Gear List For Cold Weather Camping
By Rick Curtis
Director, Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University
Fabrics | Cotton | Polypropylene |
Wool and Fleece | Nylon Windshells |
Layering System | Head |
Upper Body | Hands | Lower Body |
Feet | Rain Gear | Miscellaneous
The clothing layers should consist of several different types of fabrics.
Cotton should be avoided in cold conditions. Cotton
absorbs and retains water, and therefore it will not keep you warm if it gets wet. Also it can be difficult to dry.
Polypropylene or other hydrophobic synthetic fabrics move the moisture (sweat) away from your body to the outside of the layer,
reducing evaporative cooling and keeping you dry and comfortable.
Wool or synthetic pile/fleece fabrics don't absorb water so they
keep you warm even if they get wet. Pile also dries very quickly. A wool sweater or pile jacket provides warmth on a chilly evening.
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Nylon or Nylon/Cotton Windshells reduce convective heat loss. For raingear, coated nylon is lightweight and works well. Waterproof,
breathable fabrics are also possible but are expensive.
The Layering System
Combinations of these types of fabrics creates a layering system. The purpose of a layering system is to be able to mix and match the layers of insulation to match the weather conditions and your activity level to maintain a comfortable body temperature without excess sweating (which can lead to heat loss).
Throughout the day you will need to layer up and layer down as conditions and activity levels change. Typically in the morning and evening when it is colder, you will need many layers on. The inner layer keeps the skin dry and comfortable. The middle layer provides some
insulation and protection from the elements. The outer layer provides insulation. The shell layer protects you from wind and rain. A waterproof rain jacket is essential in case of bad weather. The head layer is to reduce heat loss.
The feet layer is actually two layers. You should wear a lightweight synthetic liner sock against your foot which helps pass moisture away from your foot. On top of this you wear a wool/nylon blend hiking sock. People wonder why you should wear two socks. Since wool doesn't absorb water it passes the moisture from your foot outwards, keeping your foot dryer. If your feet stay damp, they get wrinkled and are more prone to blisters. Having two sock layers means that your socks will slide against each other so that the friction from your boots is between the sock layers rather than against your skin (friction against the skin leads to blisters).
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- Wool/Pile Hat(must cover ears)
- Brimmed hat (for sun protection)
- Midweight Synthetic Long Undershirt - polypropylene, or other hydrophobic, wicking fabric
- Expedition Weight Synthetic Long Undershirt - polypropylene, or other hydrophobic, wicking fabric or Wool
- Heavy Weight Pile Jacket /Wool Sweater (ex. Polartec 300™)
- Wind Jacket - nylon (can be same as rain jacket if waterproof/breathable - must fit over insulating layers)
- Winter Parka - synthetic or down filled (Optional)
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- Synthetic/Wool Glove liners
- Synthetic/Wool Mittens
- Underwear as needed.
- Midweight Synthetic long underwear bottoms - polypropylene, or other hydrophobic, wicking fabric
- Expedition Weight Synthetic long underwear bottoms - polypropylene, or other hydrophobic, wicking fabric Midweight Pile/Wool Pants (ex. Polartec 200™)
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- 1 pair of midweight hiking boots: Boots should extend above the ankle and be leather/fabric or all leather with lug soles for traction. It is best if the boots can be waterproof, either by treating the leather with a waterproofing compound before the trip or if the boots have a Gore-tex™ liner. Boots should fit comfortably with two pairs of socks, a light liner sock and a heavy wool sock. Above all, make sure that your boots are well broken in before you arrive.
Otherwise your feet will pay the price. We cannot emphasize this enough. Non-broken-in boots invariably cause chafing and blisters.
- 2-3 pairs of light synthetic/polypropylene liner socks: Wearing liner socks underneath wool socks helps to prevent chafing since the friction is between the two pairs of socks, not between the boots and your feet.
- 2-3 pairs of medium weight wool hiking socks: Wool keeps your feet warm even when wet and gives good cushioning. The higher the wool content of the socks the better (we recommend 85% wool, 15% nylon).
- Gaiters (Optional)
- Waterproof Rain Jacket - coated nylon or waterproof/breathable fabric
- Waterproof Rain Pants or Rain Chaps - coated nylon or waterproof/breathable fabric (Optional)
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- 2 1-quart water bottles or canteens
- 1 unbreakable cup with handle
- 1 unbreakable bowl
- 1 spoon
- 2 bandannas: multipurpose
- 1 flashlight with fresh, alkaline batteries (alkaline batteries last longer)
- 1 small towel
- 1 toilet kit: Just the essentials, biodegradable soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, comb, sunscreen, lip balm.
- 1 pocket knife
- 3 heavy plastic garbage bags - one for sleeping bag, one for inside backpack, one as a rain cover
- 1 pair of sunglasses or clip-ons
- 2 pairs glasses or contact lenses (if needed): If you wear contact lenses and will have difficulty cleaning them in the field it is suggested that you bring glasses instead. Please bring an eyeglass safety strap for your glasses.
- Any medications you will need to take during the trip (allergy medications etc.).
- 1 small notebook and pencil (Optional)
- 1 camera and film (Optional)
- Sleeping Bag - synthetic fill, rated to 0 degrees F [or combination of two sleeping bags or a sleeping bag with extra blankets for warmth]
- 1 closed cell foam sleeping pad (3/8 in.) Pads provide insulation from the ground and padding for more comfortable sleeping.
This list was prepared by Rick Curtis, Director,Outdoor Action Program at Princeton University.
Commercial use of this material is prohibited without express written permission from the author. Copyright © 1995 Rick Curtis, Outdoor
Action Program, Princeton University.Rcurtis@.princeton.edu