in bulky clothing actually makes us colder, restricting movement and circulation. Nutrition and hydration are key, as well.

A dry 20F bag and decent pad will keep you safe in the conditions you mention. Worst case is you have a rough, chilly night like we all have. That's how you learn to do things differently next time (like some have :o).

01-24-2015, 09:45
My suggestion is that after you get your decisions all dialed in, go back to REI, Target or wherever on your own and buy a pair of down booties (or one extra pair of cushy socks at a minimum) in your wife's size.

You will know when to bring them out can than me later.

Seriously, do this.

01-24-2015, 10:10
Here is the gear I brought (and pretty much always bring for cold weather) this past weekend when I did a 2 night section hike in PA. When we started the temps were 16* (Sat), warmed up to mid 30s during the day, high teens to low 20s at night (slept in an open field/campground), high 30s-40s on Sunday with rain, 20s Sunday night with snow/hail, and 30s Monday hiking out. This works for me and may or may not work for you. I had a 20* Western Mountaineering bag, TR NeoAir All Season Pad, and a Borah Gear Bivy and Tarp. I tend to run warm and was perfectly warm during the trip. I hope this helps.

Clothes Worn- I would shed layers (rain jacket, hat, gloves) on up hills to try to keep from sweating too bad in the cold weather.
REI Lightweight Base Layer Pants
Champion Running Shorts on top
Exofficio Boxer Briefs
REI Lightweight Sahara Synthetic Tee Shirt
Paradox Lightweight Merino Wool Quarter Zip
Darn Tough Socks
Brooks Cascadia 7 Trail Runners
Marmot Precip Rain Jacket
Wool Beannie
Fleece Gloves
Trekking Poles

Clothes for Camp/Sleep- Changed into this after I got to camp and collected fire wood, setup tent, etc.
REI Heavyweight Base Layer Pants
Patagonia Capilene 4 Quarter Zip
Outdoor Research Beannie
Montbell Alpine Down Parka
REI Expedition Weight Socks
Water proof mittens over fleece gloves (didn't wear these)
Rain pants (help block the wind)

01-24-2015, 13:58
Man the amount of money people spend is frightening. I was in your boat recently. Hiking the foothills trail when a polar vortex was moving in. I never winter hiked before. I had zero winter gear. I have a website that I document my hikes. This is how I managed my first winter hike in sub 20 degree weather

"This hike really begins while I am still at home trying to pack for this hike. This weekend was going a bitterly cold, especially Saturday night. A polar vortex of some sort was making its way down to Georgia/South Carolina, and I was going to be out on the coldest night. I was expecting lower temps in the low 20s, high teens Saturday night. Since I just started backpacking this summer, I had no winter gear. I needed a windbreaker jacket, but didn't want to spend real money. I went to Walmart and found this fairly light 10 oz $10 windbreaker jacket. Epic. Many hikers would spend hundreds to get a 5 oz outer shell. Thank god weight doesn't bother me. I also needed to find something to act as my base layer. I wasn't going to spend $40-$60 for a wool or silk base layer. That is just nuts. Then it hit me. My compression long sleeve gym shirt. Base layer check! I also had this polyester long sleeve shirt to act as my mid layer I bought at Khols for $12.00. Mid layer check!

I don't have hiking pants. I always hiked in gym shorts. They are comfortable, and I grew up in them. But, for this hike, there was no way I could hike in shorts. I go through my closet. Nothing. I had sweatpants, but I wanted something to cut the wind and could hold up at least a little to water. I then go my dresser, and I find a probably 10 year old Nike windbreaker pants. That will do. My winter hiking gear was complete, but what about camp? Damn! I to back to my dresser and I find the warmest sweatpants I have and brought another compression gym shirt. Camp clothes check. My hiking clothes, in a pitch, could be used in camp as well if I could keep them dry.

Clothes check. Pack check. . . ." Poncho for rain gear.

I have done this set up on 2 bitterly cold winter hikes.

I also night hiked 4.6 miles on AT in near 20-22 degree weather. For three hours I hiked while using a trekking pole with no gloves.

Not only did I survive the night, I was warm all night. I, at least, don't need all that extra gear. Not for 20 degree weather at least.

01-24-2015, 15:08
For temperatures down to about freezing, I find that I only need the following:
Base Layer: Shorts and tee-shirt
Warm Layer: Mid-weight fleece pants and pullover, wool (or quick drying material) beanie hat
Outer Layer: Rain pants and jacket.

I would definitely include rain pants. For starters, if temperatures are cold enough that you need to wear the fleece pants, you'll likely want to cover them with the rain pants to keep them clean. In camp, I usually find that for temperatures down to about 40 I can be plenty warm enough in just the shorts covered with the rain pants.

I usually find that I can sleep in just the shorts and tee shirt if I have a 15 or 20 degree bag. The hat is the first thing to add if you're cold in the bag, and then the fleece pants and/or pullover if you're still cold.

I find that while hiking, the shorts, tee-shirt, and hat are more than enough to keep me warm (taking the hat off as I get warm and putting it back on if I get cold). I also keep the rain jacket handy for any pack-off breaks as it's the 1st thing to add to help keep the chill off when you pause from hiking.

I don't have much experience when temperatures go below freezing, but I would imagine that you would want to add another base layer consisting of long pants and long sleeve shirt (wool or quick drying material).