Winter Backpacking Essentials

Whether you’re headed to the snowy peaks as an experienced winter adventurer or you’re just beginning to explore the snowy wonderland for the very first time, here are  my top picks for the 2016 season. Gift them, have them gifted to you or gift them to yourself but these essentials should be on every outdoor enthusiasts Christmas list this year.

Four-Season Tent

Big Agnes Battle Mountain – $699.95 to $849.95

Two reasons you should winter camp: no bugs, no crowds. Preparation can be a do-or-die, however, when it comes to sleeping in a winter wonderland so make sure you’re ready for the most extreme of weather conditions with a Battle Mountain tent from Big Agnes. The Battle Mountain comes in 2 or 3-person selections for spacious and lightweight mountaineering that offers protection in every season. The durable rip-stop fly material and nylon rip-stop body makes this double door, double vestibule shelter the ultimate safe house for inclement weather. Inside, the tent features six mesh pockets and a gear loft for plenty of storage and organization if you’re locked down. The footprint for the Battle Mountain is sold separately, but we recommend it as an extra protective measure – it’s designed specifically to prevent any pooling of water beneath the tent and will add a bonus layer for insulation.

Sleeping Bag

Big Agnes Ethel 0 DownTek – $329.95 to $349.95

For your Adventure Queen, goddess of the moonlit night and empress of all that is nature. For that badass babe navigating the unbeaten path. For the outdoor junkie, chick that won’t quit…anyway, ladies, this one’s for you. First off, the color of this bag is “wine.” If you’re not sold already, please step aside. But an even better feature of this bag is the 650 fill-power DownTek down insulation that repels water and provides anti-microbial and anti-bacterial protection. This ultralight, semi-rectangular and ultra cozy bag comes in petite and regular sizes with options for either a left or right side zipper (you can actually conjoin left and right zipper bags together!). The integrated full pad sleeve will fit a 20” mat, such as the Big Agnes self-inflating Two Track pad, so even on uneven ground you won’t slide around. You’ll be so cozy in the Ethel that you might never go home.

Winter Hiking Boots

Vasque Coldspark UltraDry – $139.99

Great news: you don’t have to dress like a full blown eskimo to have happy soles for your winter adventures! Vasque is known for it’s leading technology in outdoor footwear and their winter lineup doesn’t disappoint. The Coldspark UltraDry comes in both men’s and women’s sizes to keep everyone’s feet dry and warm while maintaining firm traction with in-style appeal. This boot features 200g 3M Thinsulate insulation and rugged, lightweight upper construction that provides warmth and waterproof protection from the elements without the bulk. ColdHold dual-compound polymer outsoles and an aggressive, multi-directional lug pattern keeps you intact and upright to slick surfaces. A molded TPU yolk stabilizes the heel and will create a positive lock to a snowshoe binding and there’s a D-ring at the base of the speed lacing system to easily anchor a gaitor. The EVA midsole provides an agile feel in order to maintain the athleticism that often gets lost in bulkier winter boots and the midfoot shank will still maintain stability on uneven surfaces. Vasque covered all the bases and then some to gear your feet for your every winter adventure whether you’re summiting snowy peaks, shoveling your driveway or searching for Big Foot.

Snow Shoes

MSR Revo Explore – $199.95

No trail, no problem. Strap up into a pair of the MSR Revo Explore’s and navigate over the snowy swells to your every desired winter destination. Off-road with the rugged ExoTract deck and comfortable HyperLink bindings to tackle snowy terrain in storm and winter shine. The Revo’s come in 22” and 25” unisex sizes that fit up to 180 and 220lbs, respectively, with optional tails (sold separately) that can support up to 250 and 280lbs. The Revo has a cradle binding designed to eliminate pressure points, especially in smaller boots, and the quick 2-strap ratchet system makes adjustments and enter-exit easy. Another top feature is the Ergo Televator heel lift that helps reduce hiking fatigue and increases traction on steep inclines.

Hard Shell Jacket

Sherpa Lithang Jacket – $275

When it comes to expertise of the wild winter, leave it to the legendary Sherpa’s. Sherpa Adventure Gear was founded by a legit-Sherpa and honors the traditions of legendary high altitude mountaineers and delivers the finest four-season gear to stay warm, dry and even well-styled for trek and travel. Cue, the Lithang Jacket. It’s a lightweight, breathable, waterproof 3-layer hardshell with a helmet-compatible hood with a stiffened, contoured brim. The pockets of the Lithang sit higher for convenience if you’re harnessed in and can expand to fit goggles. This hard shell leaves plenty of space for layers beneath and balances protection with freedom of movement and comfort making it an excellent pick for active outdoorsmen, and outdoor-ladies, looking to stay mobile while keeping warm and dry from the elements.

Down Jacket

Sherpa Nangpala Down Jacket – $215 to $240

Again, Sherpa sets the bar high – this down jacket is a tough one to beat. First off: high tech down. The combination of duck down and PrimaLoft fibers means not only is this jacket incredibly warm but it’s very water resistant, too. Secondly, the Nangpala is ultra packable and will compact down to a tiny little stuff sack or even into it’s own pocket. The key features go on. The ripstop construction is not only water-resistant, but also means no feathers escape so it’s plump, fluffy and warm for many seasons to come. There’s a chest pocket for a music device that includes a port for headphones and the elastic bindings at the wrists keep out unwanted draft, as do the cinch down points of the hood and hem. The Nangpala comes in men’s and women’s fits, including a no-hood option for the men.

Four-Season Sleeping Pad

Therma-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm MAX – $199.95 to $229.95

Few things can be as miserable as a cold night in the backcountry, and this becomes even more dangerous in the winter season. Make sure you’re protected from the elements with the XTherm MAX air pad. The MAX has an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio and can pack down to the size of a liter bottle by using patent-pending reflective layers that return your body heat versus conventional, bulky materials. The textured, no-slip fabric will keep you from sliding around even on uneven surfaces and the baffled internal structure provides unbeatable comfort and support that worth the cost. Therm-A-Rest might not advertise for it, but at 2.5 inches thick, this bed might even double as a snow sled. Just in case that doesn’t go as planned, however, it does come with a repair kit.

[Originally written for and published by Innovation and Tech Today, Winter 2016 edition. Some contents may be modified or updated from the original article.]

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