What to Wear when Winter Mountaineering

It is pretty important to know what to wear when you go walking in the winter mountains in Scotland. You don't want to get cold when you stand around for a few minutes and you don't want to be too warm so you would sweat too easily and therefore cool down more when you rest.

Let’s start nearest too the skin.

  • Synthetic or wool base layer
  • Synthetic or wool underwear or long johns

winter clothingIt is very important to what you wear close to your skin. You should always wear something that transports any sweat away from you and that keeps you warm. Synthetic material is usually best in transporting any moisture away to the next layer but the material is known to smell pretty bad after a day in the hills. Wool will keep you warmer and will still transport the moisture away from you but not as efficiently as synthetic material. The big advantage is that you don’t tend to smell as badly though.

  • Thick fleece jacket
  • Thick or thermal mountain trousers
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers

On top of all this you should wear your insulating and waterproof layers. The fleece jacket is important as it again can transport any moisture away from your body and keep the warmth in. The waterproof jacket will keep wind and precipitation out. Best will be a high end jacket 3 layer waterproofing with big pockets. You should be able to stow your map case and compass in one of the pockets. Again the trousers are there to keep you warm and should be tough synthetics. The waterproof trousers should also be tough material. Best is to wear them straight away because over trousers can be a bit of a faff to get on with big boots and crampons. They also keep the wind out.

  • Thick winter socks
  • B2 or B3 boots

What you wear on your feet is just as important. You should only wear thick winter walking socks or even waterproof winter socks like the ones you get from Sealkinz. The boots are your number one tool in the winter. I recommend B2 (they have a small step at the heel to fit C2 crampons) or B3 (same heel as B2 plus a small slot at the toes for C3 crampons) boots as they tend to be much stiffer than B1 boots. With the stiffer boots you will find it easier to walk in snow and kick steps if need be. B0 (3 season boots) and B1 can bounce off on harder snow at times.

  • Think glove liners
  • Windproof gloves
  • 2 pair of thick gloves

The last thing you want in the mountains is to get cold hands. You should have glove liners and windproof gloves for those days when it is not as cold but you still want to cover your skin with something. This will give you more dexterity as well. For when the weather is colder and windier you need something thicker. I find the best gloves are leather with good insulation. They don’t need to be gore-tex as the leather is already waterproof and can be treated with wax. I find that Black Diamond Dirt Bag and Kingpin gloves are some of the best and they don’t cost the world. Some spare gloves should be stored at the top pocket of your rucksack.

  • Fleece hat
  • Fleece balaclava
  • Buff
  • Sunglasses
  • Ski goggles

winter navigation Last not least, keeping your head and neck warm is just as important as the rest of your body. The buff keeps the wind away from your neck and can also be pulled up over the lower part of your face. A standard buff will do. Use a fleece hat or balaclava depending on weather conditions. You should always store them in the top pocket of your rucksack if you don’t need it. This will give you easy and quick access. When it is sunny in winter you can get some intensive glare off the snow. So best to always have shades with you so you don’t squint at every photo, and of course to protect your eyes. The goggles are important if you get any spin drift. This will protect the cornea of your eyes and keeps the last bit of exposed skin warm. Best are yellow or red ski goggles because you can still use them in darkness, while darker and reflective goggles can be too dark.

I hope that this list is quite helpful for anyone who is winter mountaineering in Scotland.