By Michael Lanza

There’s one certainty about the clothing layers we use in winter: We get our money’s worth out of them. While a rain shell or puffy jacket may rarely (or even never) come out of our pack on a summer hike or climb, we almost invariably wear every article of clothing we carry when backcountry, Nordic, or downhill skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, climbing, or trail running in winter. That’s money spent wisely to make us more comfortable and safer.

Every winter, I test out new clothing layers doing all of those activities frequently—something I’ve been doing for more than 25 years, previously as the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine and for many years running this blog. This review spotlights the best shell and insulated jackets, base layers, and pants I’ve found for high-exertion and moderate-exertion activities in winter.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

In my story “How to Dress in Layers for Winter in the Backcountry,” I offer advice—based on four decades of backcountry experience—on how to choose a specific, personalized layering system for different exertion levels and body types in temperatures near or below freezing. Use the tips in that story, along with this review, to make the best choices in winter outdoor apparel for your activities, your climate, and your body.

Please share your experiences with any of these products in the comments section at the bottom of this review. I try to respond to all comments. And if you make a purchase through any of the affiliate links to online retailers in this story or other reviews at The Big Outside, you support my work on this blog at no cost to you. Thanks for doing that.

Don’t go out in the cold before reading “12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter.”

Backcountry avalanche instructor Chago Rodriguez skiing in the shadow of Mount Heyburn in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains.
” data-image-caption=”Expert backcountry avalanche instructor Chago Rodriguez skiing in the shadow of Mount Heyburn in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Click photo to learn about his courses.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Saw13-028-Pass-north-of-Mt.-Heyburn-Sawtooths-ID.jpg?fit=300%2C199&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Saw13-028-Pass-north-of-Mt.-Heyburn-Sawtooths-ID.jpg?fit=900%2C598&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”598″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Saw13-028-Pass-north-of-Mt.-Heyburn-Sawtooths-ID.jpg?resize=900%2C598&ssl=1″ alt=”Backcountry avalanche instructor Chago Rodriguez skiing in the shadow of Mount Heyburn in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains.” class=”wp-image-10856″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Saw13-028-Pass-north-of-Mt.-Heyburn-Sawtooths-ID.jpg?resize=1024%2C680&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Saw13-028-Pass-north-of-Mt.-Heyburn-Sawtooths-ID.jpg?resize=300%2C199&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Saw13-028-Pass-north-of-Mt.-Heyburn-Sawtooths-ID.jpg?resize=768%2C510&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside
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