Recommend some women's winter clothing, please!
December 2, 2008 1:40 PM   Subscribe

What warm winter clothing do you recommend for a woman who likes nature photography and hiking?

I love my nature photography hobby, but in the next few months that will mean going outside in some really cold temperatures and I hate being cold. So, I've decided to get some real winter clothing this year to make it a little more bearable.

I know I should layer, wear a hat and gloves, etc etc., but I'm looking for specifics here. I want brand recommendations and/or specific items you recommend. I want to know what keeps you warm!

Items I am looking to purchase: a winter coat, gloves, snow/hiking boots, general warm winter active clothing.

A few things to keep in mind:

1. Gloves - My hands suffer the most in cold weather. As a photographer, I can't wear super thick gloves because I need to be able to operate the camera. I'm open to layering gloves, but the first layer will need to be something both warm and relatively thin so I can still push the tiny buttons.

2. Clothing / Coat - I'm female, average height, but small. I generally try to buy petite tops because they fit best.
posted by geeky to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If I shot outside in winter a lot, I would consider some gloves like these. You can put some bulkier mittens over them between shooting to keep your hands extry-toasty.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:51 PM on December 2, 2008

Do you know a knitter? These gloves are a world of awesome for keeping warm but also maintaining dexterity, and could even go over the thin base layer if you need.
posted by carbide at 1:59 PM on December 2, 2008

highly recommend patagonia's jackets for women, they're super warm, very well-made, and come in lots of colors so you're not stuck with just black or brown.
posted by lia at 2:00 PM on December 2, 2008

Best answer: Petite, female, cold-hating landscape photographer here. My recommendations are: no matter what gloves you get, put hand warmers in your pockets for an extra hit of warmth. I find these indispensable for rewarming my fingers after I've (inevitably) had to remove my gloves. My coat is a Northface Metropolis Parka. I like that it's long enough to cover me even if I'm crouching. I like that the zipper opens from the bottom too, in case I need to climb up on rocks or something. Generally I wear a hooded sweater underneath -- if having the parka's big hood up is encroaching on my field of vision, I can still keep my head and neck warm without dealing with the tangles of a scarf. My boots are the Pajar Grip, and they are amazing. I literally walked into an icy stream up to 6" deep in these boots and not a drop of water or cold seeped in. They have good traction on snow and ice, they are warm, they are comfortable enough to wear for hours on end, and they look pretty cute with a short skirt. I get tons of compliments on them, actually.
posted by xo at 2:02 PM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

To maintain dexterity, you might try a pair of wet-weather cycling gloves, like these.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:08 PM on December 2, 2008

Best answer: I can't stress layering enough. You can add and remove layers as needed to keep yourself warm and, more importantly, dry.

Patagonia and EMS sell thin, lightweight layer "thermal" shirts and underwear. Patagonia calls theirs "Capilene", I believe, and they come in one of four ratings. The 4 rating is the warmest. I can't remember what EMS calls theirs (Techwick?). These help you layer well, and are relatively inexpensive.

EMS also sells thin layer gloves, which you can wear underneath thicker winter gloves. I use this for biking in the winter. I got caught in -15'F weather in Philadelphia one night and this combination didn't work, so ask the retailer for help and keep receipts in case you end up needing thicker gloves.

You may also want to invest in chemical hand warmer packets. They are disposable packs that you can bend to activate as needed. Any outdoors supply store will carry these.

REI is another outdoors supplies vendor. Check their website for locations and if they carry winter clothing.

Keep yourself covered, try to minimize open spots where precious warmth can leave your body, and stay dry. If you get wet from snow or sweat you will be cold and miserable.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:11 PM on December 2, 2008

Best answer: Seconding Patagonia Capilene. Also, Marmot and North Face stuff. Ten years ago, I worked in an outdoor gear store (think local version of REI) and I got a deep discount on that kind of stuff. It still looks great after ten years of use and abuse. Well worth the investment. I'm petite and these brands fit me well.

If you're going to be tromping around in anything wet, you absolutely need GoreTex boots and wicking socks (like Smartwool). Nothing will make you more miserable than cold, wet feet.
posted by desjardins at 2:32 PM on December 2, 2008

I would advise against down-filled anything because if it gets wet it loses its insulating properties pretty-much completely. Synthetic fiber fill doesn't.
posted by Restless Day at 2:35 PM on December 2, 2008

Some alternatives to scarves that will keep your face/neck warm without bulk or hassle:

- Full-face balaclava. The ninja look may help you get those stealthy shots.

- Neck gaiter. Good if you really love your current hat, but want to cover your face/neck. The longer ones give you more versatility: keep it bunched down on your neck when it's slightly warmer, pull it up over your nose if it's colder and windy. Also available in velcro hybrid-scarf form.

Linked to REI just because it was the first shop that came to mind, most winter sports places should have things of this nature.
posted by CKmtl at 2:56 PM on December 2, 2008

I have the North Face Arctic Parka and it's the best money I have ever spent (~CDN$550). I find parkas to be unattractive because of their poofiness, but the Arctic Parka is sleek and stylish and lets me move around very easily. The material is also very breathable so you don't get all sweaty.

I live in Ottawa, which has puh-retty nasty winter weather (lots of snow, -40 celsius). My commute includes a 10-minute walk to my bus station. This coat makes the daily walk bearable.

As for shoes -- because I'm one for style and functionality -- I bought a pair of nubuck Ecco boots that have REALLY done me well. Girls are always telling me how awesome they look. They've never let me down, and holy shit I cannot stress enough how much snow and ice we get out here.

I spent about CDN$700 on this getup and have never regretted it because I know they will last me years.
posted by Menomena at 3:19 PM on December 2, 2008

Pro-tip: North Face has a lifetime warranty on their jackets. One of my zipper teeth broke off and they fixed it free of charge.
posted by Menomena at 3:20 PM on December 2, 2008

Best answer: Silk "long johns," Cuddle Duds.
posted by Morrigan at 3:23 PM on December 2, 2008

carbide recommended the type of glove I think would suit you best. They typically don't sell them for women because some people tend to think that the hobo aesthetic is a little rough-and-tumble, but I've passed them in the men's underwear section (yeah, underwear and gloves AND Jager are all in the same section--men are weird) at Target every time I've been there since it hit 50 outside. I'm sure you can find nicer ones elsewhere, but they're at Target for sure.
posted by phunniemee at 3:34 PM on December 2, 2008

Best answer: Down. I shoot in the mountains during the winter a lot and you'll do a lot of standing around waiting for the light, etc... Nothing is warmer, lighter, and packs smaller. Patagonia jackets are pretty damn indestructible. If you do rip one their warranty program is top notch.
posted by trbrts at 3:43 PM on December 2, 2008

Best answer: I do photography and I have these gloves. The little grippy thingums on the fingers make all the difference in the world in terms of approximating actually touching things and allow your fingers greater control to hit the tiny buttons.

Also, The North Face in general has great outerwear. I also have this hat which is amazingly warm.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:59 PM on December 2, 2008

The gloves carbide linked to are called glittens in my neck of the woods. Terrific idea, unfortunately most are of the "handmade" wool style which I find too old-fashioned, not warm enough, and not thin enough for good tactile response. If you scour the web enough you can still find some of the more "modern" thinsulate-style variety.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:35 PM on December 2, 2008

Oh. Those glove-mittens. A note of caution: try to buy them in actual stores, while wearing the coat you plan to use and carrying the bag you plan to use.

Why? Because the flap of the 'retracted' mitten part can be a royal pain with some sizes of pockets. The flap can snag on the rim/opening of the pocket and you'll only have easy access to things that are at a depth of one finger length. If the pocket is particularly deep, you can find yourself in a lot of frustrating finger-waggling pocket-digging situations.
posted by CKmtl at 4:55 PM on December 2, 2008

I have a pair of glommitts, but I'd go the other way for photography. Get a thin liner glove and big mittens. Those ones above with grippies are probably fine, but I like SmartWool liners. Then have a pair of mittens to wear over them for every second you don't need fine finger control. Mrs. Advicepig wears the REI Ridgecrest.

For everything else, it's simple once you understand layers. The first pro tip is never wear cotton for warmth. My other tip no one else ever seems to mention is that the layer next to your skin should fit closely. I prefer my base layer to be tight enough to be embarrassed to be seen in it. Once again, I like SmartWool.

Oh, and it's not clothing, but you can hardly go wrong with a good thermos full of a warm drink.
posted by advicepig at 5:52 PM on December 2, 2008

WeatherEdge Superior Down Parka
Sorel Joan of Artic

(Also in Ottawa; also voting for down.)
posted by kmennie at 5:52 PM on December 2, 2008

Best answer: I also do a lot of outdoor photography in the winter; speaking from experience, you'll need more than one outfit so you can match your gear to the conditions and type of expedition. I always take into account how far I'm going to hike and the terrain (hilly backwoods or fairly level path).

My big down parka (Misty Mountain, $150 from an army surplus store, new) is great if I'm just meandering down a path in one of our many parks. The down is super warm (like wrapping a duvet around you), but you can start to sweat pretty quickly if you get too physically active. (If your skin gets damp from perspiration, you'll get a chill that won't go away easily.) So I use the parka if I think I'm going to be standing still for long periods of time.

If I plan on actively hiking, I wear this winter climbing jacket made by Cloudveil, which has much less insulation than the parka, but it's quite windproof and makes up for it. Also, it's very flexible and gives me complete range of motion.

For under-layers, I (and many people who take part in winter backcountry activities) have a motto: "cotton kills." Synthetics that wick the moisture away from your skin are your best choice. Consider buying clothing made for winter biking, skiing or hockey. I buy a lot of my gear from MEC, which is a co-operative outdoors store in Canada. They have a good education section on their website to help you make an informed purchase.

Another wise investment if you're walking around in the winter is a pair of crampons. Before I bought a pair there were many days that I had walking with trepidation on a path that has completely iced over, stressing about falling and breaking my camera.
posted by kaudio at 6:01 PM on December 2, 2008

Best answer: Seconding capilene. Seconding the "down jacket" idea, something like this. But the real thing I wanted to say is: I don't know what your budget is, but those down jackets are expensive, so seriously, try not to pay full price. At minimum, you can buy last year's styles off clearance (they change nothing, like maybe just "upgrade" the zipper (now extra-grippy!)).
posted by salvia at 11:41 PM on December 2, 2008

Response by poster: Wow, thanks everyone! Lots of fantastic answers! I hadn't quite planned on investing as much in my winter clothing as I did in the camera gear itself, but I guess there's a price to be paid for being warm :)
posted by geeky at 6:18 AM on December 3, 2008

Response by poster: Update!

I bought myself some CuddleDuds, despite the silly name, and they've made a world of difference. I never realized how cold my legs were before!

I also picked up these Mountain Hardwear Heavyweight Power Stretch Gloves. They're much warmer than any other thin gloves I've tried, and just thin enough with grippy sections so that I can still operate the camera without taking them off. And, they come small enough to fit my tiny hands - bonus! These gloves combined with some hand warmers have kept my fingers from falling off.

Last but not least, I bought this Lands' End Quilted Long Down Coat (in Petite XS!) that I love love love. It's not overly poofy like most down coats and it's very light, but super warm and totally wind proof. It's long enough to keep my butt warm and it unzips from the bottom so I can still move around in it.

Still working on boots and maybe some capilene layers, but I'm already a million times warmer than I was. Thanks MeFi!
posted by geeky at 8:32 AM on January 2, 2009

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