When it's cold

What gear and when?

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08/02/2012 at 12:25
Last night I went walking. When I got out of the car it was -3C. Later on in the walk it had dropped to -7C. As I walked the return leg in the cold and snow, having been out in the cold for a little over two hours I noted that:-

Despite having two pairs of socks on my feet were beginning to notice the cold.
The light but bitterly cold wind was making my cheeks ache. Windchill dropped it to about -13C but the wind was bitterly cold.

Now I'm not used to such cold conditions so it got me thinking. When do you need to start thinking about insulated boots, balaclavas and the like? At what temperature are you flirting with the risk of frostbite?

Advice from those more experienced most welcome. I accept it can't be definitive as people do run at different temperatures but some guidance would be welcome.

Possibly this stuff might be covered in a winter skills course but I'm not likely to do one of those because I'm highly unlikely to ever really need that training.
08/02/2012 at 13:11

The numbers don't really matter - It's how YOU feel.

 If your face is cold wear a balaclava etc... One of the most useful items I have is a Buff, in fact I carry 3. They're small and light so easy to cart arounf and they are far better at insulating than you'd expect.

Best use for it (for me) when cold is around the neck and tucked into your collar, another as a balaclava/ face mask depending.

 It's really down to what YOU'RE comfy with

08/02/2012 at 13:13

Not sure how good they are but superfeet do a woolley version of their inner soles for winter use. I have no idea what they are like but am considering a pair for work and to transfer into my fell shoes for winter use. They might help me out with a similar cold feet issue. I wear sealskins and superfeet climber socks inside IIRC, the thickest socks they make for warmth and cushioning.

08/02/2012 at 13:21

I have two buffs and a windproof buff as well. That last one is actually rather warm, it has to be very cold for me to use it. I was too warm in it a few weeks ago on Helly with the windchill at -13.2C (fell top assessor recorded conditions at the same sort of time I was on that hill - didn't see him though). IIRc the wind was something like gusts at 35mph and 20 or 25mph with temp about -3C but could be wrong as no doubt windchill tables will testify as the windchill temp is remembered from hill conditions on website.

Anyway they are expensive but very warm and the 25% of heat loss is actually from your head, neck and shoulders I believe so block heat loss from your neck and wear a hat or balaclava and you will save some heat.

08/02/2012 at 13:25
Ahhh! OK thanks. Two additional things prompted me to start this thread. One was Chris Townsend's review of an insulated boot, worn in the Cairngorms at -5C. (Is that when you put on inuslated boots or does Chris feel the cold?? Or was that the best he could do for the test?)

The other was when many years agao I went to the States in Feb on business. I was based in Milwaukee and on my first night in temperatures lower than -20C I walked to a nearby restaurant. Now I'd taken a great jacket but didn't even think about trousers. By the time I arrived at the restaurant 20 minutes later my legs were numb. Simple problem, I wasn't used to those conditions so wasn't prepared for them. Same thing applies here. Last night was the coldest I've ever gone walking in the UK and generally I was fine but I was thinking there were one or two things I could have done to ensure greater comfort.

I was wearing a buff on my head but when the wind hit my ears were feeling the cold. I tried a goretex hat which kept the wind off but didn't provide a whole lot of warmth. Then I tried a beanie hat. Warmest of the lot but the wind still cut through it and it left my ear lobes exposed to the chill. In the end I wore the buff underneath the goretex hat. That worked very well.

It was the chilling of nose tip and cheeks that prompted my concern. Also the fact that my feet finally began to feel the cold after 2 hours at -7C in the snow that prompted the question on insulated boots.
08/02/2012 at 13:30
It's not just the temp, it's also what the rest of the weather is like too.

I was out in -16 or so a few weeks back. (withstrong winds too so windchill on top making it feel colder) but as it was up high in the Alps on gorgeous dry sunny day, it was pretty pleasant. I had the down jacket on for most of the time, and the snowshoeing was keeping my body temp up, but my feet didn't get cold and I didn't need the bally I'd packed just a mask (buff style) and a thin merino beanie.

I've been colder in warmer temps when it's damper, greyer etc.
08/02/2012 at 13:31
I should add...that was in 3 season fabric boots with a single pair of ski socks. I'd not bothered with my winter leather ones.
08/02/2012 at 13:32
Also I[ve been in temps of about -20 in Alaska, similar conditions. Dry, sunny and often at altitude and felt pretty warm in "normal" cold weather gear.
08/02/2012 at 13:33
Paramo's Stretch Hat is a good thing in Winter. Very versatile and warm. I find Buffs a bit chilly for Winter use. The Paramo is a good option. For headwear I use an Outdoors Research Frostline hat. I've found it to be excellent; windproof, warm and the face cover is good idea. I find that if I keep my neck and face warm then I'm much happier overall. I don't like hoods, I only use them when I really have to so it's interesting to find other ways of keeping warm the neck & head.
08/02/2012 at 13:36

you can throw kit at some parts but understanding why you can get cold(er) can help a lot too especially areas where blood is near the surface of the skin e.g. wrists.

long socks help to keep your feet warmer and wrist warmers help to keep your hands warmer. i find these are worth an extra pair of socks/gloves.

more blood at the surface is your neck and my current favourite is an aviator silk scarf which i find more versatile about the neck/face than a buff. i have a hat so don't need a buff to use as one. a balaclava can be the best bet though. the scarf also bungs up the chimney gap at the top of your jacket.

depending upon the wind (so i carry a woolly hat too) i use a brimmed hat (tilley winter hat) which is great for keeping some of the wind off your face. the earflaps can be not warm enough but some earbags solve that problem. if you need extra warmth about the ears then earbags are the very thing.

as an aside the polyester wind proof fleece lined trews from uniqlo performed extremely well over the weekend and are my best bargain for a few years (£19 new and £13 in the sale).


brilliant things 

Edited: 08/02/2012 at 13:39
08/02/2012 at 13:49

With a bit of origami you can make your buff a bit more practical in cold weather; have a peek at the various videos floating around. I'm using a chocolate fish tuara so I don't know if it is much longer than a normal buff, but that can be used pretty much like a balaclava to cover head, face, nose and ears. It served me well enough last winter whilst walking cycling or running in still air at -10 or so.

I've never been anywhere cold enough to cause cold feet through my usual boots and walking socks, so I can't comment on that. Might be worth thinking about how windproof your footwear is, though. My cycling shoes are very well ventilated, with the result that in really cold air I can feel the breeze through them when I'm on the move. Anything nominally waterproof is probably fine, but nice lightweight breathable non-waterproof thingies might not fare so well.

08/02/2012 at 14:05

You said you were wearing two pairs of socks... depending on the fit of your boots/shoes that can sometims be counter productive. I've sometimes found it colder wearing thicker/more socks in my footwear - I presume it's because my feet end up somewhat compressed and with some restriction to the circulation. Wearing a thinner sock combination (whether 1 pair or 2 doesn't actually matter much imo) and leaving some room to be able to wiggle your toes and flex your feet can actually be warmer and more comfortable.

As for the face and nose, I generally find a Buff worn as a mask is plenty in most conditions, but if worn for long be ready for some slightly unpleasant dampness from your breathe/dribble! In extreme conditions (never yet in the UK, probably below -15c with a wind) I resort to one of these neoprene jobs...

Edit: Grrrr - why won't Om let me move the pic to the bottom of the post?!!

Edited: 08/02/2012 at 14:08
08/02/2012 at 14:27
Matt C wrote (see)
 As for the face and nose, I generally find a Buff worn as a mask is plenty in most conditions, but if worn for long be ready for some slightly unpleasant dampness from your breathe/dribble!

Merino is much nicer than synthetics here. I've had no problems using my tuara over my mouth, whereas a conventional fleecy thing in the same place didn't take long to feel unpleasant.
08/02/2012 at 14:28

Nice to see Darth Vader enjoying a wee holiday in the winter.

"It's psychosomatic. You need a lobotomy. I'll get a saw."

08/02/2012 at 14:29
In serious cold I use a snowboard one from Airhole (as seen in my profile pic) fleece lined with a convenient hole for the release of moisture...
08/02/2012 at 14:35
Buffs are just the best!  Always carry several for multiple use! Great for running, walking, cycling.
08/02/2012 at 14:59

Buffs are great, but in prolonged cold using them as a face-covering balaclava ends up with a big chunk of ice where your breath condenses in the fabric and then freezes.  I've only had this happen to the extent of being a problem once, on a long day's ski tour into a gale, but it's worth noting that when things get really serious the next step (something like a dedicated Powershield face mask with breathing holes) is worth considering (a bit like the Neoprene one Matt is sporting).

 Edit: Grrrr - why won't Om let me move the pic to the bottom of the post?!!

Dunno.  I always cut and paste the text back to where I want it, it's never inserted a picture where I asked it to...


Edited: 08/02/2012 at 15:01
08/02/2012 at 15:16
I wore my LA Mountain Cap in the snow and wind on Saturday, then when we stopped to put on spikes I also put on a mid layer, and more importantly my Outdoors Research Ninjaclava which was perfect. The physical protection from the elements - snow, wind, and particuarly cold, was a huge psychological boost too.

Can't find the Ninjaclava on OR's webpage atm, but they have a thing called the Helmetclava which looks similar and has a Darth Vader-esque breathing thing


08/02/2012 at 15:26

I'm getting worried Kate, all you need is that and an ice axe in the queue at the supermarket and you'll be the first one at the till .

I cant get my tower to download emails as it wont accept my password , I'm needing receipts .

edit  its ok with emails, all downloaded .

Edited: 08/02/2012 at 15:31
08/02/2012 at 17:39
Scott  wrote (see)

Nice to see Darth Vader enjoying a wee holiday in the winter.


Now that's a Darth Vader outfit. Talus Coldavenger, if you fancied getting one
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