Winter hiking gear for the bad circulation crowd

My blog only has a few posts at this point, but I think I’ve already complained several times about my poor circulation and the problems I have while winter hiking.  So this post is dedicated to showcasing the warmiest of warmy winter hiking gear that I’ve tested so far.  I went through a major gear upgrade this year and am very pleased with my (now) toasty hands and feet.  

All pictures are clickable to the source of the picture/somewhere you can buy the item

Mittens: Marmot Warmest Mitten

marmotmitt

I was previously winter hiking with a pair of cheap gordini mittens and a glove liner and wondering why my hands were freezing all the time.  I blamed my poor circulation and figured winter hiking would always be like this for me, and that I’d have to rely on chemical warmers.  This is not a good plan because (1) I hear dexterity is useful and (2) chemical warmers don’t work at elevation.  So, I decided to bite the bullet and buy the warmiest of warmy mittens that I could find that also weren’t 5 million dollars.  Enter: Marmot Warmest Mitten

Marmot cannot tell a lie.  These are WARM.  If you wear them in temperatures above 20F or so, your hands will be sweating.  I’ve tested them on a handful of winter hikes so far this season, on windy ridgelines and in single-digit temperatures.

Usually when I take my hands out of my gloves/mittens on a winter hike and let them get uncomfortably cold (which takes all of 30 seconds), it means that they will stay that way unless I use a chemical warmer or shove my hands down my pants (attractive AND practical for hiking).  NOT SO for the Warmest Mitten!  I can actually count on my hands warming back up after ~15 minutes or so.  As far as I’m concerned this is basically a miracle.  And I don’t even need to use glove liners!

Shoes: Vasque Pow Pow

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Okay so I realize these aren’t “hardcore” hiking boots or mountaineering boots or anything but they are warm!  For 99.99% of my needs, mountaineering boots are totally unnecessary and not comfortable.  The Pow Pows are comfy right out of the box, and surprisingly lightweight.  They have 400g of insulation, and actually keep my feet from freezing while hiking in single-digit temperatures.  In previous seasons with my old winter hiking boots it was pretty much guaranteed that my feet would freeze and I’d have to put chemical warmers in my shoes.  I even had the fattest wool socks one could possibly buy, but they didn’t help much.  With the Pow Pows I can wear my moderately fat wool socks and still not freeze.  Granted, my feet can still feel cold, but never dangerously cold.  As others have mentioned about these shoes, they do rub on my heel and I have to wear moleskin, but I’ll take some moleskin or blisters over feeling like my toes will need to be amputated.

Jacket: Rab Neutrino Endurance

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After shivering my face off on one too many winter hikes with my inadequate layers, I decided to invest in a seriously warm down jacket.  It’s kind of hard to find women’s down jackets that are for serious adventure sports or alpine climbing, because sexism (yay!).  After much research, I decided that the Rab Neutrino Endurance looked like one of the warmer women’s jackets available.

And oh boy is this jacket toasty!  I wore it on an exposed ridgeline in 20+ mph winds on a day when temperatures were in the low teens (and I’m sure it was colder at the top with windchill).  I was very comfortable and felt like a cozy little marshmallow.

One complaint about this jacket is that the zipper is kind of hard to do and undo, so sometimes I’m fumbling in the cold losing my finger dexterity trying to zip up this jacket.  It’s also tragically unfashionable to the point where I usually won’t wear it around town even if it’s super cold (and I don’t really consider myself fashion forward or self conscious).  But looking like a colorful marshmallow is an okay tradeoff for feeling toasty, no???

Bonus: This jacket is 850 fill down so it packs down super small and is super lightweight!

Supergaiters: Mountain Tools Super Gaiters

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Supergaiters are supposed to be worn over mountaineering boots to add extra warmth on more serious climbs such as Rainier.  And to that I say, PSHHHHH, whatever.  As a member of the circulation-challenged club, I feel entitled to these supergaiters, even if I’m “only” winter hiking in New Hampshire (plus winter hiking in NH can be seriously cold and deadly).

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a typical friday night. trying on my supergaiters with my boots and crampons

And I must tell you… they are AMAZING!  Remember a mere few paragraphs ago when I said my Vasques were good but my feet could still feel cold?  Not with supergaiters!!!!  I’ve never had such toasty feet in my life while winter hiking.  They fit fine over my Vasque boots but the fit is not as good as if I put them on mountaineering boots.  In deep snow they have a tendency to slip off the front, which is apparently a common problem because Mountain Tools recommends a bit of Barge cement to keep your supergaiters glued to your boots for the season.  I also wore them with snowshoes the other day and some snow got trapped under the rubber strap that goes under the boot.  It didn’t compromise the waterproofing or anything but I had to smack the snow out at the end of the hike.  I really couldn’t care less about these minor inconveniences because I can finally feel like a person with normal circulation while winter hiking!

Warning: these suckers are hard to get on and off your boots.  I totally CHIPPED MY NAIL POLISH the first time I tried putting them on my boots. 😮

Fail times: Lorpen Trekking & Expedition Polartec/Primaloft socks

lorpen

Before I decided to just upgrade my boots I was trying ALL THE SOCKS in the world.  I came across these Lorpen expedition socks with primaloft insulation and was immediately sold.  Who DOESN’T want insulated socks?  Yes they are $70.  For socks.  And they were…. not worth it.  The few times I tried them my feet just wound up feeling super clammy and got colder as a result.  Maybe I was doing it wrong?

This has been your warmy winter hiking accessories roundup of 2015.  Goodnight!

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