Layering for hut trip hikes

On hut trips, especially ones in December, January and February, you are going to be finding yourself in many different weather conditions, and the ability to keep yourself warm and dry requires careful planning.  The reality is, if you do enough hut trips, you are going to find yourself outside at night. in a blizzard, exhausted, cold, and still trying to find the hut.  Even when things go well, being prepared for all types of conditions on your hike makes it more pleasant, which is important on these types of hikes.   You need to be layered in such a way that you can keep you warm in all types of weather conditions and fluctuations in your body temperature as you climb up.  When I am climbing up, I turn into a Zen Monster, slothing my way up, and when I stop, it's to drink and catch my breath.  Also, once you get a few hours in, you are also a furnace, and, even on the coldest days, don't need much layers.  Throw in an awesome Colorado Blue Bird Day, and you can be in a t-shirt during the day.  But as soon as that sun goes down, everything changes.  And you better have prepared earlier in the day for when it does change, or it will be too late.

While two to three hours in you may be burning like a furnace, the fact is that your body will slowly start to lose the ability to generate heat the longer you are outside, so your sweat will stop evaporating and turn to water.  The colder it gets after the sun sets under the mountain ridges, and you will be losing heat quicker. Basically  once it's too late to change - it's too late to change, and you've jeopardized your comfort and safety. I often switch out my warmth layers, I have a nice outer component to my pack that allows for me to have quick access to gloves and different weight layers.  You have to keep things dry and warm, stop when you have to, not when it's convenient.  A general rule is that when you start, you need less than you think, and later in the trip, you'll need more than you think.  You should start a hike a little cold, and you want to end your hikes really warm.

  1. body layer to wick sweat - including gloves.  Some of these also provide some insulation value.  Basically, you can't expose your body to the cold, so your inner layers are on for the whole ride, they better be good.
  2. lightweight to mid-weight top and bottom - I switch these out depending on the weather and how I feel as the hike goes on.  
  3. If I know it's cold, I bring a heavy weight layer to wear in addition to the items above.  I will also have these available without rummaging through my pack.
  4. Waterproof, Wind Proof, ventilation hooded top and ski pants.  When it's snowing on your hike, you can't get your base layers wet.  Wet Outwear is horrible.  Old gear who's water repellency has diminished breaks down and makes for a miserable experience.  Also, make sure your jacket and pants have vents so that you can let your legs and arm pits breath while you stay dry. 
  5. Getting your hat sucks too.  Use the hood on your jacket and keep your head dry.
  6. light and heavy weight gloves - I have both accessible.  Nothing is better than putting on a fresh pair of gloves!  Especially on a cold snowy night.  I also use a pair of thin gloves to remove sweat.
  7. I bring a Down Jacket for absolute warmth.  If you don't use it on the hike, you will in the outhouse! On some January and February trips, I will bring out my Everest Expedition Weight Down Jacket for that extreme toastiness.