Overlanding in the winter requires lots of planning, prepping and a thorough inventory of your gear. There are so many options available to help prepare for the cold, but what overland gear for winter should you focus on?
In preparation for our 5 day trip to Moab this past December, we asked Overland Bound Forum Members for their advice on how to outfit to overland in winter. We wanted to know their personal experience battling frigid temperatures while adventuring outdoors.
The response was tremendous, and the recommendations were priceless. Michael and I were able to navigate the cold (-7F at one point), and we got to experience the beauty of Moab safely without shivering our way through it.
Read on for insight and personal experience to help you choose the right equipment to keep you warm and safe this Winter season!
Overland Gear for Winter
Overland Bound Member 0102
IMO, bang for buck you can’t beat Columbia outerwear gear. It goes on sale fairly regularly if you’re willing to do a little hunting for it. Amazon, Cabelas, Bass Pro are all good sources. I picked up their 3-in-1 parka at Cabelas this time last year for $80 bucks (was $220 retail).
Base layers are key as well, so long as you don’t over do it. I like a thin, moisture wicking thermal underwear from Under Armor or similar, then build on top of that. The in-between stuff doesn’t have to be anything special, but we love Columbia, Carhartt and Mountain Khaki pants for the lower outer layers.
If you want to be warm, like legit “screw-this-cold-and-layers-and-mummy-bags-BS” kinda warm, then get a Buddy Heater from Mr. Heater. You can use it in your tent or even vehicle (with caution) to turn your shelter into a sauna. Sure it’s a heat source in a confined space, but we can debate safety factors on another thread. Just do yourself a favor and put this in your rig. When you’re tired of trying to be warm, pull it out, crank it up, (and) soak up the heat.”
Overland Bound Member 2570
I’ve got these silk long johns that are awesome in the cold. Thin and light but very warm.
Also for the tent I have a Mr Heater little buddy. I turn it on when I get in the tent to sleep, in about 5 minutes it’s nice and toasty. Of course your tent size will determine the time it takes.
I also take those mylar emergency blankets with me to put under my sleeping bag if it’s really cold. Helps radiate the heat back up to your body. Of course I also take my trusty Mexican wool blankets, too.
Ice Breath & Frozen Feet
Overland Bound Member 2420
I suggest wearing something like a comfortable hat or Balaclava for when you are sleeping to keep your ears and neck from getting to cold, at least keep them close just in ca
se. FYI if you cover your face with your sleeping bag to stay warm, the moisture from your breath can accumulate inside around your face and possibly freeze. Not fun!
Overland Bound Member 2322
That under armour base layer stuff is pretty good for the cold. I’m fine with some cold as long as my feet don’t get cold. For that I am all about some Smartwool socks. I never thought I’d pay $15+ for socks, but don’t think twice about them.
Double Up on Sleeping Gear
Overland Bound Member 2489
Anything merino wool is excellent clothes wise (stinks less too). Also, a Merino Wool buff is super useful because it still keeps you warm even if you happen to get wet and can be used in like 800 different configurations. Last weekend I used my merino buff in 5-degree (-15C) weather and it worked to keep my head warm. If you’re going to bundle up the rest of your body but skip the head and neck, you’re probably not going to be as warm as you could be.
Sleeping in 5-degrees can also suck. In lieu of a liner, I used my smaller 30F bag inside a larger (wider) 0F bag. I spun it around so that the hood on the 30F bag covered the front of my face but left a little hole for breathing so I didn’t feel suffocated. I happened to be sleeping on the ground too, and a normal space blanket helped to radiate my warm body heat captured in the sleeping pad back to my body. One of the best nights I’ve had in the backcountry, and I’ve had my fair share.
Overland Bound Member 2619
Living up here in Cold A$$ Eastern Canada…layers! Next to skin items should be comfortable and water wicking (to remove sweat away from your body). Do not overheat yourself! Put your clothes for the next day in the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep warm, and wear as little as possible to bed (except your head).
Gear wise, I have an outbound mummy bag (-10°C), a wool liner, and polar fleece liner. Total rating of approx -30°C. I use a mylar emergency blanket between my tent and fly and another on the tent floor. Now it’s a 4 season tent!
Balaclava and Booties
Overland Bound Member 0364
Wool beanie, should be able to cover ears and face/balaclava, greatest heat loss is our cranium!
Wool socks, as high a percentage as you can find, they wick moisture and still work when damp.
No form fitting clothing other than your first layer, then all over clothing should be large enough to accommodate layers under. The goal is to have space to trap heat loss and prevent wind chill as this is the killer in cold dry climates.
Tent or vehicle must have ventilation (just crack the window) to off moisture/condensation.
Drink as much or more water than you think you need, cold weather is deceiving when you don’t feel like drinking something cold.
Overland Bound Member 0468
REI Down Booties. Can’t say enough about these.
Wool fingerless gloves for cooking.
Salomon winter hiking boots. Super insulated and comfy for hiking.
Insulated water storage devices. Again, REI is my go to for this. I have many different size storage containers.
Smartwool insulation. There are many different “weights’ of insulation. I typically stick with the “medium” grade.
Hot Cocoa and Peppermint Schnapps! 😀
Bang for Buck
Overland Bound Member 2053
Woolpower is out of Sweden where they supply insulating garments for the North Sea oil fields. Expensive, but lasts for years. No special care required. My stuff is 10 years old and still going strong.
Simms is a fishing brand out of Bozeman, MT. The Coldweather pant or shirt is just fleece lined, but very toasty. I’m sure there are other similar garments out there.
JetBoil. Boil water in 90 seconds. In my rig year round.
Overland Bound Member 2292
As already mentioned, Under Armor / base layers. If you have TJ Maxx or Marshalls or similar discount stores in your area, regularly troll their racks. I’ve found under armor randomly for easily half price. It’s always hit or miss, but anytime I find myself driving by one, I stop in, make a quick pass by that rack to see.
And yes, Merino wool. Another cheap guy tip, thrift stores. Check the tag on the entire rack of sweaters in your size and look for ones made of merino wool. Around here, most sweaters are $8-$10 and as long as you don’t care what the sweater looks like, you can get some quality wool for cheap.
I’m a huge fan of those cheap fleece throw blankets. They stuff easily into nooks and crannies in your rig and if you are cold, slip a couple in your sleeping bag with you.
Fleece and Fire
Overland Bound Member 1834
Warmest layers and gear the Army ever gave me was made from polartec. They have top and bottom grid fleece thermals. I’ve become slightly obsessed and a huge supporter of their cold weather layers. They’ve kept me warm numerous times sleeping in a hole in the ground for several days in freezing temperatures.
Overland Bound Member 0708
The only thing I can recommend as a must have for winter camping is a quality fire starter kit. You can have all the nice warm clothes, but you’re still SOL if you can’t get a fire going. If you can successfully get a good fire in rain and snow without exhausting yourself, you can tackle anything.
Michael’s Takeaway from Utah
Gloves. Really good gloves. The Burton Gore-Tex gloves allowed me to dig us out of the canyon at 10 degrees F without losing my fingertips.
Is there anything you would add to the list? Leave a comment and let us know.
Happy adventuring this Winter! Outfit & Explore!
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