NEED TO KNOW
12 gear tricks, solutions, and DIY shortcuts from cold-weather veterans
1. Extra padding Carry a 2-by-2-foot square of closed-cell foam that you can kneel on while shoveling snow, stand on to help keep your feet warm, and sit on during dinner.
2. Lashing alternative Duct tape doesn’t stick well in cold temps, so add zip-ties to your kit to repair ski bindings, reinforce tent pole junctions, and attach gear.
3. Ice axe safety Those sharp metal points can save your life–or threaten it, should you secure the axe haphazardly to your pack. Attach yours like this:
Feed the shaft down through the pack’s ice axe loop so the pick is pointing toward the middle of your pack.
Flip the axe to point the spike skyward (so the loop cradles the axe’s head) and secure.
4. Surefire lighter Carry a butane lighter on a cord around your neck to keep it handy–and warm enough to function.
5. Glove security When shedding gloves, never drop them in the snow: They can pick up moisture, or worse, blow away. If yours don’t come with leashes, sew them on. Or clip the gloves to a small carabiner on the front of your jacket (or just stuff them inside).
6. Dry bed Air out the moisture that your sleeping bag absorbs each night by unzipping it and draping it over two trekking poles or skis.
7. Gas booster Canister stoves can work in winter–they just take longer. Use isobutane canisters instead of 80/20 butane/propane, improve performance by warming the canister inside your jacket, and opt for a stove like the MSR WindPro that lets you turn the canister upside down, which pushes the more combustible gas toward the valve. Not buying a new stove? Place the canister in a shallow pan of water while cooking.
8. Warmer feet Reserve a pair of thick, dry socks only for sleeping. Still chilled? Wrap your puffy around your feet.
9. Unfrozen water Blow the water in your hydration tube back into the reservoir after each sip, where it’s less likely to freeze. For extra security, look for a bladder with an insulated tube.
10. Double insulation Place a closed-cell foam pad under your inflatable pad for extra protection from the cold ground.
11. Toasty toes Size ski or mountaineering boots to accommodate thicker winter socks (staff favorite: wool), making sure you have wiggle room in the toe box. A tight fit constricts blood flow, making feet feel colder and upping the risk of frostbite.
12. Warm drink At breakfast, fill an insulated metal thermos with hot coffee, tea, cocoa, or cider. Take sips throughout the day–you’ll stay hydrated and get a psychological boost.