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Best clothing for cold-weather trad climbing?
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Dec 28, 2009
n cascades
I know what I wear, but what does everyone else wear when its 40 degrees out and windy? I hate freezing my ass off at a belay, but I also don't like having to keep getting in and out of a pack to change between climbing clothes and belaying clothes... What works for you? Jesse Davidson
From san diego, ca
Joined May 30, 2007
71 points
Dec 28, 2009
OMG, I winz!!!
Belay jacket. At 40 you probably don't need a DAS or anything but a light montbell jacket or other light puffy piece that goes over your reg clothing works well. I have a 9oz hooded synthetic that rocks for that sort of light belay jacket duty. Stuff it in a little stuff sack and clip to back of harness for multipitch. No pack needed.

EDIT: Maybe gloves too.
Chris Plesko
From Westminster, CO
Joined Oct 18, 2007
560 points
Dec 28, 2009
Profiley Styley
Chris Plesko wrote:
Belay jacket. At 40 you probably don't need a DAS or anything but a light montbell jacket or other light puffy piece that goes over your reg clothing works well.

+1. I have a MontBell UL Thermawrap that you can stuff into it's own pocket. Sew a little loop inside the pocket and you'll have a nice attachment point and no stuff sack to deal with. The whole thing is smaller and weighs less than a chalkbag.
Mark Cushman
From Cumming, GA
Joined Sep 4, 2006
1,051 points
Dec 28, 2009
not climbing
cotton T-shirt. Under 45 I might wear a long sleeve... Mark Roth
From Boulder
Joined Jan 4, 2008
12,927 points
Dec 28, 2009
Me on a mixed route Crisco and I did in Rock Canyo...
T-shirt with a long sleeve shirt over it, and a light shell on top of everything. I've got a Marmot Precip jacket and it works well. I wore this setup 1) climbing in the desert a month ago in 40 degree temps and it was perfect, 2) ice climbing the other day (but with a heavier shell) in 20 degree temps in the shade. Belaying kind of sucked, but as soon as I started moving it was perfect. And I hate being too warm when I actually climb. Can't win em all, eh? Well, I guess you can, but then you've got to carry more stuff with you. I'd rather freeze occasionally (at belays) than have to carry more stuff up the rock.

Tristan Higbee
From Cambodia
Joined Mar 9, 2008
3,128 points
Dec 28, 2009
Me, of course
Mountain Hardware transition shirts, windproof, zip up to make a mirco-climate, zip down to vent, super tough and durable. Other companies make analogues, anything pullover made of windstopper. Wear a base layer under them, with a windstopper hat or headband, and softshell pants. Oh, and socks people, you're not that cool that you have to go barefoot in the shoes in the middle of winter, seriously. Evan S
From Erie, CO
Joined Dec 30, 2007
550 points
Dec 29, 2009
Stray dog found in rural Alabama w severe mange. T...
Synthetic Boxer Briefs
Smartwool socks
Powerstretch Long Underwear...R1 if really cold.
Blue Jeans (will swap for softshell if backcountry or precipitation is likely...weight dependent on temps)
Synthetic Tshirt or Capilene 1.
Either R1 or longsleeve fleece shirt
Windshirt (either Marmot Trailwind or OR Ferrosi depending on temps)
RealTree Camo beanie
And add either a ArcTeryx Atom insulated vest, a Patagonia Micropuff, or a softshell jacket as a booster layer if necessary.
GoreTex rainjacket/pants in backpack....last resort to cold and wind, as well as rain and snow.
From The Briar Patch
Joined Jan 12, 2007
1,789 points
Dec 29, 2009
Washer Woman and Monster Tower.
+1 for Belay Jacket.

I currently use an older LL Bean hooded primaloft jacket (made in the USA...how old is this thing? anybody know?). The thing held up very well in rainy 40 degree weather. I was warm and dry the whole time.
Joined Apr 16, 2007
616 points
Dec 29, 2009
photo by Forest Woodward
I've found that the limiting factor for me climbing cold rock is always my hands. I can wear a layers and puffy jacket and be plenty warm, but if the rock is cold, my hands will go numb and it just won't be fun anymore.
The solution: gloves! I've found you can climb pretty hard in a pair of well fitting leather work gloves, they grip almost as well as your own skin (I guess because they are skin, just from a dead cow...). I've definitley had some fun days re-climbing a bunch of moderates in Eldo with the added challenge of gloves. Plus, it makes you focus more on your footwork.
Scott Bennett
Joined Jan 9, 2008
1,171 points
Dec 29, 2009
Viking helmet cover, yep.
Scott Bennett wrote:
I've found that the limiting factor for me climbing cold rock is always my hands. -Scott

Climbing had an article about cold-weather cragging, they recommended a hand warmer in the chalk bag for warm-ups, which seemed like a good idea. Haven't tried it yet myself, but this weekend might be cold enough to need it!
The other good idea the article had was to bring a balaclava rather than a beanie/touk. You could roll it up into a beanie while climbing and go full-face for the nice chilly belays :)
Abram Herman
From Golden, CO
Joined May 23, 2009
43 points
Dec 29, 2009
I like a good shell with underlayers. I zip or unzip the front zipper and pit zippers to help regulate heat. Rugged gloves are also a must for the belay.

What do you all do with the belay jacket while climbing on multi-pitch? Stuff it in a pack?
Mike Slavens
From Denver, Co
Joined Jan 7, 2009
41 points
Dec 29, 2009
Thermal, vest, and light hardshell. Vest can come off easily if I get too warm.

on the legs, thermals and cotton pants if its dry or softshell if its damp.

beanie, fleece gloves.

Joined Aug 15, 2007
77 points
Dec 29, 2009
OMG, I winz!!!
Mike Slavens wrote:
I like a good shell with underlayers. I zip or unzip the front zipper and pit zippers to help regulate heat. Rugged gloves are also a must for the belay. What do you all do with the belay jacket while climbing on multi-pitch? Stuff it in a pack?

Clip it to the back of your harness. It works with my big ice belay jacket, my "winter" rock belay jacket fits in one of those yellow thermolite bivy stuff sacks, pretty small. Or one that clips to it's own pocket is good too.
Chris Plesko
From Westminster, CO
Joined Oct 18, 2007
560 points
Dec 29, 2009
For all of the sophisticated new gear out there, I love my pair of thrift store wool pants. $2.99 and they keep my legs nice and warm, which is good when you're in a hanging belay and your circulation is affected by the leg loops.

Other than that, light pair of socks does insulate better than you would think. Short-sleeve shirt and long-sleeve, windproof shirt. A windproof fleece for when belaying and a hat to stick in your pocket while climbing.

I find this is the best set-up for myself when climbing below 50 degrees. You can switch things around. Also I usually climb with a small hydration pack (it's easy to forget to drink water when its cold out). So anything I need to shed, I can stuff it in there.
Joined Aug 16, 2006
46 points
Jan 1, 2010
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
I've found that having warm legs makes an enormous difference, so I'll usually wear substantial long underwear bottoms. In order to move with ease, the pants that go over have to be stretchy, and since wind can be a serious issue, the pants should be relatively windproof too. This pair of requirements means a softshell pant.

Even if it warms up a bit, I don't find the extra leg insulation uncomfortable, and I've never sweated with it on in temps going as high as the high fifties. I do take off the long bottoms for approaches, however.

On top I usually wear Cap 1 long underwear under an R1 Hoody. The hood on these makes a big difference when it gets chilly and fits easily under a helmet. The fact that your neck gets completely covered makes it much warmer than just a hat.

Here's that outfit in action on Jubilant Song (Red Rock) on a sunny but chilly and windy March day.

For belaying and climbing too when the chill picks up, I bring a MontBell Thermawrap jacket. This usually goes in a small pack carried by the second, but I also carry it stuffed through a harness loop (I never use the back left one for gear anyway).

I don't carry a hardshell unless rain is in the offing. Even the best are sweaty as far as I can tell. But I do often bring a Wild Things Epic wind jacket to use either over the hoody or over the Thermawrap. Epic is totally breathable, will shed drizzle, is very windproof, and will protect the very light material of the Thermawrap from abrasion.

Here's the same outfit plus Thermawrap on a very windy chilly March day in the shade on Dream of Wild Turkeys (Red Rock).

The shots are from a Red Rock trip report posted on Super Topo and were taken by Steve Molis.
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Feb 15, 2008
328 points
Jan 1, 2010
FA of The Great Potato (a.k.a. Mt. Ore Ida), San M...
My pricey but comfortable setup (accumulated over many years) I used all week at Red Rocks this week (and elsewhere when it's cold):

Windstopper material is key--it's the wind that gets you really miserable fast. On the coldest day I wore a down vest on top too. If it's really cold, some lightweight long underwear on the legs is nice too. I run warm, though, so generally don't need it.

Those air-activated hand warmer packets are super nice too. Put em in your chalk bag and stick em in your gloves while belaying.
Jason Halladay
From Los Alamos, NM
Joined Oct 19, 2005
9,739 points
Jan 2, 2010
I like layers.

- light weight wool base layer that is long enough to always stay tucked in regardless of the reach
- R1 hoodie or something like it.
- fleece vest (cheap)
- windstopper softshell with velcro cuffs to slide above my elbows when climbing or jamming wide stuff
- MHW Compressor stashed to trade off with the partner
- Work jeans

- Never found the handwarmers in the chalk bag to be much use.

- if it's really cold I'll just climb in a puffy of some kind
Joined Feb 27, 2008
2 points
Feb 20, 2010
Lots of good suggestions on the clothing, but I tend to suffer from the cold hands/fingers. I always put an air-activated chemical hand warmer packet in the chalkbag when it's cold, but here's another trick that actually works. Crazy Hands makes a thing called a ThermaWrap. It's a velcro band that goes around your wrist with a pocket that holds a chemical hand warmer packet. I got a pair for like two bucks at WalMart. The band holds the hand warmer against the underside of your wrist and the heat keeps the veins/arteries from constricting (the normal bodily reaction when you get cold - vessels in the extremities constrict and redirect blood to the core). As a result, the blood flow to the hands is increased and your fingers stay warmer. I know it may sound strange, but it works! Ernest W
From Camarillo, CA
Joined Aug 20, 2009
1 points
Feb 21, 2010
I went climbing today in Acadia National Park maine, in snow flurries, here's what I use to stay warm-

1) Big puffy down jacket. Awesome.
2) two layers of polypro tops, then a wool layer
3) polypro long underwear. Then jeans.
4) Wool hat
5) gloves for belays
6) wool socks for belays.

i always carry an extra wool sweater for the really cold times.

hope this helps!
Jonathan Steitzer
From midcoast, maine
Joined Feb 21, 2010
1,425 points
Feb 21, 2010
40 Degrees!? Long sleeve and jeans! maybe a sweatshirt for belays! J.J
Joined Aug 23, 2008
185 points
May 3, 2013
I have made a chalk bag that solves this very problem of having poor circulation to your hands, or on those cold or shaded days. The chalk bag has an integrated heating circuit that you can turn on and off when ever you want! check it out... varmclimbing.com varmclimbing

Varm chalk bag
Varm chalk bag
Joined May 3, 2013
15 points
May 6, 2013
My favorite cold climbing gear is a thick pair of wool socks with the front cut off just in front of the heel. I wear them with my rock shoes and keep my ankles warm. I think the guys with T and jeans in 40F must be really tough. John Husky
Joined May 10, 2011
8 points
May 6, 2013
Start of Pitch 3
Probably the same clothing for cold-weather sport climbing. alleyehave
From San Diego, CA
Joined Jun 12, 2010
176 points
May 6, 2013
Self portrait on the summit of Gray's Peak, CO
I prefer a mid-weight wool baselayer top- push the sleeves up when the sun comes out. One with a zipper is even better. A light-weight vest over that. Over that, light weight puffy. Ditto on the leather gloves. That set-up has gotten me through many a spring outing in the Tetons. Walt Barker
From Reno NV
Joined Dec 16, 2010
326 points

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