Winter Gear Prep- Part 2 The Clothing

Continuing my 4 part series on winter gear prep today we will look at my clothing setup for ice climbing, mountaineering, and back-country skiing in the Northeast. If you missed Part 1, The Essentials, you can find it here.

Your winter clothing system has so much impact on your enjoyment of recreating during the colder months that you should spend some time trying to dial in a system that works best for you. There are so many companies producing high end clothing today then there was 20 years ago that it can seem daunting to wade through all the promotional advertising and hype that is out there. In this post I will share my current clothing recommendations gleamed from hundreds of days spent guiding on Mount Washington, well known for having some of the worst weather in the world. I hope you find something useful here.

Let’s start with base layers. This is essentially how I get dressed in the morning step by step (but I will spare you pictures of me doing so).


Exofficio Men’s Give-N-Go Sport Six-Inch Boxer Brief

EXOFFICIO Men's Give-N-Go Mesh Boxer Briefs, 6 in.
EXOFFICIO Men’s Give-N-Go Mesh Boxer Briefs, 6 in.

Boxer briefs are the way to go for cold weather performance. Supportive, quick drying, and a snug fit, these are much better than baggier synthetic boxers and wedgie inducing briefs. Boxer Briefs FTW!

EMS Men’s Techwick Essential Crew


A very affordable option for a quality undershirt, a couple of these allow me to climb many days in a row without having to wash my more expensive “next layers”.

EMS Men’s Vector Power Stretch Pants


I have a couple pairs of these. Polartec® Power Stretch® Pro™ is the softest most comfortable material I have found for this application. They are a little heavier than “medium weight” alternatives but since I prefer lightweight soft shell pants for most of my winter activities so they are perfect!

EMS Men’s Equinox Power Stretch Hoodie

http://amzEMS® Men’s Equinox Power Stretch Hoodie
EMS® Men’s Equinox Power Stretch Hoodie

I have owned this item from EMS for at least 15 years. Again, Polartec® Power Stretch® is very soft and comfortable, and the fact that this has a full zip and a hood makes it super versatile in the snowy mountains!


Smartwool Mountaineer Socks
Smartwool Mountaineer Socks

I have a mix of Smartwool and Darn Tough socks that I rotate through. When it is really cold out I always go with the Smartwool Mountaineering Socks. I haven’t found a warmer or longer lasting option! And side note I rarely wear sock liners anymore… quality socks don’t seem to require a liner in my opinion.

The above “base layer” rarely changes based on the sport. Ice climbing, mountaineering, back-country skiing, it’s all good! I will swap out to a dedicated ski sock for back-country skiing like the Bridgedale Control Fit II Ski Socks.

Bridgedale Men's Control Fit II Socks
Bridgedale Men’s Control Fit II Socks

These above the calf socks excel when skinning many miles in touring boots!

Ok, we have our base-layers on. The next layer is usually super breathable, wind & water resistant “soft shell”. I’m not looking for “waterproof” at this point because I know going up 4000 feet in 4 miles creates a TON of heat and breath-ability is clutch!

Over my EMS Men’s Vector Power Stretch Pants I don the La Sportiva Castle Pants.

La Sportiva Castle Pant
La Sportiva Castle Pant

This will be my first season with these pants but my first impressions are quite positive. I will post a detailed review of these soon so stay tuned!

Over my EMS Men’s Equinox Power Stretch Hoodie I wear the super breathable Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody.

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

I reviewed this piece in detail here.

The above articles of clothing are the most I wear on the “approach”. When you’re moving fast up hill they are sufficient for keeping me warm. Close at hand though is more protection for when conditions get really nasty, or we take a quick break and I need to don an insulating layer. Never deep in my pack is the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody.

Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody

I am working on a full review of that piece and should have that finished in a few weeks.

My hard-shell jacket of choice depends on the sport. For back-country skiing the Patagonia Reconnaissance Jacket is top of the line.

Patagonia Men’s Reconnaissance Jacket
Patagonia Men’s Reconnaissance Jacket

I reviewed it in detail here.

Other than the essential “Belay Jacket” I’ve covered most of my current set-up. Since I have belay jackets from Outdoor Research, Ortovox, La Sportiva, and Black Diamond to demo I will save that one piece of clothing for another post. I also have a few back-country ski bibs to review this season so we will save ski bibs and belay jackets for another time. It’s late, and I have an alpine start planned for tomorrow. Hopefully the first day of ice climbing for my season!

I hope you found some of this useful. Feel free to ask for more details in the comment section or recommend your own favorite piece of outdoor clothing!

Part 1 was a modified list of “The Ten Essentials” and you can find that post here.

Part 3 will focus on ice climbing gear and maintenance.

Part 4 will cover ski gear and maintenance.

If you enjoyed this post please share and subscribe!


Show me your gear closet by posting a pic on Instagram with #mygearcloset and tagging me @nealpinestart before 11:59pm EST on 11/30/16. While you are there you can vote for entries as well (just like any that have been posted). On December 1st the gear closet Instagram pic with the most likes will win a brand new Petzl Summit Ice Axe!

Petzl Summit Ice Axe

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Some of the products above were purchased with my own money, some were provided for purpose of review. All of the opinions expressed are my own, and affiliate links above help support this blog.

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