In the past year or two, my affinity towards fashion and clothing items has changed dramatically — where I used to covet shoes and a nice-fitting pair of jeans, I know hoard any and all types of gear. I’ve got layers for all four seasons, shoes for whatever terrain I encounter, and jackets for any activity. As this winter approached, l couldn’t help but find myself searching for the best winter jacket and the most comfortable boots. But, as any outdoors gal knows, cute gear is good, but cute and functional gear is best. Follows are jacket and boot options that take you through a wet treks, sweaty hikes, and will even double for the other seasons.
Best for Layering: The soft shell Polar Hooded Jacket by The North Face is part of their Summit Series, which means it is backed by the regular North Face technology, plus some added tweaks, like the Polartec Alpha/Beta hybrid fleece construction that maps key hot and cold zones. The jacket is thin and form-fitting, but you’ll find it surprisingly warm. For a single-digits temperature day, we recommend using it as a base layer; for a warmer day or a snowshoe trek where you really work up a sweat, the jacket will be all you need. If it’s a blizzard outside, however, zip up a different jacket, as this piece won’t keep you too protected from the wet elements of Mother Nature. Added bonus: this layer, around one pound, will easily subside as a multiple-season lightweight jacket.
The best part about this piece is the high-pile fleece in the torso and pockets. It’s so soft you’ll feel like you are snuggling up in a baby blanket, but the mesh liners in the jacket also wick moisture — no sweat stains here. The jacket is slim fitting and hits right below the hips, but still provides enough mobility to really get moving. The hood is helmet-compatible in case you head out on a fresh powder day and plan on descending on your fat skis.
A note on sizing — we found the jacket to run small. Even though it will keep you plenty warm, there isn’t much room for layering underneath because of the tight arms and torso.
The Verdict: Even though The North Face Hooded Polar appears simple and sleek, the warmth-factor is exactly what the snowshoer needs on any given day, and is cute enough to keep your style in check for the post-hike hot cocoa.
To purchase The North Face products, click here.
Best for Working Up a Sweat: Lululemon can often come off as the yoga-mom, uber expensive clothing. At the same time, they truly capture every little need when it comes to some of their more technical gear. For example, though Lululemon is mainly thought of as a yoga brand, their gear doesn’t stop there — Lululemon’s What The Fluff Jacket is an 800-fill down running jacket that is extremely cute, but still functional with its wind- and water-resistant fabric, a four-way stretch design, and moisture wicking material. It’s perfect for a snowshoe race or a warmer day.
It has everything detail necessary when it comes to outerwear — fuzzy pockets to keep your hands warm, extra pockets to stash an iPod or wallet, pit vents for airing out, and thumb holes to keep that inch of your wrist from slipping out and being exposed to an icy chill. It also has a detachable hood, a rain shield, and an off-center zipper. The super soft fleece hood is large enough that it actually covers your whole head — it needs a drawstring to really cinch it up, but at least it provides adequate coverage.
The jacket is mid-hip length to cover your derriere, but the added rain shield helps keep you dry when your snowshoes are kicking up the fluffy snow. The rain shield simply rolls up and stashes in the bottom of the jacket for when you don’t need it. The outer zipper is off centered as to not chafe your chin, and when both the inner fleece hood layer and outer down layer are fully zippered, no wind is getting in anywhere. With its 800-fill down, the jacket will keep you toasty, though I do recommend this for when you are truly getting a workout. Although super comfy, you might be chilled in the coat when being outdoors but not necessarily working hard.
The Verdict: The jacket is well worth the price. You’ll get compliments on its slim cut, but you’ll always stay comfortable on any hardcore snowshoe hike or a winter run. And once the snow melts, throw it on and zip it up to simply keep you warm and stylish.
The Lululemon What The Fluff jacket is available in for women only and retails for $248. For info, click here.
To purchase Lululemon products, click here.
Best to Stay Completely Dry and Completely Warm: A jacket that is waterproof, light, yet still extremely warm? It’s true — the First Ascent team by Eddie Bauer has proven their gear-making abilities once again with the award-winning BC MicroTherm 2.0 Down jacket.
Next time you need some gear, don’t overlook Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent Line because their technology behind their gear is superb. First, the jacket’s overall weather-proofness and breathability: Using WeatherEdge Pro, the fabric can withstand 20,000 mm of water suspended over the surface before you’d feel any sort of dampness, and in 24 hours, allows 20,000 grams of water vapor to release per square meter of fabric. Then comes its warmth: With the MicroTherm Down, the 800-fill premium European goose down is stuffed into narrow channel baffling to prevent down migration and to keep the warmth evenly distributed so your whole torso stays warm. Last is the water issue: First Ascent uses StormRepel, a water-repellent finish that makes water bead up and roll off the surface, instead of soaking in.
The extra-large pockets are pack compatible and double as heat-dumping vents, and though you’ll appreciate the technicalities of pockets that work well when wearing a backpack, your hands might feel like they are missing a place to go when resting. The hood is also helmet compatible in case your board or skis are attached to that pack of yours. The jacket has an active, non-restrictive fit. A note on sizing — we found the jacket to run large, which is great for layering, but we had almost too much extra space.
The Verdict: This insulated jacket is perfect for a lazy snowshoe day when the temps are dipping towards the single-digits and beyond, or when you are pumping your heart to the max on a cold backcountry day hike. It is also completely waterproof and breathable, yet still weighs only 16 ounces. Seriously — you’ll put it on and forget that you have any thing on, let alone a supremely warm, down jacket.
To purchase First Ascent products, click here.
Pair with — Smartwool’s NTS Mid 250 Bottom, $95. These leggings will fit perfectly under snow pants, have a wide, mid-rise waistband for extra comfort, and come with flatlock seams so you’ll stay chaff-free as you snowshoe.
Best for Cold Feet: For this boot, we found the ultimate cold-weather tester — someone who got frostbitten toes when she was a child and is constantly trying to warm her feet. The technology behind the Columbia Bugaboot Original Omni-Heat includes the companies Omni-Heat reflective thermal liner. This liner helps regulate body temperature by reflecting and retaining the warmth that your body produces. Simultaneously, it helps disperse moisture and any excess heat. But does all this technology really work? Our tester, who usually has to wrap her feet in plastic wrap, then in winter ski socks before going out in the cold, says yes. With just a light pair of hiking socks and these boots, her toes were warm and comfortable.
The boot keeps your ankles secure and has a high traction rubber outsole so you won’t slip on any ice before you strap into the snow shoes. For the upper, you’ll find a full grain leather shell, which gives it a simple, traditional look. And don’t worry when you are journeying through deep, wet snow — the boots are made from waterproof material and with waterproof construction, yet still remain breathable.
The Columbia Bugaboot Original Omni-Heat is available in both men’s and women’s versions and retails for $140. For info on the women’s version, click here. For more info on the men’s version, click here.
To purchase Columbia products, click here.
Pair with — Keen Olympus sock, $20 for light and $22 for medium. These socks, which will be available in March, come in light and medium weight, but with the warm boots, we recommend opting for the light weight. The socks are made from moisture wicking merino wool and have a reinforced toe and heel so you won’t wear them out after only a few hikes.
Best for Everyday Use: Sorel has always been a trusted brand when it comes to winter footwear, and the Tivoli Boot didn’t disappoint. Not only is the style cute enough to fit in with your outdoorsy gear or even paired with a winter sweater on a cold night out, but the functionality is also top-notch. The laces make it easy to slip these on and off if you are constantly letting your pooch out to play, but will secure tight to your feet when you are heading to the woods. Both the shell and upper membrane are waterproof.
The grippy outsole will keep you upright when traversing down an icy driveway, and the boots stayed comfortable overall while on a trek through the woods. Although the boots do have premium insulation, we did find our toes getting a bit chilly when playing in the snow with just regular socks on, so make sure to protect your feet with a pair of winter socks if you will be out in the snow for quite some time.
The Sorel Tivoli is available for women only in this low-cut style as well as a high boot, and retails for $90. For info on the women’s version, click here.
To purchase Sorel products, click here.
Best Mid: The Hi-Tec Harmony Quilt Mid is the ultimate winter snowshoe boot. It’s mid-rise will keep your ankles covered, warm, and snow-free, and the waterproof upper will ensure sure your feet stay dry as you pound through deep powder. The boots have 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation to lock in warmth, as well as an Ortholite sockliner for added comfort. The outsole is made by Vibram, which means you’ll never find yourself slipping and sliding. A full zipper accommodates the laces, but we wouldn’t recommend these boots for an on-again, off-again day — once they are on, zipped and laced up, you better planning on heading out for a hike because they don’t slip on and off too easily.
What we really like about these boots is that they are hefty and durable enough to last on multiple hikes and snowshoe trips throughout the winter, but Hi-Tec didn’t neglect style with the faux fur and quilted pattern. They will protect your feet from the elements and stay sturdy even as you get tired.
A note on sizing — We found these ran small. Our regular size wasn’t able to fit with any sort of sock other than a thin one, so we recommend sizing up a half-size.
The Hi-Tec Harmony Quilt Mid is available for women only, and retails for $150. For info on the women’s version, click here.
To purchase Hi-Tec products, click here.