Please recommend me your winter gear - lightest and warmest and cheapest
May 24, 2013 1:07 PM   Subscribe

I currently live in the Southern US, but next month I'm making a trip to Southern Argentina and next year I'm moving to New York. I guess it's time to buy warm clothes! Can you give me some recommendations on warm, light, layerable winter clothes, particularly a coat?

We'll be in Tierra del Fuego for 5 days, but traveling for a few weeks in warmer places. Thus I want gear that takes up as little space as possible, but keeps me warm enough to be comfortable if we go hiking all day. I also want stuff that'll be attractive and useful day-to-day when I move to New York (ie, not ski gear). Things that can be layered are preferred, and I don't have a huge budget. I should add that I'm a guy.

posted by Buckt to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
A Uniqlo down parka that comes with its own little carrying bag! This, plus long underwear, plus warm socks, plus possibly a sweater or cardigan.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:11 PM on May 24, 2013

They're fine for everyday use, but the Uniqlo and similar casual down jackets don't have the loft of technical apparel, so they won't be as packable or as warm. Marmot's Zeus or a similar 800 fill, DWR (durable water repellent) coated jacket is a better choice for breathable, packable insulation. Hoods are nice in the back country but can be fussy for street use.

Your everyday jacket could be a soft shell like one of these from Mountain Hardwear. Recommend pit zips for temperature control and useful pockets— most days this will be the piece you can throw on over your clothes and go.

If you don't already have one, a waterproof/breathable hard shell is the final piece; look for one with 2–3 layer laminated fabric rather than DWR coating as it will last longer. My Patagonia alpine shell is about a decade old and has been through a lot of abuse. Critical things for shells are overall fit, hood fit and adjustability, and pit zips.

Don't forget socks! These REI merino socks are my choice.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:23 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't bother buying New York City winter clothes until you actually get there and it is actually winter ~18 months from now.

What people in New York wear is drastically different from what you'll want on an adventurous Patagonian vacation. It might be nice to keep those things and have them in your back pocket (so to speak) in New York so you don't wake up one day in November with nothing, but I absolutely wouldn't shop now with New York in mind or attempt to really kill two birds with one stone.

Because they are very different birds.

(For example, assuming you work in a corporate environment, you'll probably need a nice overcoat that will go with business attire. Which would be worse than useless in Tierra Del Fuego.)
posted by Sara C. at 1:23 PM on May 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

I love navy peacoats. They're cheap at any surplus store(or thrift/vintage shop), fold up nicely, and look infinitely more stylish than some puffy down jacket/etc. they're also available with a quilted liner, which I sprung for and love.

They can't be ruined by heat/fire melting the outer layer, getting poked by something sharp(there's no "filling"/lining to spill out), or many other things that can damage puffy style jackets. I had one of them through high school and most of college until it got stolen, and have had my other one ever since and will likely have that one forever.

One of those, a decent flannel and large scarf(I like the super giant ones from "middle eastern imports!" Type places. Fold them over and loop them around a lot!), and then a set of long underwear from big five thrown under decent jeans or cords will handle almost any weather. Under the flannel have a cheap long sleeve thermal/tshirt you can pull on and off, and an A-shirt. Tuck the a-shirt into the long johns, tuck the long johns into the socks.

Boots should be something suited to both snow and hiking. I like doc martins industrials, and some of the lighter sorels. Personally I'd go with the docs because I've had one pair forever, through perpetual rain and everything. They're also lighter to walk in and more suited for generally being out in the cold and not just adventuring. Some people get smart wool, I'm fine with the "hobos choice!" Wool socks they sell near the register at goodwill.

This will all fit, with several changes of socks, underwear, and a spare flannel or two in this bag with plenty of room for other stuff, which is the greatest adventuring backpack mankind has yet created. Mine is almost ten years old, and has survived nearly infinite abuse. As with the jacket, I'll likely have it forever. It's waterproof, has the perfect spot for a laptop if you already have a sleeve, and can carry sleeping bags and such on the outside in a pinch.

Lots of people will say this stuff isn't specifically for what you want, but its also attractive to wear in the city when you're not out hiking or in the snow, while also being fairly serviceable at that. It really is more the uniform of my friend who hops trains and my own crazy ass, but it does work... And you look infinitely slicker wearing black jeans and a peacoat with a scarf than REI hiking/snow gear.

I've walked across town miles and miles in the snow in 25~ degree F weather in this outfit and been smiling afterwards.
posted by emptythought at 1:35 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

A down coat. Always always down. It's light and can be worn in a wide range of chilly temperatures without discomfort, while still keeping you toasty in the worst of it. Make sure it's long enough to cover your butt with room to spare - you want it long enough to be safely tucked beneath you when you sit on a freezing cold bus stop bench.

Everything else is just layering to trap body heat.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:41 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Polypro long underwear. NOT cotton. NOT wool. NOT silk. Good thin polypropylene.

Weighs next to nothing. Extremely warm but, for some strange reason won't burn you up when you're inside. I'm telling you, it's the best investment you'll make.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:55 PM on May 24, 2013

I highly recommend trying one of these merino wool thermal shirts. That and one other layer and I was running around Lake Tahoe in 20 degree weather easily and comfortably.

I would call it light, but it's considered medium weight.
posted by bobdow at 3:30 PM on May 24, 2013

you look infinitely slicker wearing black jeans and a peacoat with a scarf than REI hiking/snow gear.

emptythought is right about the above statement— all his points actually; he's just gearing you toward city life more so than your trip. They're not going to be the same gear. If you want highly packable and lightweight, you're not looking at pea coats and Docs.

I'm not trying to push you into head-to-toe technical apparel for the city, and there's no reason you can't wear a nice flannel shirt or soft wool sweater to hike and travel in, but technical outerwear is extremely useful every day. Especially a hard or soft shell.

Gotta take issue with Benny Andajetz also, as both merino and silk long underwear both have their uses and their particular comforts. I don't mind synthetic baselayer like Capilene on top, but hate the swamp crotch when I wear plastic long johns. Doesn't happen to me with silk or merino. YMMV.
posted by a halcyon day at 3:58 PM on May 24, 2013

An A-shirt on top and long underwear on bottom make me feel like I have magical heat generating super powers compared to the shivering masses. They are key items if you are trying to stay warm on a budget and allow you a lot of flexibility style-wise.

A stocking cap gets you a lot of warmth in your suitcase without taking up much space. I prefer one with a bill/brim/visor over those without, as it's more like wearing a baseball cap.

Taking care of these warming devices (also gloves, socks, maybe a scarf) can make your selection of any particular outer layers somewhat less critical.

Going with cheap versions of these things can be functional for regular life and have the added benefit of cutting down on paranoia about losing them. Loss is probably not as much of an issue with the underwear.
posted by eelgrassman at 11:25 PM on May 24, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips, everyone! This gives me plenty to start from. Yes, appreciate that the clothes to wear in Patagonia may not be terribly appropriate for life in the city, but it would be good to maximize the overlap (particularly since winter clothes might be cheaper this time of year).
posted by Buckt at 7:30 AM on May 25, 2013

I was an exchange student in Argentina back in the 80's during their winter season, in a coastal town about 200 miles north of Tierra del Fuego (Comodoro Rivadavia) - the main thing I remember about the weather was the incredibly strong wind blowing in from the ocean. Getting out from the back seat of a car once a gust blew the door from my fingers and nearly bent it backwards against the front door. And there were no tall trees, mostly lots of hardy shrub-sized plants that could withstand the gales.

You can get good quality wool & leather goods in Argentina, so I wouldn't pack too many sweaters, better to get more once you're there. I got a wool skirt on the trip that lasted for decades. And the leather jackets I got on a 2006 Argentina vacation are still good. I agree with everyone above that you should get yourself a good waterproof down jacket before your trip, some wool socks, a sweater, long underwear, etc., and touchscreen-compatible gloves. But you should plan for an NYC-oriented shopping spree in Argentina, I think that will serve you better than buying too many bulk things ahead of time.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:37 AM on May 25, 2013

I wouldn't pack too many sweaters, better to get more once you're there

This seems like odd advice for a five day vacation.

But, yeah, seconding that Argentina has lovely wool items that you should take home with you.

Frankly I think it makes more sense to shop for Someday Future Winter clothes in Argentina than it does in an REI somewhere right now. Just because at least that way you'll have some nice things that work in a variety of contexts and which will remind you of your trip.

If you buy a whole wardrobe of winter things now which turn out to be useless a year and a half from now when you're experiencing your first New York City winter, you will really regret it.

(Also YMMV on actually finding winter clothes in stores right now. You may be overestimating how much is out there, what the selection is like, and how deeply discounted it will be.)
posted by Sara C. at 8:59 AM on May 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the info, friends! Based on your advice, I went with this jacket and some silk leggings. The jacket fit all of my requirements brilliantly. It was plenty warm in the 20s F weather, I paid less than $50, and I was able to stuff it into a sandwich sized back while traveling.
posted by Buckt at 9:42 PM on June 25, 2013

« Older Sprial, Season 1, Episode 8?   |   Can anyone tell me about UHC in chicago? (United... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.