As has been acknowledged here and most everywhere else, dressing for ski touring is a challenge. Strenuous, slow ups, fast and cold downs, and rapidly changing exposure to sun and shade and calm and wind make maintaining a safe level of warmth without sweating quite the puzzle. I had a pretty good setup going this weekend, as follows from the bottom up:
-Scarpa T2 plastic double boots, Darn Tough socks
For a multiday trip I’d wear vapor barriers to keep the liners dry. My boots have plenty of toe room, and are super warm No issues with the feet all day.
-Midweight stretch polyester pants, Powerstretch boxer-briefs
There was little wind in the forecast, but the possibility of daytime lows in the high single digits up high. The boxers kept the crucial areas warm, while the pants blocked wind and snow while breathing very well. I also have shock cord instep straps sewn into the pants, which keeps them locked down and snow out of my boots. These pants are closest to the current Patagonia Simple Guide pants.
-Capilene 1 sleeveless, Capilene 2 LS crewneck, Patagonia Traverse pullover, OR Omni gloves
For reasons discussed a week or so ago, the Traverse is a foundation of my winter layering. It balances wind and snow protection with breathability in an exemplary fashion. The cap 1 sleeveless might seem redundant, but the tight fitting, fast wicking fabric adds a noticable edge to both moisture transport and warmth. All these layers get damp throughout the day, and I rely on their fast drying capacity to keep me comfy.
I put this on for the down hills. It adds just enough wind and snow resistance without causing the overheating that a bigger jacket would. It also continues the venting and drying process, even as I ski down. Had it been windier I would’ve wanted a burlier layer that better resists pumping out heat by fabric flapping.
-Capilene magic hat, Montrail headband
My hat system is where I’ve made the most refinements this year, with great success. The magic hat is a skull cap made of variable weights of capilene, a double layer of capilene 1 wrapping from the front across the ears almost to the back, and a single layer of capilene 2 at the back of the head, and across the top of the hat. The double cap 1 is warmer and moves moisture fast, while the single layer cap 2 vents super quick and provides less warmth where you don’t need it. This hat looks ugly, but is absolutely ass kickingly effective. I can wear it going uphill and it acts as a sweatband to keep my glasses unfogged, and it will dry fast enough to not suck out heat when I top out. Worlds better than wool in this application.
The Montrail headband is a wool/acrylic blend hat I got in my prize package at the Grizzly Man race back in the spring but never wore because it was too shallow and didn’t cover my ears. A few weeks ago, in a flash of inspiration, I cut the top 4 inches off and made a big, turbo headband or topless hat. I throw this on for extra warmth on the down, which is very effective. You don’t need warmth on top of your head, at least if you have as much hair as I do. The knit it very stretchy and stays put even while cartwheeling and faceplanting in deep snow.
-Patagonia DAS parka, OR Endeavor mitts
A synthetic belay parka is absolutely essential for winter endeavors. The Primaloft One insulation and high density 100% poly shell and liner don’t mind moisture, and dry super fast. They keep the heat generated on the up locked in for the down. When I top out I immediately put on the Houdini, then the DAS, perhaps keeping them unzipped for a bit to vent some moisture. I adore this coat, as it is simply perfect for this application.
The Endeavor mitts are the second layer of hand defense. I only used them for the snowmobile tow, given how calm the day was.
-Fleece vest and mittens
Emergency clothes carried deep in the pack, along with firestarters and emergency bivvy. Rarely used.
In the winter dance of warm and cold, this system delivers. Some parts, specifically the light soft shells, synthetic hat layers, and belay parka are both key to comfort and very dialed. Hope this might help some of you still seeking answers.
A note for those looking to MYOG with respect to hats: the Patagonia Outlets and the online web specials often have XXL capilene shirts for super-cheap. I buy them specifically to rip apart and make gear.
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