/ Recommendations and Advice for winter gear (Cairngorms)

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ConnorMak - on 29 Nov 2017
Hi All,

I was just seeking advice on some gear to take or any recommendations any of you have. I am travelling to the Cairngorms in Feb for a winter skills course with my local MR team (I am a novice in winter walking/climbing but would like to do more after this course). We have been given a brief kit list most of which i am fine with, just got a few queries.

What layering system should I use for my bottom half? What trousers are best a one layer waterproof or a soft shell with a waterproof over trouser?

We have been advised to take a rucksack between 45-50L with dry bags, in your experience is it better to take one big dry bag (around 45L) or is it better to take multiple smaller ie. one 20L one 10L and one 5L?

And can anyone recommend good snow goggles?

One last question is for a mid layer what do you think is best for the Scottish winter either a soft shell jacket or fleece, or should i go for more of an insulating jacket that is non-down?

I'm only a young pup with very little winter experience and a limited budget, but i can fork abit more cash if it means getting a good piece of kit that will last.

Many Thanks,
Dave Kerr - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

What have you got just now that might do? Bog standard fleeces and base layers will be fine to start with. You'll probably be ok with long johns + hillwalking trousers + waterproofs on your legs.
ConnorMak - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Im abit lacking on the gear front in the sense that i could do with a good pair of waterproof bottoms, i was looking at maybe a pair of Rab vapour rise trousers, would these be okay with just a single layer (long johns) underneath?

In terms of mid layer i have a couple of fleeces but i dont mind spending on a good mid layer as then ive got one if i do indeed start more winter walking/climbing.
jonnie3430 - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:
Hey, everyone knows what works for them, here's what works for me.

Trousers depends what I'm doing, if it's climbing I wear long John's to the base of the route and thick salopette water proofs for the route and walk off. This would be too warm for walking, so on a walking day wear thick softshell, or long John's and thin out door trousers with some light water proof trousers (decathlon,) in the bag if needed. I find I'm warm going up hill, but as soon as I stop, or am on the flat, need to get some layers on.

I'd take the one dry bag, I find that stuff doesn't get wet in snow as easily as it does in the rain so don't normally use one. When using one, I only put stuff in it that needs to be water proof, everything else stays on top.

Cheap goggles are good goggles! They spend a lot of time at the bottom of your bag, so can get easily damaged, which is a shame for good kit. I've used scratched up clear and orange lenses without drama before. I do have a pair of double lens ones that is good for stopping them steaming up, but save them for skiing.

Fleece for a mid layer, love my Patagonia R1 hoodie, the hood, cuffs and long waist are great. If I need a layer on top of that for walking uphill (snow, spindrift, etc.) I put on a Montane Featherlight smock, and the water proof jacket goes on when on the flat or at the start of a route. (Am a paramo user, they're comfy like softshell and a wee bit warmer than a hard shell.)

I also have a belay jacket that gets thrown over the top of whatever when I stop, I really like the old Patagonia das parkas, the colourful ones.

Most my kit is second hand, I break stuff easily, so don't see the point in buying new for it to look second hand a week later. Makes things about half price if you shop around.

Hope this helps. My first couple of seasons were seeing what worked for me and what didn't.
Post edited at 23:31
ConnorMak - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to jonnie3430:

Thanks alot! I'll have a deek around see if i can find any deals or second hand stuff.
nathan79 - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

Berghaus deluge are decent budget waterproof bottoms. Usually can be had for less than £40.

Aldi/Lidl offer some good thermals this time of your so check out your local shops.

Quechua stuff from Decathlon is very good back for your buck if the fit is right for you.

Thermal/fleece/waterproof is a good trio, with a synthetic insulation option to go over/under the waterproof when you need the extra warmth.

Be sure you have good glove options.
ConnorMak - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to nathan79:

Thankyou! I'll be sure to have a look.

Ive just bought some black diamond punishers for when im up on the hills. Thinking of taking maybe a underlayer glove for if things get real cold and will be purchasing a couple of fleece gloves for the ascent and descent.
jonnie3430 - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

Dickies insulated work glove that are nikwaxed are great for walking in, about £15. I'd recommend warm mitts too, dachsteins are a cheap option to get started.
StuMsg - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

I pretty much always wear the following in winter now, regardless of walking/climbing/ski touring:

- legs: baselayer (long johns type things) if it's very cold or very windy followed by close fitting softshell salopettes. Waterproof trousers in bag incase the weather gets wild;

- top: long sleeve base layer (I like merino wool but whatever you usual is will be fine), that's covered by the bib of the salopettes then a softshell jacket. Belay jacket and hard shell in the rucksack. Sometimes I'll wear the belay jacket and leave the softshell depending on the conditions. Belay jacke is always synthetic, sometimes have a spare down jacket with me too.

- Thin but tough gloves for walking/climbing, mits/thick gloves for when still or skiing, extra spare gloves in the bag too. Balaclava but no hat! when walking I'm too warm for a hat or if it's windy I need the face/wind protection too so balaclava works better for me.
nickcj - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

If you're doing winter skills with mr then there could be quite alot of standing around so you'll need lots of layers. But don't wear them all walking in or when digging as you'll be sweating buckets!

A cheap pair of waterproof overtrousers are useful for sliding and sitting in the snow plus it's not then end of the world if you catch them with crampons.

A one trouser system for me would be paramo salopettes. They've kept me warm, dry and comfortable in Scotland for over ten years now. I wouldn't wear anything else now.

When you open your rucksack it can quickly fill with snow if it's breezy so smaller, separate dry bags make it easier to find your stuff and keep it dry.

You want clear or yellow lenses for navigating in poor visibility in Scotland. Julbo make the best. Also useful when helicopters are near by!

Make sure your liner gloves fit under your punishers. Cheap work gloves are good for walk ins. Take lots as they quickly get wet. Mittens are best for keeping hands warm and useful spares. You could layer over your other gloves if needed.

A fleece mid layer would be more breathable under a waterproof shell then take a synthetic belay jacket to go over top of everything.

Good luck and talk to other team members as they'll have lots of experience.
GarethSL on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

> We have been advised to take a rucksack between 45-50L with dry bags, in your experience is it better to take one big dry bag (around 45L) or is it better to take multiple smaller ie. one 20L one 10L and one 5L?

I use a number of individual dry-bags. primarily for things I really don't want to get wet. E.g. one for my down jacket, one for spare gloves, one for the 'go-bag', one for the first aid kit etc. The danger with using only one is that any water that gets inside, stays inside.

The neat thing with this is that you can chose different colours, so you know exactly what is inside each bag and this saves rummaging through your entire pack, or pulling everything out to find something specific.

Climbing gear, helmets etc can just be thrown in on top as these will get wet anyway.
ConnorMak - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to jonnie3430:

Cheers! Ill take a look at them got plenty of nikwax lying about so ill make use of it.
ConnorMak - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to StuMsg:

Cheers answered pretty much evrrything i was hoping for. Hadnt thought of a belay jacket but i think we'll be stood around alot so it could be a useful purchase.
ConnorMak - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to nickcj:

Thanks very much! I'll be sure to ask them at the next few exercises.
ConnorMak - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

Yeh this was my thinking, any ideas what are good size options for a 45-50L rucksack from your experience?
jonnie3430 - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

I think you can get them from machine mart shops. Also have a look at what have, I rate their venitex binmans gloves for skiing and hanging around, again with lots of nikwax.
GarethSL on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

I typically have 3 or 4 dry bags with me.

For example:
10L (compressible) - Down jacket
5L - Extra baselayer, spare gloves, neck gaiter & hat
3L - Toilet paper, hand sanitiser, matches
3L - First aid kit

That about does it for me. Not sure if you need extra for any MR gear you will be carrying tho (if that requires keeping dry or not).
planetmarshall on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

> What layering system should I use for my bottom half? What trousers are best a one layer waterproof or a soft shell with a waterproof over trouser?

Difficult questions to answer because it's very individual. Most general advice I can give is try not to spend much (or any) money until you have some idea what you're comfortable with. FWIW I climb in a pair of powerstretch leggings (from MEC in Canada but most brands, including Rab, do an equivalent) and waterproof hardshell. I think this is the most versatile combination - if you're feeling spendy then a softshell equivalent is useful for better weather.

> One last question is for a mid layer what do you think is best for the Scottish winter either a soft shell jacket or fleece, or should i go for more of an insulating jacket that is non-down?

Again, FWIW, I climb in an ME Eclipse-T ( a synthetic lightweight fleece type thing ) and a hardshell (Jottnar thingy). I keep a belay jacket and extra layer in the bag. If I climbed in an insulating jacket, I'd incinerate.

JSTaylor - on 30 Nov 2017
olddirtydoggy - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

Whatever fits you best. Just make sure the bag has ice axe loops or some kind of stowage straps for carrying them safely. Personally the Lowe Alpine back system doesn't feel good to me but the Montane one does. We're all different shapes.
ConnorMak - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to GarethSL:

Yeh think we'll all be carrying a shovel, transceiver and snow probe so i'll take a spare biggish one
ConnorMak - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to planetmarshall:

Cheers, think i'll go for an under layer and hard shell bit i'll test some varieties to see what i feel comfortable in
ConnorMak - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to JSTaylor:

Excellent goggles where the thing i was struggling to find!
ConnorMak - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to olddirtydoggy:

Thankyou! Was gunna go Lowe Alpine mountain ascent 40:50 but i'll have a look round some shops in jan and try before i buy
gethin_allen on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

As far as goggles go, I would buy some cheap double lens items (aldi have a skiing special on at the moment with goggles for £7.99). I've hardly ever needed goggles and use sunglasses for most stuff so the goggles sit in the bag getting squashed and scratched by all the sharp stuff you generally carry when winter climbing.

You'll want a few dry bags so you can separate out the stuff that absolutely needs to stay dry (phones, keys, batteries, emergency stuff) from stuff that ideally wants to be dry but will probably be needed and snow may get into when you access it (spare gloves, socks, hat, base layer).
Lowe Alpine do so good and reasonably priced rucksacks and you can probably find a good sack second hand on E-bay.
rackandruin - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:
Buffalo Mitts. They're cheap, warm and not affected by wet, just wring them out and put them back on. Always good to have a spare pair with you in winter. Put a small hole near the wrist bit and tie elastic idiot loops to them so they dont get dropped or blow away.
Wrap a cheap balaclava around the goggles to stop them getting scratched in the pack. Generally if you need goggles you'll want a balaclava especially if standing around on a course.
Visit Decathlon for most of the other stuff.
Post edited at 15:25
mutt - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

this will definitely be covered in your winter skills course but for the official answer you would do well to read

and remember, because other people have recommendations they don't necessarily know what they are talking about. In winter mountaineering it is always best to know your own capabilities and decide based on the best advice you can get. You have chosen well to take a course.

geordiepie - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

For legwear go lightweight thermals, normal walking trousers and waterproofs. You might want gaiters cos they'll save your trousers from the inevitable crampon holes. I wouldn't bother with vapour rise or softshells for your first trip - you'll have a better idea what you want by the end of the course.

Doesn't really matter about drybag size. I used to just use plastic bags. A small fully waterproof bag for phone etc is essential though

Look on Sportpursuit for goggles. Yellow/light lenses are what you want not dark ones. Take sunglasses for if it's bright.

As suggested Patgonia R1 hoody is great but any thin fleece will do the job. You'll need a warm layer as well - a warm Primaloft jacket is a godsend in winter

Check out outdoor gear exchange group on Facebook for second hand stuff
olddirtydoggy - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

If you're passing through Derby way at Alfreton you might find Rab's open day on wednesday useful. The parent company owns Lowe Alpine and we got my wife a Mountain Attack there for about £35 down from roughly £100. Not worth a planned trip as stock varies all the time but a passing detour could pay off. Mountain Equipment also have open days at Hyde but have a full time factory shop at Beeston called Magic Mountain.
AlanLittle - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

Black Crevice make decent reasonably priced ski goggles. I assume Decathlon's would probably be ok too.
CurlyStevo - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:
First I'd get down to decathlon.

Their soft shells are excellent and at a fraction of the price. Personally I'd avoid anything with a membrane in it.

Also their double lens ski goggles cost next to nothing and work fine.

Bare in mind winter kit gets trashed and lost down slopes so I wouldn't shell out more than you have to.

These look pretty descent not used them though

I've got these and they are better than soft shells I've paid 4 times more for
Post edited at 21:02
CurlyStevo - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:
On your top half I'd aim for a base layer with a good insulating layer above it (cheap thick fleece is fine here). For really cold days you may want another thin fleece and / or an extra or very thick base layer.

On top of that a stretchy soft shell non membrane jacket, you don't want insulation in this but a thick material is best for keeping out the wind and wetness. Take an insulated soft shell pertex style (non stretchy material is best here) belay jacket (non membrane with permaloft filling is ideal - not any kind of down) for when you are stopped still or belaying. You put the belay jacket on top of everything else so make sure its big enough and has a good helmet compatible hood. You defo need water proof trousers, but I would only wear them when its necessary my self. As for a water proof jacket, its a good idea to have one, but quite rare I use it winter climbing myself.

The soft shells need to be a dense weave and water repellent. I would imagine you can pick up a good jacket at decathalon as well as the troos I linked and the fleece / base layers (for top and bottom). Tbh their water proofs are probably ok too if you don't have any.

They key to winter layering IMO is never to sweat too much, which is why non membrane softshell is so good. You keep a warm belay jacket in your bag to stick on when you stop still to keep warm. But once moving take it off again. The clothes you wear when moving should definitely by far too cold to wear alone when stopped still.

Cheap but thick waterproof mitts are a real winner too, as they are much warmer than gloves and great for belaying in. Don't forget a balaclava and also a snood.
Post edited at 21:19
CurlyStevo - on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:
Mitts I don't climb in, but for belaying they are great. You want atleast two pairs of gloves / mitts anyway as loosing one if you don't could be catastrophic!

maybe something like

The ones I have are outdoor design summit inferno. Cost about 25 quid but they don't make them now.

other ideas
Post edited at 21:45
Ben Sharp - on 02 Dec 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

All just my opinion and what works for me (sometimes)...a lot of winter is spent being too hot or too cold, the goal is to stay dry not warm.

I'll assume you've got well fitting, comfy boots already. If not then that should be your priority imo. Good boots combined with pack-a-mac w/proofs and charity shop joggers/fleeces beats borrowed badly fitting boots with gucci clothing every time.

Second thing to spend your money on (imo) would be a thick belay jacket.

There's no perfect combination of clothing for scottish winter and you'll end up with a set of different clothing for different conditions - you'll just be uncomfortable sometimes until you get there! You mentioned rab vapour rise trousers which are a good example. Perfect in a lot of conditions but if it's a wet damp day or you go practicing ice axe arrest in damp snow then they'll get wet and you'll get cold. They would be a great winter trouser for you but get some long johns to layer underneath if it's cold and buy some w/proof over trousers for if it's wet as well (generally to go over the lj's). You've then got 3(or 4) combinations of what to wear - rab vr alone (dryish weather), rab vr with lj's underneath (dry and cold), lj's and w/proof trousers (wet!). You could wear the vr with the wproof trousers but that wouldn't work for me, too bulky and it's a warm combination (if it's wet enough to need wproofs it wont be that cold). If you can't budget for both then go with w/proof over trousers and jogger bottoms, fleece trs or long johns. You can pretty much go out in any scottish winter conditions in joggers and over trousers, that can't be said of softshells. 90% of the time I wear lined non-zip up wproof trs with merino long johns and quite a healthy build up of duct tape around the ankles but then I'm a cheap skate and I hate faffing with trousers or getting changed throughout the day. Usually too warm on the walk in and too cold on the route so must be about right!

You can be pretty comfortable on your top layer for very little money. i would forget the soft-shell unless it's something you really want and get a decent fitting hard shell. A close fitting micro fleece with a base layer underneath and a hard shell on top would be comfortable for most people when moving. Your clothes need to fit really well, it makes a huge difference and a baggy wproof jacket really wont work as well as it should. A lot of people make the mistake of putting thick layers on when you're moving around, on a walk in I'll often just wear a base layer. If it's not raining and you've just got a base layer on you'll be as dry as you can be. You get cold as soon as you stop moving but you just put on your belay jacket. If you get really cold while moving you can just cut the wind out with your wproof jacket. If you're very fit and you expect to be with people that aren't then another insulation layer under your hard shell is an option to keep you warm if you're moving slow.

Hands. Do a search on here for gloves in the winter forum and make a big pot of tea, there's a ton of cheap options and I personally avoid anything waterproof and climbing specific. You just end up fighting with wet twisted liners. Many cheap gloves are a better option and something like the £15 yellow leather sheepskin lined style "guide" gloves are great. A cheap pair of mitts work very well, it's nice knowing that even if all your gloves (and your mitts!) get soaked then you can stick your hands in your mitts and they'll still keep you warm enough. A wet pair of £80 wproof climbing gloves with twisted liners is the ultimate kick in the balls when you're out and about with people wearing £5 freezer gloves and £10 mittens from aldi with warm hands! Oversized washing up gloves with liners in work well in the wet too. If in doubt just take lots of fleece glvoes and dump then in the bottom of your bag when they get wet.

Bolle do some clear lensed safety goggles you can pick up for around £10 which is all i've used, they're shit and they steam up but occasionally you can see better through steamed up goggles than with bare eyes. It's rare (for me anyway) to find the kind of conditions where you really need goggles apart from the half an hour after a top out while you're getting to lower ground. I've looked at nicer goggles before but I'm not quite ready to believe that spending 4 times as much will mean you don't get condensation-maybe i'm wrong a lot of people swear by clear goggles. I've slowly crawled out of a cairngorm plateau hoolie with a merino buff pulled up over my head under my helmet like a sock/tunnel in front of my face before because I was getting so pissed off with steamy goggles that I ditched them. It worked surprisingly well. Some people swear by their goggles though so I'm probably just not doing it right, I believe keeping them tucked close to your skin so they stay warm can help.

Dry bags and packing. I used to have a drawing of the inside of my bag that I packed away on top of my winter kit at the end of every winter so I could remember what order to put everything in when the next season comes around. You dont want to be digging around in the bottom of your bag for your water or depositing the contents of your sack in the snow while you take your fleece off. When you're walking in you'll have your walk in gloves on and a hat,you'll need access to your water (dont put it next to your crampons ;p), access to your wproof jacket if its not on, map/guidebook and your belay jacket if you stop. So they go at the top. You'll pur your crampons on at some point, you want your wproof trousers above those if you have overtrousers to put on. If you're putting your crampons on you'll probably have your axe out soon, so you'll want some thicker gloves to stop the metal cooling your hands. You're probably going to start moving slower as well so it'll be time for your mid layer etc. etc. Belay jacket always at the top, its a lot of weight to carry if you're not putting it on every single time you stop, if you cant drop your sack and put it on in 10 seconds you're not getting the most out of probably the best piece of winter kit every invented.

Most things dont need to be kept dry imo so you only really need a dry bag for your mid layers and gloves/hats etc and a small one for your phone, car keys, spare batteries and torches. 20ltrs is a good size, you can roll a 20ltr bag down to 10ltrs but you cant expand a 10lrt bag to 20. I usually use freezer bags for my food, in my belay jacket pockets usually - saves you being the guy whose tuppaware box lid is flying through the air while they're trying to cram the rest of their snow covered kit back in their bag before it blows away. Quickly sliding your belay jacket out of the top of your bag and you're all toasty warm eating your lunch in no time.

Quite a lot of climbers manage with 25-35ltr sacks - rack, ropes, helmet, clothes, food etc. Don't carry too much. I would go winter walking with a 20ltr bag - not saying do that (if the MR say take a 45ltr sack then I'm not going to be the one to say otherwise) but just as an example of the kind of kit you want to lug around on your back. If you're stuffing a 45ltr sack full you've got too much and everything will be worse, you're legs will take more strain, you'll work harder, sweat more, get colder... Things dont pack as well in dry bags, ask yourself how bad is it if this gets wet and how likely is it to get wet?, in anything but torrential rain then i don't usually fully do my dry bags up or i squeeze things into my bag and then roll the tops up once they're in. Don't forget a bag for your rubbish, nothing worse than finding a rotton bannana skin tucked into the side pocket of your rucksack two months down the line.
Doug on 02 Dec 2017
In reply to Ben Sharp:

"the goal is to stay dry not warm."

I would have said the opposite, especially for day trips or where you have good drying facilities, but then I like pile & pertex type gear for Scotland in winter
Ben Sharp - on 02 Dec 2017
In reply to Doug:
Just what works for me like I say and I've always been a hard she'll advocate but of course there are other ways. Even with pile and paramo type "soft waterproofs" though they work by keeping the fibres next to your skin dry, either by having the thin end of the fibres next to your skin so your heat helps the moisture to wick outwards to the thicker fabrics (buffalo etc) or by capillary action pushing the water out (paramo) . They're also usually worn in place of a mid layer with big zipped or Velcro openings. The idea being when you start getting sweaty you can dump heat and moisture quickly and avoid the build up of moisture inside your clothes. I.e. the power of pile is it's all aimed at keeping you dry inside. Whatever system you use the less damp fabric next to your skin the better. A lot of people new to winter fun tend to wrap up too warm, getting drenched in sweat and then getting chilled when they stop and that's what my advice was aimed at, staying warm is a lot easier when you're dry. Pile and paramo have their advocates but I'd say for someone starting out who already has fleeces and normal walking gear going with the hard shell layering system is more accessible.
Post edited at 13:28
Taurig on 23 Dec 2017
In reply to ConnorMak:

On the subject of goggles, I would strongly recommend going for a ski goggle with a dual lens and anti-fog coating. Even a cheap pair of these will be better than a single layer lens, and not even that expensive from Decathlon e.g.

If the weather is bad enough to need goggles you probably need all the help you can get, so avoid the fog!

Also, use a goggle bag, or get one if yours don't come with one. I don't get all the talk of scratched lenses above personally; use a goggle pouch, stick them a lid pocket, voila, years of unscathed lenses (IME)!

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