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Winter Gear Guide

Hall of Fame: This Is Our Testers’ Favorite Winter Gear of All Time

Seven testers gush on the gear that stands the test of time.

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We love new gear, and our testing team works hard, year in and year out, to determine the best bets for our readers. But there are other products that don’t change much—because they’re darn near perfect. Here, our testers detail the items they pack on every winter trip. (Looking for the new stuff? Find it in this year’s Winter Gear Guide).

Kelty Cosmic Down 0-degree bag 

I’ve taken this 550-fill down bag winter camping for years, and I’m always toasty warm right down to the rating. It’s a bit bulky, which is to be expected for the price point, but the space taken up in my pack is well worth the trade-off, and the PVC-free DWR coating keeps the down from getting wet and then failing to insulate. It’s a workhorse bag. (4lb. 9oz.; $220 —Kristin Smith, Assistant Destinations Editor

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Skirt

This may not win me fashion points, but it’s so functional I can’t help but love it. It zips over my ski pants (no clicking out of skis required) when I’m cold backcountry skiing and is the perfect over-long-undies layer on hut trips and at après. It’s 800-fill down is so light and packs to softball size. I always have this little wonder in my pack. (4oz., $200) —Kim Beekman, Backpacker Tester

Voormi Drift Jacket

This is my go-to mid layer, and I pack it year-round. I’ve summited Kilimanjaro as well as many 14ers and 13ers in the summer. In the winter, I wear it for summiting peaks, backcountry and in-bounds skiing, ice-climbing, snowshoeing, and even around town. It’s wool, reinforced by nylon with a DWR treatment. It breathes well and insulates well, transporting sweat out and even remaining warm when it gets wet from melting snow or light rain. Mine’s got a couple holes in the pockets, now, and it’s starting to show its age. After 7 years of use, though,, it’s still my go-to. I’ve been hard-pressed to look for a mid-layer to replace it. (13oz., $279) —Chris Meehan, Backpacker Tester

North Face Mountain Light jacket 

This perennial all-arounder has been my go-to hardshell for 20 years. It’s beautiful, yet armor-tough, and repels wind like an offensive lineman against an inferior blitz. Zippered arm vents allow efficient air exchange, with a pair of ample pockets to stow snacks or gloves. I traipsed the North Country Trail late fall this year for miles in a cocoon comfort and barely noticed 40mph gusts on Colorado’s Mt. Sneffels last summer. I pair it with a mid layer dead-of-winter snowshoe jaunts and most likely will for years to come. Ed. Note: Johnson’s pick is so old, it’s now in TNF’s retro line, but the latest model is built with recycled nylon and has been updated with Futurelight, a waterproof-breathable membrane we’ve loved in testing. (1lb., 12oz.; $350) —Steve Johnson, Backpacker Tester

Petzl Lynx 

I’ve used these crampons for years, from ice climbing in New York’s Adirondacks to first ascents in the Alaska Range. These things hold a lot of memories underneath their scratched orange paint. Oddly, when I put them on I think of the “simply satisfying” Instagram post trend of someone cutting soap or something. There’s nothing like the feeling of snapping them to my boots (especially for the season’s first outing), kicking them into soft hero ice, or sinking into styrofoam snow. They make my brain tingle just looking at them. (2lbs, 4oz.; $250) —Ryan Wichelns, Backpacker Tester

Black Diamond Traverse Poles

I beat the crap out of my ski gear. That’s not my goal; I just ski whenever I can through thin, rocky conditions, deep powder, and spring slush. That attitude has pushed boots, planks, helmets, and goggles beyond the point of no repair all too often. But one of the few pieces of gear that’s been with me since my first avalanche class has been this set of poles. These two-piece poles aren’t quite as adjustable as some of the three-section or foldable poles on the market, but their rugged aluminum construction (16 mm on the upper, 14 mm on the lower) has survived days that left other poles wobbling or splintered. Bonus: Unlike some brands, BD makes getting parts easy, so when I ripped the bottom half of one of my poles off on a glade run, I had the replacement on my doorstep within a couple of weeks. (10oz (per pole), $90)  —Adam Roy, Senior Digital Editor

Mountain Hardwear Trango 

If you have your sights set on snowy peaks, you spend most of your day a little on edge. Did you see that rockfall? Will that snow bridge hold? This tent, the toughest I’ve ever used, makes sure that your nights can be a bit less anxiety-ridden. When you take the time to guy it out well (and you should), its beefy pole geometry (color-coded to ease set-up) and nylon body can withstand just about anything. The vestibules (large at entry, small at rear) have plenty of space for gear-intensive trips. I’ve had quality sleep in the Trango as high as 17,000 feet. There’s a good reason this tent is standard issue for outfits guiding on the world’s gnarliest peaks: It’s tough as nails, and that gives you peace of mind in environments that constantly test your mettle. (9lbs., 10oz.; $700) —Shannon Davis, Editor-in-Chief

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