Author Topic: Where to start with winter gear?  (Read 810 times)

Reinhardt

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Where to start with winter gear?
« on: 00:28:38, 14/11/18 »
Hello there

I'm a reasonably experienced UK mountain walker between Apr and Oct. I now want to extend my walking season, which essentially means upgrading most/all of my kit, so I was hoping for advice.

If you were going to walk on the Cairngorm Plateau on a clear January day, what kit would you take/buy for it? The options are overwhelming!

Obviously I won't start with the Cairngorm Plateau but I give that as an example as I'd like kit that can handle extremes so I'm never underprepared for the conditions. I have no immediate interest in climbing - I just like getting out in the mountains. I'd prioritise safety over budget (within reason).

I'm particularly confused about winter layering (I go for the standard three layers in the summer), pros and cons of different coat materials, hard vs soft shell, additional survival kit required for winter walking, appropriate size of day bag etc etc etc 

Any advice is gratefully received!  O0

Thanks!
Reinhardt

alan de enfield

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #1 on: 07:01:56, 14/11/18 »


If you were going to walk on the Cairngorm Plateau on a clear January day, what kit would you take/buy for it? The options are overwhelming!




May I suggest that rather than equipping yourself for 'a clear January day', it would be better to plan for the 'worst of January weather', as a mountain walker, I am sure you know that the weather can change very quickly (particularly in the Winter) and you may need to 'hunker down' for a while.


As the old saying goes "better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it"

I'll always remember one of my walks up Snowden in February (many, many years ago) - the weather was 'marginal' so we turned back half-way. The following day a party of 19 school children & teachers were making the walk, conditions worsened and they decided to turn and walk back down the railway, three of them died when they slid on ice and went 'over the edge'.


It was a 'simple' walk up Snowden but the inquest criticised the organisers for lack of suitable equipment for the conditions bearing in mind the 'time of year', as the party had no crampons, or even ropes.

Lakeland Lorry

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #2 on: 07:58:11, 14/11/18 »
Here's some advice from the Wasdale MRT on how to prepare for Winter.


http://www.wmrt.org.uk/advice/preparation-for-going-into-the-fells/




Reinhardt

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #3 on: 08:03:44, 14/11/18 »

May I suggest that rather than equipping yourself for 'a clear January day', it would be better to plan for the 'worst of January weather', as a mountain walker, I am sure you know that the weather can change very quickly (particularly in the Winter) and you may need to 'hunker down' for a while.



Completely agree. I thought that was implied, but it's worth spelling out - especially if less experienced people read this in future. Including wind chill, I've walked in -10 degrees and snow/hail on my "summer" walks!


Likewise I plan to do a mountain skills course before tackling anything like the Cairngorm Plateau in the winter.

Reinhardt

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #4 on: 08:11:35, 14/11/18 »
Thanks Lakeland Lorry, that's a helpful link but as a summer walker I do all of that stuff already. Yet I know my summer kit would be woefully inadequate on a bad day between Nov and March.


I'm trying to work out how to upgrade effectively without i) overbuying and ii) overcarrying (unless you know of any sherpas in the Lakes  ;) )

kinkyboots

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #5 on: 09:37:19, 14/11/18 »

Owen

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #6 on: 13:23:26, 14/11/18 »
Thanks Lakeland Lorry, that's a helpful link but as a summer walker I do all of that stuff already. Yet I know my summer kit would be woefully inadequate on a bad day between Nov and March.


I'm trying to work out how to upgrade effectively without i) overbuying and ii) overcarrying (unless you know of any sherpas in the Lakes  ;) )


As someone who regularly goes out on the Cairngorm Plateau in all seasons, here's my two pence worth.


Don't discount your summer clothes altogether, you can just add to them. Long Johns can be worn under trousers and over-trousers worm on top. For your top half, layers are the answer. Two light fleece sweaters are better than one thick top. Putting a thin pertex windshirt over your fleece increases the warmth considerably. You want to aim to be cold when you set out in the morning, if you're warm to start with you'll be too hot and sweating once you start slogging up hill. Having extra layers that can be put on over your other layers is infinitely better than having to take off your top layer to put on another top.


Hands need looking after, I carry two pairs of thin fleece gloves, a warm pair of ski gloves and a pair of mitts. On my head I have a thin fleece beany hat which more or less stays on, when it gets cold/windy/wet I put a fleece lined mountain cap on over the beany. When it gets windy in the Cairngorms and the snow starts to drift, it can be like being sandblasted by ice crystals. Making it impossible to see where you're going, even when it's blue sky's above you. The answer is ski goggles, I can't tell how many times I seen people staggering around lost just because they didn't protect their eyes. A buff is also good as it seals the neck and can be pulled up to cover the face.


Comfortable soft summer boots unfortunately won't be so good in winter. You do need something that will stand up to kicking steeps and stiff enough to take crampons. If you walk for any length of time in snow you'll end up with boots full of snow unless you have gaiters on. Love them or hate them they're the only way of keeping your feet dry.


On gentle sloping ground - where you won't go sliding downhill if you fall over - walking poles really help. Once it get steeper you need to put away the poles and have an ice axe in your hand. If you don't know how to use one to stop a fall you really should consider doing a winter skills course. An ice axe can stop you if you fall, but wearing crampons will stop you falling in the first place. In lower hills microspikes may be all you need but in the higher mountains crampons are better.


In winter navigation is harder, but the equipment is just the same as in summer. You just need to be far more aware of where you are - all the time. Daylight is shorter, it's normal to start and finish in the dark. Having a good headtorch is essential but you don't need to spend hundreds of pounds for one that's so bright it can be seen from space. I carry a spare just in case. At the bottom of my sack I carry another top, a primaloft one with a hood, a bothy bag and a first aid kit.   


Of all the above the winter skills course would be the most important.   

forgotmyoldpassword

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #7 on: 13:27:19, 14/11/18 »
Thanks Lakeland Lorry, that's a helpful link but as a summer walker I do all of that stuff already. Yet I know my summer kit would be woefully inadequate on a bad day between Nov and March.


I'm trying to work out how to upgrade effectively without i) overbuying and ii) overcarrying (unless you know of any sherpas in the Lakes  ;) )


Minimum would probably be:
- Decent boots, something C1 crampon compatible and not too soft
- Winter gloves, warm hands are a priority
- Eye protection
- Some basic microspikes or crampons.  Whilst winter walking can be done without these, it's far safer to bring them with you, learn how to use them
- Basic ice axe
- Enough clothing to be warm in.  This depends largely on the individual.  Some people swear by Paramo/Buffalo/pertex-pile kit.  Others use multiple layers.  Largely depends on how much you want to spend and your expectations.  I quite like Buffalo kit myself as it's simple and effective, and lasts about 20 years. Cheapest you can get away with would be something like pertex/pile jacket, cheap-ish shell jacket, belay jacket for stops. Probably around 250 new.  Do -not- buy jackets with poor hoods for winter.


That said, you buy all this stuff and you're still a person who doesn't know what they are doing in winter conditions.  I'd advise joining some guided walks (they usually have an experienced leader you can watch or ask questions of), try looking at the Cairngorms winter skills programs or even a local outdoors club who go out in all weathers.  You learn an incredible amount when it's very cold because you need to be proactive about self-management rather than reactive.

NeilC

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #8 on: 17:58:58, 14/11/18 »
Depends how high and where you're going.


Low lying English and Welsh hills are very doable with warmer clothing and some spikes when it snows. Up proper mountains in full snow requires different kit.
« Last Edit: 18:05:45, 14/11/18 by NeilC »

BuzyG

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #9 on: 20:23:02, 14/11/18 »
Great thread I will be watching with interested as I am hoping to return to Ben Nevis in late Dec early Jan, with my son in towe. 


Like the OP I am an experienced hill walkerz but my winter mountaineering skills and kit list, are far from complete  I have though spent the last two winters getting out in the worst of the southern weather on Dartmoor can throw at me. So perhaps my recent learning curve can add a something here.


The first kit I added to my summer kit was micro spikes and an Ice axe.  The spikes make a huge difference on frozen ground mine are 12mm with no front spikes.  There is loads of info to confuse and inform on the web.  I will be buying full 12 point walking crampons, before we return to the Ben, as it is steeper that the micro spikes can deal with.  My axe is purey for PPE.  It's a basic lightweight walking axe, straight handle.


https://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/p/grivel-helix-ice-axe-F1A12132.html?channable=e58204.NzQ1MjVfMTgw&colour=180&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIlK3g9NPU3gIVQZztCh0PygguEAQYASABEgKAXvD_BwE


You can buy cheeper on line, but I went in to Cotswold outdoors and tried a few. Plus the sales assistant was happy and able to shown me how to hold it correctly and talk me through some basic self arrest moves, that I have since been able to practice up on the moor, ahead of returning to Scotland.


Clothing wise all I carry extra is my works jacket and my scarf, which I find more flexible than a buff.  The jacket is quite heavy, but unlike all the others I have tried thus far It is properly waterproof so I have it in my sack as an kind of walk in Bivy Along with my standard emergency Bivy.


I need to buy some good goggles too, on my trips out on the winter moors the wind gets past my sun glasses.


Oh and the best waterproof gloves I have found this far are simple PVC gardening gloves, that I wear over a thin pair of wool gloves.  I also carry a spare pair of thermal gloves in my day bag.


Hope that helps a little.

BuzyG

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #10 on: 20:42:31, 14/11/18 »
Forgot to mention pack size.


I have a 65ltr Karrimoor sack bought in the early 1980s.  It's still a great comfy sack, but it is too big and heavy for simple day walks.


I bought a 30ltr, which is great for summer day walks, but too small for the extras needed in the winter.


So I recently treated myself to a modern lightweight expanderble 45/55 sack,  which as Goldilocks might say, is just right.

Reinhardt

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #11 on: 22:45:36, 15/11/18 »
There are some real gems in this thread - thanks for the contributions!


I've done some more research and general chatting to knowledgeable people and here are my latest thoughts.


First things first: I want to get my layers right so we can extend our walking season a bit. I'm looking at using:
- Merino wool base layers for top and bottom (but they vary massively in price... Is there much difference in performance?)
- Fleeces that I already own
- Montane Icarus synthetic mid-layer (lacks the performance of down but I don't like the idea of kit failing if it happens to get wet)
- Mountain Equipment Rupal hardshell (Goretex Performance jacket, cheaper than Goretex Pro and less breathable but I *think* the spec should be okay for what I want. 75 denier so it should be tough.)


That addresses the main weak spots in my kit so I can tackle the less challenging colder conditions (gloves, trousers, waterproof trousers, hat, snood should all be okay).


The next step up will mean buying rigid boots, ice axe, crampons, ski googles, gaiters etc, but I'll do a winter skills course before I put myself in a position where I'll need those.


Please do let me know if you think I'm going down the wrong path or if you have other suggestions!

richardh1905

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #12 on: 13:18:56, 17/11/18 »

I wouldn't worry too much about inner layers; pretty much anything will do as long as you avoid cotton, but a good Gore Tex shell jacket is worth it's weight in gold.


I'm not going to go through a list again, as others have done that already, but I would consider what you might need to survive if things were to go wrong - extra clothing, a "bothy bag", and a head torch (Petzl are bombproof), for instance. And do learn how to use your Ice Axe on easy slopes with someone who knows what they are doing, before going high.

Reinhardt

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #13 on: 09:57:45, 02/12/18 »
I found this link a good starting point for those of us who are new to winter mountain walking:


http://paulkirtley.co.uk/2017/winter-hill-walking-skills-equipment/

gunwharfman

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Re: Where to start with winter gear?
« Reply #14 on: 18:03:26, 02/12/18 »
In past years when I hiked on cold days, like Owen, I just added to my summer gear. I'm not sure what is meant by cold but even on the days I judge to be cold I do get hot as well! I wear long johns under my hiking trousers and I just add to my torso layers. Cold wind can hurt so until this year I just used my Precip jacket over the top of my layers. I have bought a hat which covers the ears which for me is definitely a good buy. This year I went to Decathlon and bought a pair of their long johns/jogging bottoms (not sure what they are supposed to be) but they are great, warm and soft to touch and they are only 7.99!

With gloves I wear a cheap Thinsulate pair and when it gets colder I slip my Montane mittens over the top of them, together they warm my hands so quickly.

Never really had problems with cold feet so have not had to think of this at all.

What I do dislike is when its cold and raining cold rain, now that is uncomfortable!