Cold-Weather Gear Review: 5 Winter Fixes

How to make your cold months warmer: boots, bags, jackets, backpacks, and booties for frosty weather

Adidas Korse GTX

Summerlike hikers with winter-ready warmth

Feet are the body's thermostat--when they're cold, you're cold. So start at the bottom with these lightweight high-cuts, which were the ticket for me on February hikes in fresh snow. The Gore-Tex membrane is impermeable even in wet slop, and the 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation will keep feet warm down to 10°F (depending on your toes), but not to zero or below. The dual-density outsole--featuring rubber spikes that harden for better grip in freezing temps--shed snow that balled up on other boots we tested. Good midsole support makes the Korse a solid choice for winter day-hikes or overnights with pack weights of up to 35 pounds. Best for medium-volume feet; go up a half-size if you like to double up on socks.

Price: $120

Sizes: men's 6-13½, 14

Weight: 3 lbs. (size 9)

Contact: (800) 448-1796; www.adidas.com

Backcountry Access Stash Alp40

A tricked-out hut pack with 5-star hydration

If you like the convenience of on-the-go drinking, but love the versatility and easy filling of a standard Nalgene bottle, the Alp40 is the pack for you. It comes with an insulated hydration tube that zips into the shoulder strap to prevent waterline freeze-up, and the hose leads to a Nalgene-compatible cap. Just fill your bottle with hots, and off you go. With a single stay and plastic framesheet, plus thin-but-soft shoulder straps and hipbelt, this top-loading daytrip/hut pack carried 30 pounds comfortably for 8 hours. The packbag is loaded with features: panel access, a huge front shovel-blade pocket, ski and ice tool carriers, and multipoint compression for hauling a snowboard. One minor omission: a sleeve for your Nalgene so the bottle isn't floating loose inside the pack.

Price: $165

Size: 2,850 cu. in.

Weight: 3 lbs. 4 oz.

Contact: (303) 417-1345; www.bcaccess.com

Western Mountaineering Big Horn Super DL

The bag to trust for winter's coldest nights

Spend a couple of weeks testing sleeping bags in extreme cold, and you soon find that loft, warmth, and fit--which go hand-in-hand--are ten times more important in a winter sack than any flashy features. Which is why our guys loved the Bighorn. In fact, after 20 days on Mt. McKinley, our testers were fighting over this -30°F bag, which was double-digits warmer than a competitor's model with the same rating. With 850-plus-fill-power goose down and a waterproof/breathable Gore Dryloft shell, this superfat sack kept the guys toasty and dry--without a hat--in high-elevation conditions at -30°F. Sizing is winter-appropriate: "big and comfy," said 6'2", 190-pound Bruce, with space for layering up or storing boot liners. Construction details are superb: The zipper doesn't stick, and the collar and hood drawcords are smooth--and easy to find in the dark.

Price/Sizes: $670 regular (6'), $695 long (6'6")

Weight: 4 lbs. 2 oz. (long)

Contact: (408) 287-8944; www.westernmountaineering.com

Patagonia Dimension Jacket

A more versatile and breathable winter shell

Fact: Snow isn't rain. For most winter outings, you don't need a waterproof jacket--you need something more breathable, because sweat is your worst enemy. On snowshoeing and ski trips in the Idaho mountains, moisture never built up inside this soft shell, even when I climbed 2,000 feet in heavy, falling snow with my hood up. And the wettest flakes rolled right off. The Dimension is seriously technical, with a fully adjustable, helmet-compatible hood, extra sleeve length for reaching, low-bulk hook-and-loop cuffs, and mesh-lined chest pockets/vents roomy enough for climbing skins. With an exterior fabric more supple than a stiff hard shell, and welded seams that make the jacket less bulky, it just plain feels better and moves more freely with me, no matter what the activity. The cut is ideal: You can add a couple of warm layers underneath without sacrificing range of motion.

Price: $260

Sizes: men's S-XXL, women's XS-L

Weight: 25 oz. (medium)

Contact: (800) 638-6464; www.patagonia.com

Sierra Designs WB Booties

The ultimate remedy for cold feet

Some match-ups seem so obvious--like pairing SD's classic down bootie with DriZone, the waterproof/breathable fabric the company uses on some of its sleeping bags. But this is an unusually clever marriage of luxury and function. During trips in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, my feet stayed toasty in temps down to 10°F, and the booties' nubbed treads provided excellent traction on crusty snow around camp. One rub: While the ankle and collar drawcords snug the booties fairly tight, my feet slipped around a bit inside.

Price: $50

Sizes: men's and women's sizes

Weight: 16 oz. (pair)

Contact: (800) 635-0461; www.sierradesigns.com