But the Cold Will Kill Me : Plot to Stay Warm on the PCT

I have hiked 21 14,000ers in seven days. I have stood face to face with a bear ransacking my beloved Subaru. I have ice climbed frozen waterfalls wielding ice axes in each arm. But the one thing I am completely terrified is being cold.

No Brenda; I am not joking.

The one factor keeping me from committing to the PCT has been that gorgeous stretch over the winter wonderland in summer portion—the JMT. I spent hours watching PCT heroes crossing freezing rivers this past year. I measured the snowpack as it covered the trails. And as this early snow fall began to look eerily similar to last year’s “snowgeddon.” I feel the need to empty my stomach every time a snowflake releases itself from dark clouds above my head.

So in response to my impending chilly death I did what any rational human being would do. I planned a six-day Christmas vacation up to the frozen world known lovingly as Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. As the forecast promised temperatures down to -8F, I grabbed my holiday budget and gave up my children’s college fund to buy layers of winter clothing. (Sorry kids, but momma needs to survive.)

And after a week trailblazing snow up to my hips I was miraculously warm! Here is my gift to my fellow cold-fearing friends; the lowdown on my fabulous trail couture: the good, the bad, the Sasquatch ninja.

Let’s start with base layers. I picked out Odlo Blackcomb Base Layer Top with face mask and bottoms. Promised to be the official layering love of the Norwegian ski team. I was amazed by the warmth and breathability of the fabric. The face mask was a bit tight and I ended up using it just once.

I added extra warmth with a second pair of long john pants over the bottoms.

Next I added Columbia’s Peak to Point Pants. I am excited for these babies since they are great for layering but I can also wear them on warm days. They are stretchy and fit my long legs.

Finishing up the legs were REI’s Talusphere Pants. They kept all my layers bone dry.

On top over my base layer Odlo I layered the super soft REI Midweight Base Layer zip-up hoodie. Similar to the Columbia pants, this hoodie will serve double duty on warmer days and nights.
After the delightful hoodie I put on Patagonia’s Better Sweater Fleece Jacket.

Much to my overdoing it, I made the decision to have not just one but two puffy jackets, starting with the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow Hoodie under a Patagonia Down Sweater Puffy. I regret nothing from my overly puffed choice.

Lastly the Columbia Switchback Long Lined Waterproof Hooded Rain Jacket. This served as my waterproof top with an extra bit of warm lining.

My feet donned double wool socks and waterproof generic gloves with beloved Hot Hands. I was warm, I was dry but most importantly, I did not die.

I completely understand the ridiculous sight to behold I was as a Sasquatch Ninja. But I climbed frozen waterfalls in -8 temperatures in the gorgeous Banff backdrop. And I did it all toasty.

Sierra, I am ready for you!

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Comments 3

  • Shannon : Jan 6th

    Such a fun read! Hahaha! I love the picture of you! I’m reevaluating my clothing now! 😂

  • Hannah : Jan 9th

    I have hypothyroidism and get cold so easily now and have started to fear cold weather. This was actually super helpful! And I don’t think you’re ridiculous at all, I’m taking notes! Thank you!

    • Kaitlin Musser : Jan 9th

      Oh I am so glad some of it is helpful! Are you tackling the pct this year?


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