David Siegel’s Winter Sports Clothing and Gear Porn

Outerwear, footwear, and gear for winter

Image for post
Image for post

This is part of my Product Porn series.

If you’re interested in learning to ski, come to Ski Better Faster.

I have to admit that when I walk into an REI store I feel at home. I can easily spend two hours there without buying a thing. Here are my recommendations for winter clothing and gear. I have a separate video covering ski equipment.

What do I look for? I am a minimalist. I want things to be lightweight, high performance, and expensive. Even better if I can get the same product on sale. This page is biased toward adult men’s products in the US in the color black, but women’s and European versions and other colors are usually available.

One metric I use for all my gear is — how much am I paying per use over the life of the product? The closer that number is to $1, the better. It can take a decade to get that much use out of an expensive piece of specialized gear, so try to buy on sale!

Outerwear

Image for post
Image for post

Uniqlo merino wool sweaters. Ten years ago, this sweater would have cost $200. They come in at least four colors and two styles. I probably have 6 of them, maybe more. I always hand wash, and you should, too. $40

Son of a Tailor Zero Waste Custom Pullover. Send your measurements and they will make you a custom pullover with zero waste products. This is one of those big Kickstarter winners, 100 percent funded in 39 minutes, you must pay in Danish kroner. This is the future of knitwear. Worth trying!

Footwear

My choices in footwear tend toward products with extreme warmth and high traction. I have osteoporosis. While I’m not likely to fall down, if I do, it will probably have disastrous consequences. I haven’t tried any of the boots here, so I can’t tell you how they fit. For more choices, visit Winter Walking.

Image for post
Image for post
The best spikes are the ones you have with you. These are cheap, so you can have a pair in the car, at home, and at work. $12
Image for post
Image for post
Kickspike Boots. If you want retractable spikes, look no further! Kick in the button and the spikes extend, kick again and they retract. These boots have inflexible rocker soles, but if you live in Canada you might want to make them your everyday boots. Click through and watch the video. $300
Image for post
Image for post
Merrell Coldpack Ice Polar Waterproof Boot. This isn’t the warmest boot, but the blue-diamond sole makes it 10x better for walking on ice. $100–300 on Amazon.
Image for post
Image for post
Muck Men’s Arctic Outpost with Blue Diamond Sole. Probably warmer than the Merrell and with more blue “diamonds,” this is another very practical boot with the right sole. $180
Image for post
Image for post
Olang Canada makes a wide range of fashion boots for men and women that have folding ice cleats built into the soles. Here’s a sweet video.
Image for post
Image for post
Glovii Battery Powered Insoles. Li-Po batteries can come in any shape, so they will be thinner than Li-ion batteries. Comes with a pocket remote. I would combine these soles with either of the boots above. $150

I’m excited to find the first versions of aerogel insoles and have ordered my first pair: the Toasty Feet insoles ($15). Beware that some aerogel insoles don’t have aerogel at the toes. I will update this after a proper test.

Down Sweaters

Down sweaters are popular because they pack so much bang for the buck. I wear mine several times a week, often just with a t-shirt underneath. The fit is more important than anything else — it has to be snug to keep you warm. I wish I could find one with handwarmer pockets insulated on both sides — if you know of one, please tell me.

Image for post
Image for post

Uniqlo Down Sweater. Again, the amazing thing about Uniqlo is the value for money. I keep this sweater stuffed into its own pocket and just toss it in my pack, especially on a flight. It’s light, it packs down to nothing, and it’s great when you don’t need the warmest but just want flexibility. Comes in several colors. $49 discounted from $69 at the time of writing.

Recycled Down Sweater by Outerwear Classic. The down has been reclaimed and reconditioned, so you’re not wearing virgin down. This isn’t minimal (it’s 80 percent down, 20 percent feathers), but it says something about you. £149.

Image for post
Image for post

Northface Men’s Summit Down Hoodie. This 800-fillpower jacket is very, very warm. Combine it with a hardshell for snow and you have a great outdoor combination. It’s not a parka. It’s far too warm for just everyday wear. But between about 20 and 40 degrees F, it’s perfect. And it’s far less expensive than the Hybridge Light jacket from Canada goose. $375

I have the Arcteryx Cerium 850-fill power LT hoody in this green color. I like it because it has less down than the Northface, so it’s not quite as warm, but it packs very small and is super versatile. It’s slim! $380

Winter Jackets

There are remarkably few good parkas on the market now. I think many people are migrating toward more layers for sports. The one brand I’ve moved away from is Arcteryx. They went all-American, so their sizes are now wide and their necks are huge. I have several of their Thinsulate jackets that simply aren’t that warm. Down is better when you’re in the back country or in deep powder.

I prefer the look and freedom of a parka with no hood. I think it’s more flexible, better around town, better with a hat and goggles. But those days are over — now everything has a hood.

I much prefer goose down to Thinsulate, but there’s a new entrant in the insulation game: aerogels.

Image for post
Image for post

The Descente Prospect is a proper ski parka. It has a detachable hood (astonishing!) and plenty of down to keep you warm on the chair lift. $765

For a hooded parka, I like the Mammut Eiderjoch pro. This down jacket is cut slimmer than the Arcteryx and Northface products and has that bomber feel to it. $600 (less than their hard shell!)

I love Northwest Tech (NWT3K) jackets, not because they have the best performance, but because you can completely custom-design your own jacket and pants using their online design tool. You even choose the pockets, zipper locations, zipper colors, and velcro colors. I think I’ve already spent about two hours there just messing around with all the combinations — it’s addicting! Price for a jacket is in the $450–500 range.

Northface 800 Fillpower Summit Belay Jacket. There are a few days (depending where you live) when the temperature is below -15 degrees C, and you still need to be outside. When the temperature is in the single-digits Fahrenheit, I usually get out my 800-fillpower expedition parka. This thing is an oven. You put it on outside, and you take it off as soon as you get inside. Be warned; if it’s cold enough to need this parka, you’d better have the matching pants, or your legs will freeze solid. You cannot wear this jacket above 15 degrees F/-12 degrees C — it will make you sweat, you’ll have to open it, and you’ll be cold. Very good for Antarctica. $550

Oros claims to have the warmest parka using their aerogel insulation at about half the price of down. Is it a game changer? Try it and let me know. $350

Aerogels

We’re at the beginning of a new era in insulation. I hope aerogels put a lot of Hungarian goose farmers out of business. We could see smart designs that are easy to adjust for the temperature, giving them wider range, and eventually they may automatically adjust (I have ideas on this in case anyone is interested). We may need to learn how to design aerogel garments for performance, fit, washability, and longevity. They have already been through one design cycle and turned decidedly urban for the current lineup.

While aerogels may be the next big thing, Oros is not the next big company. While researching this piece I found them and ordered their mittens. The mittens came within a few days. The unboxing was one of the biggest unboxing disappointments I’ve ever had! I put my hand in, only to discover that they put fabric dividers between the fingers. That’s going to be colder! Why would they do that? And the large size wasn’t that large. I was determined to return them, because I could tell they were going to be too cold.

So I emailed them every day for three days and got no response. I tweeted at them for two days and got nothing. On the fifth day, I called and they said they were very sorry they never saw my email messages. They said I could only return the mittens if they were in new-with-tags condition. They claimed that the fabric separators help keep fingers warmer. I said I don’t mind trying, but you need to give me an unconditional satisfaction guarantee. I’ll take them skiing for two weeks and return them if they are colder than my down mittens. They said no, they can’t do that.

For a new company with a new product, I recommend a customer-satisfaction guarantee, rather than a warranty against defects. This is how New Balance broke into the running-shoe market. If they are so sure their mittens are warm, then they should have some skin in the game and let me try them.

I think aerogels could be the future. I don’t see any reason why Oros should be the company to lead us into that future.

Hard Shells

I think of a hard shell as the thing you put on when the weather is at its worst: cold, wet, windy. It has to be completely wind and waterproof yet breathable. I wear mine nine months out of the year. Combine it with a down sweater and you have a parka. I think pit zips are a huge plus — I use mine regularly.

Image for post
Image for post

Mammut is the king of this category, with about two dozen different offerings, from $200 to $1,300. Mammut clothing is cut slimmer than Arcteryx and Northface, but you pay for the Swissness. The first one is the Kento, which is on sale at $135 at the time of writing (normally $230), a fantastic value. Comes in five colors.

Mammut Norward Advanced is one of their high-end shells. At $750, it’s in the middle of their price range! (I’d love one of these if Mammut wants to send me one to review.) This is the serious gear you take to Nepal. (Of course, people in Nepal just wear t-shirts and windbreakers.)

My Arcteryx Sidewinder is about ten years old now and still going very strong. I like the offset chin zip very much. Before I need a new one, I will have paid about $1 per use (I think I paid $450 for mine ten years ago), though I am attracted to this bright green one. Compare with the Norward above. Comes in three colors. $750

The LL Bean North Col is a solid mid-range choice that should serve for many years. Looks sharp. Does not have pit zips.

The Millet Kamet Light is high-performance gear at a good price from France. I love their packs and clothing. Europeans know the brand; people in North America should, too.

And hey, if your buddy’s ice axe ever gouges a hole in your hard shell, you can always patch it with a Gore-tex patch.

Pants

Pretty much all manufacturers have Gore-Tex pants now. Around $400, I don’t see much difference between them. Let fit be your guide. Mine are from Millet, I got them in Chamonix on sale. I try to get such things when they are half off.

News: The Endeavor pant by Oros claims to be the new warmest pant. You don’t need super warm pants unless you plan to be out in the very cold for a long time, but you may want these on days when you wear your summit (or Endeavor) parka. Just the thing a lift operator needs to stay warm all day.

Ski Suits

For a one-piece ski suit, down is too warm! You want thinsulate. If it’s too cold for your ski suit, it’s probably too cold for you to ski. I really prefer skiing in a one-piece suit, even though they are now completely out of fashion. Maybe I can help bring them back. For one-piece suits, I recommend Tobe. They don’t really make ski suits, they are more snowmobile/snowboard suits, but they are about as close to what I would buy today as anything else. You need less insulation than you think! They all have removable hoods, which I appreciate. Tobe doesn’t do fashion at all, their color schemes are ugly, the cut is too wide (their customers are fat snowmobilers), but they do make good hard-shell-style suits. I would love to work with them to design a proper ski suit — I sent them an idea they liked, but they never followed up.

Image for post
Image for post

Tobe Odin Monosuit is an uninsulated hardshell with a lot of performance features and nothing ugly on the outside. I would actually wear this if it would fit slim people (I haven’t tried so I don’t know). Add your mid-layer fleece or down sweater to suit the use and weather. $1,000

Tobe Rex Suit. Another uninsulated monoshell. This isn’t a bad way to go if you like zippers. Might be too baggy for skiers. $1,000

Tobe Tiro Suit. Some insulation, worse color choices, better price, more practical for front-side skiers, plus — the snowmobile look! $630

Macer Mono Suit is their attempt at a real ski suit. It’s slimmer, with an integrated hood in a distinctive farmer/cargo style. I could do better if they would work with me. This one is $800

You would think one company would make awesome one-piece ski suits for skiers, especially for $1,000. We used to have them. Nevica was great. But they are all gone now. Skiers may check Peter Glenn for a few options.

Hats

For me, hats aren’t a product, they are a service. I pay a certain amount each year to have hats, and they come and go pretty much as they please. Occasionally, one will disappear and reappear years later. Every time I lose a hat, someone else gets one, so it’s all good. A merino-wool hats is perfect for fall but not warm enough for winter.

Image for post
Image for post

Millet Wool Ski Hat. There must be other really great ski hats in the world, but this is my favorite. I can’t get them in the US, so I get them when I’m in Europe. If I find another one as good, I’ll let you know. £20

Arcteryx Rho beanie. A good wool hat that may be as comfortable as the Millet, I don’t know. Haven’t tried it, but it looks good.

Outdoor Research Windstopper Wind Warrior really works. It’s not a high-fashion item but wow, if you need a hat like I need a hat, this one is very effective.

Mountain Hardwear Dome Perignon Lite Beanie. There are two versions: one with a good logo (shown) and one with a bad logo (which I got from Amazon). I hope you get the good one, it’s a very good hat. For a Windstopper hat, my first choice would probably be the OR.

Mittens & Gloves

I don’t know why people wear gloves, even around town. I wear mittens. I don’t have large hands, but I always get large or extra-large mittens — I don’t like cold fingers! Do not get glove liners, don’t separate your fingers unless it just isn’t that cold out.

Image for post
Image for post

Montane Light Mittens. I love these mittens and wear them when it’s above say 6 degrees C (40 degrees F). They compress into your pocket, they don’t make you sweaty, and they easily go under my other mittens to make a double-mitten system. You may need to order from Europe or find something similar. $55

Camp Tempest Mitt. I have these in large and my size-large Montane mittens fit right inside them for a super versatile system. Great for skiing, because you can add or delete the inner mittens depending on temperature. This system works great above about 25 degrees F. $80

Outdoor Research Transcendent 650-Fillpower Mittens — great for around town or outside on cold but not super-cold days. $69

Camp down mittens. I love Camp products. These may be as warm as the Northface, but they may not.

Northface Down 700-Fillpower Expedition mitts. I have a pair that’s about 15 years old and still going very strong. I probably paid $120 for them originally and have probably worn them about 120 times now. $165

Image for post
Image for post

Marmot Men’s Windstopper Glove. Above about 8 degrees C/45 degrees F, you may want a Windstopper glove for cycling, hiking, etc. If you prefer gloves, try a fleece-lined Windstopper glove. If it isn’t lined, forget it — the seams will wick the cold out of your fingers. $30

Cashmere Scarf

Image for post
Image for post

You can get balaclavas and neck gators galore, but I think the right tool for the job is a good-old Cashmere scarf. It’s versatile, it looks great hanging down, and it’ll save you if you’re stuck in a cold windstorm. This one comes in dozens of colors. Absolutely not the same color as the parka! $49

Goggles

Image for post
Image for post

Zionor Magnetic Goggles. Some day, we will all use goggles with lenses that lighten and darken either automatically (photochromic) or at the touch of a button (Oakley Prism React), or an app. But that day is not here yet. The goggles just aren’t good enough. So for now, we need multiple lenses. I love the Zionors because they are affordable and you can get a ton of different lenses for them. They really snap on! It’s easy to carry another lens in your pocket, and a lens change can be done in seconds. They have double lenses and don’t fog up. I use black, green, and yellow. I have a demo on my equipment video.

I don’t recommend prescription goggles, because you can’t change lenses unless you are into it for at least $500. If you can wear contacts plus Zionor goggles, that’s best on the snow and in the lodge.

Retailers

You can’t get everything at Amazon! Here are some of my favorite places to shop:

Enlightened Equipment
The Warming Store
Moosejaw
BackCountry
Ultralight Outdoor Gear Lab — great product reviews
Hyperlight Mountain Gear — exotic materials, and prices!
Mountain Gear
Apex boots are the beginning of a new kind of ski boot. They aren’t for people who get cold feet. I wish they had aerogel insulation!
Goode makes the world’s lightest skis and poles
Alpine Extreme — when you’re going to Antarctica
Everest Gear — when you’re going to Nepal
Hiking Finland — when you’re going to …
Oros — aerogel-insulated sportswear
Pro Mountain Sports
Bergzeit in the UK
State Cashmere — warm fashion items at reasonable prices

If you’re interested in learning to ski, come to Ski Better Faster.

All my Product Porn pages are at dsiegel.com. The next one is Kitchenware.

Image for post
Image for post

David Siegel is a serial entrepreneur, consultant, and public speaker in Washington, DC. He is the founder of the Pillar Project and 2030. He is the author of The Token Handbook, Open Stanford, The Culture Deck, Climate Curious, and The Nine Act Structure. He gives speeches to audiences around the world — see his speaker page if you would like him to speak at your next event. His full body of work is at dsiegel.com.

Written by

Provocateur, professional heretic, slayer of myths, speaker of truthiness to powerfulness, and defender of the Oxford comma.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store