Before signing up for a winter skills week, I had never done anything remotely outdoorsy in cold weather. Not so much as a little walk in the snow. So this was completely new ground for me.
It didn’t take much research to find that 360 Expeditions offer one of the best winter skills weeks out there. A week in the Pyrenees covering all sorts of skills including crampon, avalanche, forecasting, emergency shelter and ice climbing skills. As this trip was run in partnership with Love Her Wild, it was an all-female expedition, meaning I had the advantage of meeting some great women at the same time.
What to pack for your winter skills week?
My biggest worry beforehand was, without doubt, kit. I had no idea what to take and the more I searched, the more confused I became. But actually, it’s simpler than you imagine and not too dissimilar from summer hiking – just with extra layers and a few technical items. One of the main things to get right is clothing – specifically understanding the layering system and what materials work best for the cold.
Winter skills kit list
I was able to hire most of the technical gear I needed from 360 Expeditions – handy as you don’t want to be spending hundreds on gear when you are starting out in a sport. Most providers offer this, and if they don’t, then what you need can usually be hired comfortably from a nearby town.
These were the items I borrowed:
- Ice Axe
- Climbing Harness
- Prusik loops x 2
- Screwgate karabiners x 3
I did have to buy my own climbing helmet and ski goggles and for these went very low end:
Sleeping & hiking gear
A lot of the following was the same as what I use for summer hiking, the main difference being that you will need a warmer sleeping bag. As we were staying in refuges, I didn’t need a roll mat or tent.
- Rucksack; Osprey Kestrel 68L
- Dry bags; Exped Dry Bags
- 2 Litre water bottles
- Head torch: Petzl Tikka
- Travel towel
- Trekking poles; Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles
- 4 season sleeping bag; Mountain Equipment Helium 800
- Silk sleeping bag liner
- Hiking boots (able to take crampons); HanWag Tatra GTX
Winter skills clothing; layering system
You will want to work on a simple layering system. Starting with your base layers – these need to be technical and worn close to your skin. I took a long-sleeve top and bottoms and also base layer gloves and hat (the base layer hat isn’t essential but gives you good flexibility). I used Armadillo Clothing – top quality merino wool and a good fit.
Next is your mid layer which consists of softshell trousers and a fleece top. I also took a softshell jacket.
And finally, your outer layer which is to protect you from the wind and rain – waterproof top and bottoms.
You will also need some extra items for warmth – waterproof ski gloves, a beanie or hat and a buff. A couple of pairs of thick socks with a liner sock (adds an extra layer but also prevents blisters). A thick down jacket for your breaks or cold spells. I also took some extra items that I could add to my existing layering system for added warmth if needed – a gilet down vest and extra fleece.
It’s all about layering!
I had a spare base layer long-sleeve top and a fleece lined pair of trousers that I would change into in the evening when I was finished hiking and I would also sleep in this set.
Underwear I had a sports bra and Armadillo Merino wool boxers.
Winter hiking clothes list
Here’s the full list of clothing. You’ll notice that a lot of my gear is men’s as they fit me better or they offer more variety than the women’s.
- 2 x boxers; Armadillo Boxers
- Sports bra
- 2 x long sleeve base layer top; Armadillo Artemis top
- 1 x base layer bottoms; Armadillo Jillies
- 1 x fleece trousers; Rab Power Stretch Pants
- Microfleece: North Face Cornice Fleece
- Thicker fleece; North Face Glacier Full Zip Fleece
- Hiking trousers; Montane Ineo Pro Pants
- Softshell jacket; Rab Vapour-rise Jacket
- Waterproof trousers; Berghaus Deluge Overtrousers
- Waterproof jacket; Arc’teryx BETA Hybrid Jacket
- Down jacket; Mountain Equipment Lightline Jacket
- Thin gillet down jacket: Men’s Altus Vest
- Liner socks
- 2 x thick socks: Armadillo Heavy boot sock
- Liner hat: Kojak Liner Hat
- Beanie hat: North Face TNF Beanie
- Liner gloves; Ice Break Liner Gloves
- Ski gloves (hiring in country)
- Buff: Armadillo Giraffe Long Neck
The sun reflecting off the snow is a real consideration and you will want to be protected properly with decent UV rated glasses. I used Ronald Amundsen sunscreen which is a little pricey but worth every penny.
- Sunscreen; Ronald Amundsen SPF50
- Snacks (Mars Bars and Cliff shots)
- Wet wipes
- Moisturiser; Ronald Amundsen repair and protect cream
- Olympus Tough Camera & spare batteries
What to pack for a winter skills course
Check out this video I put together which goes through all the kit I took for the winter skills week:
Many thanks to 360 Expeditions and Armadillo Clothing for their sponsorship opportunities. My recommendations and blogs are always written with 100% honesty regardless of what I pay. Please note that some of the links in this blog are affiliate which means that I get paid a small fee for recommending at no extra cost to you.