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Essential Gear for Winter Activities

With the right gear, winter is the perfect time to get outside and experience nature!

By: Chris Engelsman + Save to a List

Growing up in Michigan, I spent a lot of time playing in the snow. I loved it! Sandwich bags inside your moon boots to keep your feet semi-dry! Mittens that acted more like a sponge than something to keep your hands warm! After high school, I left Michigan for the mountains out west and spent over a decade in search of epic snow around the globe.  Boy, has winter gear changed! With the right equipment, spending time outdoors in the winter can be a real joy. There's nothing I like more than being in a snowstorm and being completely comfortable. Here are some of my essentials gear pieces that I use when recreating in the winter. 

The North Face FUTURELIGHT Freethinker Jacket

The North Face has come out with a new waterproof/breathable membrane called FUTURELIGHT. It's a nanomembrane that is very lightweight and comfortable. It almost feels like you are wearing a softshell, but it's waterproof! The fabric is soft to the touch and flexible. Not crinkly like other waterproof/breathable fabrics. The Freethinker Jacket eliminates pit zips and incorporates maximum ventilation with the oversized chest pockets. The pockets are large enough to quickly stow my goggles, mittens, or other bulky items.

Patagonia R1 Fleece Pullover

The Patagonia R1 Fleece Pullover was the first to use Polartec® Powergrid® fleece. It's been a staple in my outdoor gear for well over a decade. It's a perfect fit and weight for a mid-layer. It provides excellent warmth and breathability. The half-zip is perfect for helping regulate body temps when you are climbing, and the chest pocket is perfect to keep your phone warm next to your body.

Icebreaker Bodyfitzone 200 Crew Top

There are a couple of reasons I like the Icebreaker Bodyfitzone 200 crew top. First, it has a long sleeve with thumb holes. On cold days I put my gloves over the base layer to create a warm seal. Second, it's made of merino wool, so it doesn't smell like typical base layers. Third, it has a great fit with strategically placed mesh panels for active ventilation. 

The North Face FUTURELIGHT Freethinker Pant

Typically, I haven't been a fan of high-waisted suspender pants, but the Freethinker pant has me changing my mind. The feel of the FUTURELIGHT fabric is fantastic! I've used them on a couple of snowboard tours and haven't needed to use the side vents to dump heat on strenuous ascents. Also, the suspenders on these pants work. They don't fall down as other pants have in the past. The boot gaiters utilize a stretchy fabric, so they stay snug around your boots and don't let snow get in - even when tromping through the deepest of snow!

Icebreaker Bodyfitzone 200 Bottoms

Similar to the Icebreaker Bodyfitzone top, these 200 weight bottoms are made of merino wool, so they provide warmth if wet, and they don't smell. They also have areas of strategically placed mesh for active ventilation.

Fits Medium Ski Sock

I like a medium cushioned over-the-calf sock for my winter activities. Another must, it needs to be made of merino. That way, you keep odors to a minimum. If you are not familiar with FITS, their name says it all. They are engineered with their Full Contact Fit®, and they are super comfy!

Zippo HeatBank 9s Rechargeable Hand Warmer

The Zippo HeatBank 9s Rechargeable Hand Warmer is a fantastic little device. Not only can it be used to warm up your hands, but it's a battery bank as well! Often, when I'm out in the snow, my hands will get wet, and nothing will make your entire body cold quicker than freezing hands. Turn the hand warmer on to bring your hands back to life. Plus, it's rechargeable so that you can use it over-and-over-again!

Icebreaker Quantum Gloves

I like a thin glove liner to use on warmer days or grueling ascents. The Icebreaker Quantum Gloves are made of 260 weight merino, so they are a nice mid-weight glove with touchscreen fingertips and a silicone grip on the palms. I try and stay away from synthetics as much as possible. 

Dakine Baron Gore-Tex Mitt

I like mitts as opposed to gloves because I feel they provide more warmth. These Dakine Baron mitts are a perfect combo of warmth and waterproof protection.

Black Diamond Transfer 3 Shovel

The Black Diamond Transfer 3 Shovel is a sturdy shovel that can move lots of snow. I'm a taller person, so I like the fact that it extends to just over 31 inches, and it weighs only 1 pound 8 ounces!

Black Diamond QuickDraw Tour Probe 280

Hopefully, you never have to search for someone buried in an avalanche, but if you do, you'll need a probe to help locate them. Probes are also a useful tool to measure the depth of snow. The Black Diamond QuickDraw Tour Probe 280 quickly extends to 280 cm (110 inches). 

Black Diamond Recon BT Avalanche Beacon

A few years ago, Black Diamond purchased PIEPS, an Austrian company that has been making snow safety devices since 1972. Black Diamond has since come out with their own branded avalanche beacons, and the Recon BT is a fantastic avalanche beacon with three antennas and a search range of 60 meters. Plus, you can bundle the shovel, probe, and beacon and save a bunch of cash.

Smith Pinpoint

The Smith Pinpoint sunglasses have ChromaPop lenses providing crystal clear, vibrant optics. They also come with multiple nose bridges to dial in your exact fit.

Anon M4 Cylindrical Sonar Goggle

Anon was the first goggle company to develop lenses that attach to the frame via magnets. This was a game-changer because it allows you to easily switch lens colors if cloudy and dark, or sunny and bright. 

Patagonia Descentionist Pack - 40L

I've been using this pack for multiple seasons and around the world from Norway to Argentina, the San Juans, to AK. It's sturdy pack that weighs just over 2 pounds. I like the side zip to be able to access water or my mittens quickly. The top lid holds my goggles, snacks, and Zippo Hand Warmer. The top opening works well to access swiftly or store extra layers throughout the day. If you are a minimalist backpacker in the summer, this pack can double for those adventures, as well. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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