Winter Gear & Apparel

Winter Gear & Apparel

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England, Mike

Winter is many Montanans' favorite season, and for good reason – the crisp alpine air is nectar to the lungs, while the vast whiteness all around soothes the soul with its serene beauty. And all this underneath a big blue sky grown ever more dazzling by the monochromatic contrast of snow. The fields, forests, and mountains call to us as strongly as ever, and we cannot but obey.

At the same time, Montana winters are not to be trifled with – head out unprepared or with shoddy gear, and your once-promising day outdoors can quickly turn miserable. Luckily, there's no shortage of good gear and proper attire on the market. Here are some products that have recently crossed the O/B editorial desk; use them to help keep winter safe, comfortable, and fun.

SealSkinz Waterproof Beanie
No extremity deserves more protection than your noggin, and few hats will keep it as warm and dry as the Waterproof Beanie by SealSkinz. This snug-fitting skull cap has a fleece lining for extra warmth, yet it breathes well during exercise, so you can leave it on all day regardless of activity level. Being waterproof is handy – no more snow soaking through and causing a cold, wet cranium. Be advised: this beanie runs a bit small (my medium-sized head filled a L/XL), so consider going one size up. $40;

SealSkinz Waterproof Beanie

Diamond Grip IceTrekkers
If you buy nothing else this winter, pick up a pair of IceTrekkers by Diamond Grip. These burly shoe-spikes slip on easy, hold snug, and grab the ground like cougar claws, delivering you safely over just about any winter surface. I wear mine all winter long while hiking the M, Drinking Horse, and Sypes Canyon; they're also great for running, especially in low light. The only time one might need more traction is on the treacherous luge courses that develop on steep, shaded trails after a warm spell – in which case only mountaineering crampons will do. $42;

 Diamond Grip IceTrekkers

Point6 Hiking Tech Medium Mini Crew Socks
Yep, that's a mouthful... but don't worry about the cumbersome name, just slip 'em on your feet and enjoy the snug, comfy fit. Great for snowshoeing, hiking, or even cross-country skiing, the Point6 Hiking Tech Medium Mini Crew sock is the perfect combination of insulation and performance. The low-rise cut means you'll need to wear boots or gators to keep the snow out, and on really cold outings you might want to bulk up; but most days this sock is all you need for a warm, blister-free day afield. $18;

Point6 Hiking Sock

Yaktrax Walker
These classic traction devices are the original and still the best for low-impact activities and moderate conditions like slippery sidewalks, frozen-over driveways, and low-angle trails with packed powder. With its low price-point, the Yaktrax Walker is all about convenience: they can be left on in patches of dirt and pavement, and if you wear them out, just pick up another pair. I prefer the quiver approach, with three different styles (Yaktrax, IceTrekkers, and Microspikes) for ideal traction in all conditions. $20;

YakTrax Walker

Avex Autospout Water Bottle
Drinking enough water is even more important in the winter, so the experts say, as the effects of dehydration often go unnoticed. The Avex Autospout is a sturdy, BPA-free plastic bottle with a 25-ounce capacity and a sleek shape that fits most cup holders, so you can hydrate all the way to the trailhead. The selling point is the push-button action that pops up a drinking spout attached to a straw, allowing even the clumsiest person to drink one-handed and avoid dumping the beverage. The spout even has a locking spout-shield to protect it from dirt and grimy hands between swigs. $14;

Avex Autospout Water Bottle


Every backcountry pack should include a repair kit, and the Fix-n-Zip is a handy little device for repairing those broken zippers on coats, packs, and sleeping bags that diminish an otherwise excellent day outdoors. The Fix-n-Zip comes in multiple sizes, matched up to the coil and teeth of various zippers; so either measure your zippers first or pack a couple different sizes. $10;

Fix N Zip

Grate Chef Firestarters
Another essential element of your winter survival kit is firestarter – if you have any doubts, read Jack London's famous short story, "To Build a Fire." While technically for barbecues, Firestarters by Grate Chef are compact and self-contained, and work great for building a fire in the backcountry. Keep a couple in your pack, and stash an entire bag in your vehicle for those emergency roadside situations. $9 for a three-pack;

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