I'm getting older, which means winter camping just isn't as fun as it used to be. Problem is, I still love being out there during the cold season. So I put a pile of things on my Christmas list - items that I purchased for myself this winter and had mailed to myself. I love those types of presents. After a few test runs out in the cold, I gotta say I have been as warm as toast this season. Sounds simple, but winter has never been better for me. For so many years I made do with cheaper products, thinking I'd spend my money on summer gear instead and just hope to get through the winter as quick as possible. Not any more. I'm playing outdoors all the time now.
The following items, or gifts to me, are gear I researched a great deal prior to the winter season. Yes, I know what you're thinking, "All the products are from Outdoor Research?" Quite honestly, I've been a big fan of this company for years. It began with their canoe hats. I love their canoe hats. But this winter stuff overtakes my OR hat fetish. Costly? Yes. Worth it when the temperature drops? Absolutely!
Outdoor Research Credo Pants
These pants are amazing. Seriously. They're rated as "weather-resistant" but I'd up that rating to almost darn-right water proof. I wore them on my last paddle of the season, which happened to be just a week ago in a snow storm at minus seven, and had three giant standing waves crash down on me in mid-rapid, unsuspectingly. I was totally dry and warm after the incident (but haven't talked to my canoe partner since who happened to steer us into the waves in the first place). These pants also have incredible breathability with a cozy fleece interior. And with its gusseted ankle cuffs mixed with an overall soft (and light) shell fabric, I'd wrap these up for myself rather then anyone else this holiday - especially my canoe partner. Cost = $190
Outdoor Research Virtuoso Jacket
Last canoe season I lived in my Outdoor Research Transcendent Sweater Down Mini-Jacket. So I thought its big brother - the OR Virtuoso Jacket - would be a good replacement for winter. And I think it's a perfect choice. It's puffy, but not too puffy (22 oz). Its loft of 650 plus down fills the gaps and keeps the chill out. And the hood and draw cord is an extra bonus. But it's the water-resistant fabric that I like the best - in a drizzle you're still dry and warm, which is darn good to have during these dark days of global warming and odd weather patterns. Cost = $280
Outdoor Research Alti Mitts
For warmth vs. weight and bulkiness I got to say these are winners. Alti Mitts offer a waterproof shell, leather palms, thick fleece on the inside palms and synthetic insulation on the backs, with removable liners. There are amazing. The only downfall is they're close to the same amount of money that I spent on my pants and jacket. So why did I splurge? Like I said, I'm getting too old for the cold and it's my fingers that seem to suffer the most. It comes from severe frost bite I received during my forest technician days up near Timmins in the 1980s. Froze half my digits more then once. Cost = $200
Outdoor Research Flurry Beanie
This wool/nylon hat, lined with soft fleece, is driving my wife crazy. It seems I'm wearing the darn thing too much - indoors. I was even caught the other week going to bed with it on (our old house is darn cold). It's not the best thing to have on your head when the wind chill is past - 20 but for keeping the head toasty warm during a backcountry ski or snowshoe this hat is ideal. The best part about it is that after wearing the thing over and over again, it still stays snug, especially around the ears. I like that in a winter hat. Cost = $24
Kevin Callan is the author of eight books including 'The Happy Camper: An Essential Guide to Life Outdoors'. He is a recipient of the National Magazine Award and a regularly featured speaker at North America's largest paddling events.