Ultralight isn't just for summer anymore. With winter gear joining the lightweight revolution, there's no longer reason to lug expedition-size loads for a weekend in the snow--and one less excuse for staying inside. Last winter and spring, our testers hiked, skied, and camped in frozen locales from Canada's Wapta Icefield to New Hampshire's Presidential Range. The group returned with two single-wall tents that save beaucoup weight and one that saves a boatload of money. They also liked three must-have accessories: a warm hat, versatile gloves, and weatherproof gaiters.
Mountain Hardwear EV 2
Fast-to-pitch and tough in a storm, this roomy single-wall makes good on its steep price.
Strength Twenty-seven clips and a bevy of guy-out points buttress this freestanding, three-pole fortress against the worst wind and snow loads. Secret weapon: The clips are sewn into panels of a nonstretch fabric called VX-02, which reduces stress on the clips and stabilizes the tent.
Ventilation After a night with temps hovering around freezing on California's Mt. Shasta, there wasn't a drop of condensation inside. Credit the waterproof/breathable Conduit FR fabric, plus five retractable welded-in vents--two in front, three in the ceiling.
Pitch Despite the numerous clips, it's fast to set up, even wearing gloves.
Space With a whopping 105-inch length, a pair of 6-foot testers had space for boots and gear at their feet. Add the 41-inch peak height, and you'll ride out stormbound days in comfort.
Weight An ounce less than 5 pounds and still all that space? This and the Marmot Alpinist are the first freestanding mountaineering tents we've seen that offer so many features for so little weight.
Features A zippered panel in the floor makes it easy to remove tracked-in snow (or pee without going outside).
Footprint The relatively narrow 47-inch width fits tight winter campsites.
Vestibule There isn't one. The extended front of the tent accommodates personal gear inside, but cooking is out, and the interior gets cramped if you have to pull empty packs inside. It also makes the tent vulnerable to blowing snow when you enter and exit.
Price On the bright side, paying this much for a tent might prompt you to use it more often.
Size: 105" x 47" x 41"
Weight: 4 lbs. 15 oz.
Contact: (800) 953-8375; www.mountainhardwear.com
Carry a couple more pounds and save a bunch of dollars.
From high in the Rockies to Washington's rain-soaked San Juan Islands, the Headwall provided uncompromising weather protection and good breathability thanks to a large, innovative ceiling vent. Inside, the roomy dimensions and large 12-square-foot vestibule were comfortable for two people and gear--and on one occasion a wet yellow lab as well. Where's the trade-off? The Headwall is 3 pounds heavier than the pricier single walls at left, and it lacks the others' well-placed external guys.
Size: 90" x 54" x 43"
Weight: 7 lbs. 15 oz.
Contact: (888) 463-6367; www.ems.com.
The North Face WindStopper High Point Hat
When it's frigid and blowing, pull on this full-coverage cap. It protects you from brain-freeze with gust-busting WindStopper and thick Polartec 300-weight fleece, heat-trapping earflaps, and a chin drawcord so you'll never watch your hat skitter away with the spindrift. In calm conditions, fold the flaps above your ears and tie them off with the chinstrap.
Weight: 3 oz.
Contact: (800) 447-2333; www.thenorthface.com.
Black Diamond GTX Frontpoint Gaiters
Don't waste ounces on overbuilt gaiters. The FrontPoints are light but tough, thanks to a measured amount of Gore-Tex fabric around the calf for increased breathability and a nylon cuff that provides adequate protection without overkill. A simple, secure hook-and-loop closure can be manipulated wearing gloves. Best for medium-volume boots (but not big plastic doubles).
Weight: 8 oz.
Contact: (801) 278-5533; www.blackdiamondequipment.com.
Marmot Apex Glove
This two-piece glove system saves weight by multitasking. Use the shell and insert together in nasty weather, or wear either component alone in milder conditions as a hand-warmer or light shell. Cold and wet don't penetrate the combo of fleece insulation and Gore-Tex XCR liner. It has tough leather palms and good dexterity thanks to precise fit and stitching, and cinches fast with one-hand gauntlet drawcords.
Weight: 8 oz.
Contact: (707) 544-4590; www.marmot.com.