That is... wear lots of layers and carry a big warm jacket in your bag and you’ll be well equipped for winter. A very traditional approach to walking in the mountains during the winter months, a bit like a full monty sets you up well for the day after a night of gallons of ale. I can’t seem to function after a hearty breakfast, let alone a night on the pop! True to form I used Smelly Hellys, padded shirts and an old Lowe Alpine waterproof as my default kit in winter, when I upgraded to Montane’s version of a Buffalo …I had made it! This was the uniform of all winter climbers, not just walkers and I had elevated myself into a different league, this was the business. It didn’t matter whether it was -10 or +10 in Spring, I didn’t take it off. Combined with a Smelly Helly, I regularly gave off a fragrant mountain perfume….
At some point, I got a Rab Kinder Smock, with reinforced shoulders and elbows and in a bright colour….I was in the Premiership! Quickly found out that down and Scottish winters don’t go too well together, but in the spirit of looking good, I made it work! I used to wear a pair of multicoloured cotton trousers that I got for a tenner in some local shop - didn’t we all wear them? Socks were a blend of thick knee-high ski numbers with skiers emblazoned all over them and cotton boxers were all I could afford. My first pair of winter boots reminds me now, of a deep sea divers boots weighing kilos…..honestly I never suffered a single day in winter!
I always encourage folk to go and have their own experiences, the learning is so much quicker and often more powerful. I was never very good at listening to other people’s advice and funnily enough, I learnt on my own little trips very quickly. I’ve now got a perfect blend of kit that works really well for me with enough flexibility to cater for different conditions throughout the winter months. B3 boots are warmer and lighter than before and in combination with some posh winter weight socks, my feet are rarely cold and the boot performs as it should do and when I need it. Trousers are a mix of some old school Patagonia soft shell and a pair of Jottnar Schoeller, both offer ventilation on the legs, plenty of pockets, widenings at the bootleg, warmth and when combined with a good hardshell, more than capable of keeping me comfortable. I do use winter weight base layers, but actually, prefer to wear 2 summer weights, it seems to keep me more comfortable. I like zip necks and the adjustability to vent when I need to, I’ve had those overheating moments frequently and to use an American phrase “it’s important to heat dump when you need to” and not faff for several minutes trying to get some cool air into your layers. I’ve tried those very expensive string vests that are available, they without a doubt work, but here’s the thing, £90 for a string vest is painful and you couldn’t strip to your base layer for apres beers - I’ll leave that image with you!
Mid weights and different weight PrimaLoft jackets are all an option. I find gillets excellent, there has been a trend by manufacturers to produce a gillet with fleece sleeves and other variations on this, I’ve used a couple and generally like the idea. On my midweights, I always buy them with a hood, the flexibility that it offers really works for me.
Obviously, everything looks colourful…although I’ve gone back to winter black trousers now, the continental French look doesn’t work for me anymore! My winter wardrobe has taken years to get it right, lots of cold, miserable days experimenting and being bothered have got me here.
Oh and if you’re wondering I do use some posh pants now…