When I started enjoying winter activities here in Colorado, I went through many iterations of a shell.
Somehow I thought I needed a burly mountaineering shell. I rarely do lift assist skiing, I am not into true mountaineering and the shell was very overkill for the snowshoeing (and later, ski touring) and winter backpacking I found myself doing as my initial forays into the Colorado backcountry. This Marmot shell was a Sierra Trading Post special, but still too much money spent for what I was (and am) doing.
I wised up a little and bought a much more appropriate Campmor house brand “mountaineering” shell that is oversized for layering, much lighter, has a stiff visor, generous pit zips and while it does not breathe well when exerting myself (like most shells!), it works for a combo driving snow and cold weather esp when stopped. I still have it and use it for winter backpacking.
However, as I transitioned from snowshoeing into ski touring, the shell did not work for that in-between time when I need wind protection and there is light precip. It was not breathable for the mixed highly aerobic activity mixed with pauses in-between for downhill glides. The shell would easily ice up inside from my own sweat.
Then I discovered the site WinterTrekking.com.
After diving into the site, my view of winter clothing systems changed.
Breathability more so than waterproofness is the goal of winter for me. Especially in the colder and drier climate of a Colorado winter with its “fluffy” snow.
And I finally found a use for a windshirt..or rather a windbreaker.
Many people enjoy using a windshirt for three-season backpacking. For various reasons, it just does not fit into my system. A thermal layer works well enough for me in light wind, and I can mix and match my rain gear and light fleece as needed. Not saying the windshirt has no utility..it has no utility for *my* way of backpacking.
For winter though? It is perfect. Just enough to keep off the fierce winter winds and the light, fluffy snow. In very cold weather, it is enough to keep me warm while I am moving without overheating.
And, I emphasize again, it is a windbreaker I use and not a windshirt.
What’s the difference? About fifty dollars or more difference because it is sold at outdoor stores. 😉
Being serious, a windshirt is more form fitted, made of lighter material and weighs less.
A windbreaker typically has even less waterproofing versus a windshirt, is a little heavier and is more durable. Less form fitted.
I use a windbreaker because it is looser to fit over my bulkier winter clothing and allows more ventilation. And I like the durability as even the best of skiers ( which I am not! 😉 ) will occasionally snag on branches, fall over, etc.
And I use an anorak. The classic anorak shape, with the deep zipper, allows more ventilation more so than a jacket.
I use a simple nylon one as it breathes reasonably well. I do not feel Colorado is quite consistently having the very cold and dry weather to use a cotton anorak as these gentlemen suggest.
An unlined anorak can be found online for about $30 or less.
A simple item and design that works.
And has worked for a long time…