Good Gear/Bad Gear – Winter Equipment

Posted on 22 Mai 2013

I was asked in some mails via my contact form if I could share some impressions of my winter gear setup. Because the spring weather in the last days was nearly superb I did not spend really much time behind my laptop, but now I have some time to write down  a few notes. So this is my last winter article.

 

Locus Gear Khufu Sil Shelter
Since over a year I have this fantastic shelter. I don’t wanna write much about my experiences during the summer month, because a detailed review is in plan. The performance of the Locus Gear Khufu Sil Shelter in winter was perfect. I was easy to pitch on snow and I used the whole time the DPTE (pole connector) to have an optimum of space in the inside. To optimize the performance in snowy conditions I used the additional storm lines and I survived 30cm of fresh snow during the night. It should not be shorter for winter conditions when you carrying a big winter bag and a bivy. Sometimes I got in touch with the walls of the tent, but it was no problem.

Katabatic Gear Sawatch
I never felt so comfortable and warm like in this quilt. During my trips into the Engadine mountains and on some overnighter in the local woods I used this quilt in temps down to -24°C, although he is only rated to temps down to 15F (around -9°C). OK I have worn some extra clothing during these cold nights, but it was still cozy and warm. The attaching system of this quilt is superb and the quilt does not slip away when it is fixed on the sleeping mat. This is a real winter quilt. In warmer conditions down to -6°C I could not use it, because the Katabatic Gear Sawatch is too warm and you sweat all night. The quilt could be some centimeter wider for me, because I am a restless sleeper, but is OK and I fell really comfortable. I can highly recommend this quilt, if you are looking for a winter quilt.

Therm-A-Rest XTherm
I’m a NeoAir user since the first time and since a longer time I was looking for a warm winter mat and finally bought this mat. The price of the Therm -A-Rest XTherm is a bit daunting, but sleeping on this mat is a dream. For 3 season use I am happy with the short version, but for winter I decided to buy the longer version to feel more comfortable and warm. Somewhat disappointing is the the inflation bag which is included and also the storage bag. In my opinion it is a tormat to inflate this sleeping mat with this bag, so after some some tests I used my mouth. Before you go to bed you have the inflate the mat with some extra breaths because the warm air cools down, but this is no problem and I did not have any problems with freezing air in the mat during the night.

 

LAUFBURSCHE Bivy Prototype
I am really happy that I am the owner of one these LAUFBURSCHE bivy prototypes. My one is made with Epic and silnylon and is superb. During my nights in winter I had no problems with condensation or something else, only a bit when I used no VBL. My prototype bivy is wide and long enough that I can use a regular Therm-A-Rest XTherm sleeping mat and a Katabatic Gear Sawatch quilt without loss of loft. The bivy has a short zipper on the left side  that you have no problems when you step in. There is a elastic cord in the hood that you can close the bivy complete. You only have a small hole to breath and you are perfectly protected.

 

LAUFBURSCHE UL MAT
In combination with my Therm-A-Rest XTherm I used the LAUFBURSCHE UL Mat. This is an ultralight foam mat with a length of 195cm and a with of 50cm and it weighs only 140g. The R-Value is perfect and you feel warm even when you have  -20°C outside and sitting on snow under you. You could save some more grams when you cut the mat, but in winter I prefer a full size foam mat. Meanwhile LAUFBURSCHE has a new UL MAT in the shop with a different foam which looks also superb.


Haglöfs Eryx Pants
For a long time I used my Patagonia Simple Guide Pants for winter trips, but this pants has no Keprotec protection on the inside and after some snowshoe trips the pant was heavily damaged. So it was time to find a new one. I found the Haglöfs Eryx Pants in a Winter Sale and I’m really satisfied with this ski touring pants. This pants has a very soft 3-Layer Softshell and Keprotec reinforcements and two long zippers for ventilation. These zippers are perfect on long uphills in winter when the sun is shining and it is getting really warm. Gaiters are not incorporated, but you have elastic cuffs close to your winter boots that no snow can come in.

 

RAB Infinity
In winter you need warm clothing when you are sitting in the camp and the RAB Infinity is the right jacket which donates heat. This down jacket is filled with 210g of finest 850cuin down and weighs only 460g. The Pertex Quantum has a DWR coating to protect the down against moisture, but next time I would buy the Endurance jacket to have a better protection when it is snowing. On the front you have to big pockets for your hands if it is really cold. I used this jacket on all my winter trips and never felt cold. The RAB Infinity also has a big hood, so it is no problem to wear a helmet under it when you are climbing.

Photo by Anatol Jasiutyn

Berghaus Ignite Mitts
In camp or in breaks I am getting really fast cold fingers and that is a big problem. When I have cold fingers I can do nothing. My normal baselayer merino mitts are not warm enough so I decided to buy some warmer synthetic one. These Berghaus Ignite Mitts are fantastic. In these mittens I am getting warm fingers within a few minutes an. They weigh around 80g and have a warm Primaloft one filling and they have a durable outer fabric, so you could also collect with them without problems.

Montane Minimus Jacket
This jacket was my replacement for my Montane Spektr Smock and I planned to use it only in 3 seasons use, because the Minimus is very thin and I did not wanna destroy the shell with my bigger pack in winter. After some tests I decided to use it also in winter because this was my only hardshell with a full zipper. My other ones are only smocks. The performance of the Montane Minimus Jacket is superb. It is very light and fits like a second skin. The Pertex Shield+ is very durable and breathable and the Minimus Jacket was still my favorite in winter. I really like the hood of this jacket. You can adjust the hood perfect that you are protected against wind, snow and heavy rain.

Photo by Anatol Jasiutyn

Optimus Vega Stove
On most of my trips in winter I used my Bushbuddy Ultra for cooking or an open fire and I’m still really satisfied with this setup. But on my New Year’s trip I wanted to test something new an bought a gas stove with a preheating loop for cold temps. This one did a good job to degrees down to -8°C. But for winter I need a stove which can handle -20°C without any problems. After some mails I got the new Optimus Vega Stove. This one comes along with lightweight 178g and has some nice features. You have a preheating loop for the gas and if you wanna use it in winter mode you can turn the gas canister and can fold down two brackets to have a stand for the gas canister. I used this stove down to -20°C without any problems and that means that I have not preheated the gas canister under my down jacket. This stove is very quick and works excellent and comes along with a lightweight aluminium windscreen.

HMG Porter 3400
My favorite pack in winter. Enough space on the inside to store all this bulky winter gear and if you need more space you can attach several things on the outside. The Cuben Hybrid is very durable and waterproof. Check out my review of this pack to see what I like and maybe dislike.

Salomon Toundra
I never had such warm feet like in this shoes. A long time I was looking for the perfect winter boot and after some recommendations I bought this boot in a sale last year. When the boot is new it has a very hard sole, but this get softer after a while. The Aerogel sole is perfect. In really cold conditions I have worn  thin merino baselayer socks, my Exped VBL socks and Woolpower 400 socks and never had problems with cold feet or something else. Only when you are standing in one place for a longer time and it is really cold you get cold feet, but when you start to move they are warm in some minutes. Be careful when you buy this boots. Just take one or two sizes more then normal, because you need the space for merino and VBL socks.

Snow Claw
On my first winter trip I got in touch the first time with the Snow Claw and I was enthusiastic about this small sheet of plastic. This small tool is very versatile. You can use it as stand for your Bushbuddy Ultra or as a seat at, but most of the time I used the Snow Claw as shovel to get all the white stuff away. The weight of 173g is excellent and the two handles are easy manage. So if you need a lightweight shovel give the Snow Claw a try, but it is not suitable to dig out someone out of an avalanche.

MSR Lightning Ascent 25
A long time I used this snowshoes on winter trips and I was still satisfied with them. Perfect to climb up steep hills in the mountains and the grip is excellent. They are very light and well made. Oh did I said well made. Sorry. I am very disappointed about the quality of this snow shoes. My one broke on the New Year’s trip at the suspension and after that it was really hard to get out of the deep powder. Back at home I sent them two times to the German MSR service and both time the came back without any comment and still broken. That is a really bad customer service. Now I have to decide to send them to Ireland and pay once more for expensive shipping or repair them on my own.

Altai Hoks 145 + Rossignol BCX 11 Boots
After the failure of my MSR snowshoes I was looking for something new. Since a longer time I was interested in some skis and after reading lots of reviews I bought a pair of Altai Hoks, because these ones are more like snowshoes. The binding of this ski is based more forward so you have more a feeling of a snowshoe. In contrast the binding of the new KAR 147 is in the balance point. Because I am not a great skier I decided to buy the Hoks and give them a try. It is a complete different feeling to stay on skis. You have to be careful and every small hillock, because the skis slip away when you are dreaming and looking around and you sit on your ass. After a while I have learned how to manage the skis and it was OK. The gradeability of the Hoks is phenomenal because of the integrated skins. The downhill with these skis is a bit tricky for a not talented skier and I have to practice for next winter season.
My first plan was to use these skis with the universal binding, but this binding fits only to shoes up to size 47 and I have 48. In th end I bought a 3 pin binding and some Rossignol boots. On my first winter trip I was really satisfied with this setup, but I wanna test it a more next winter before I write some impressions.


  • http://twitter.com/korpijaakko Jaakko Heikka

    Nice summary, Benjamin. I think I should write something similar to my blog as well. Just been too lazy lately… :D

    Interesting to read about your experiences with the Hoks. I’ve got several e-mails related to them over the winter and some have found them difficult to use in down hill. I find this surpricing and weird but maybe the skin inserts cause uneven glide on scertain surfaces and thus make them unpredictable… And as I’m quite used to using skis with full skins even in down hills, I’m familiar with the phenomena and didn’t find it problematic… Or something.

    Also interesting to see another review of Katabatic gear quilts working in temps way colder they are adventised to work in. Just to get the idea straight: I assume you were using a closed shelter and a bivy bag with the quilt when in -24C? Did you use a VBL as well? It’s quite tempting to think that I could save 1-2kg from my deep winter sleeping system…

  • http://hrxxlight.com Benjamin M.

    Thanks Jaako.

    I have never used skis before only some BC skis and it was really difficult for me and the insert did not make it easier. But for me it was easier when I used the telemark style for downhill so next winter I will take some telemark and ski lessons for relaxed trips.

    The Katabatic Gear Sawatch is fantastic. On all my trips I used the quilt in combination with the Locus Gear Khufu Sil, the LAUFBURSCHE prototype bivy and the ME Rescue bivy as VBL and some more merino or synthetic insulation if the temps were really cold.

    Next winter season I wanna test the combi with a Apex quilt to use it in conditions down to -32°C.

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