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Most of the time, having nice gear is about being more comfortable. But when the weather really turns rough, having the right tools can be a matter of safety. To suss out the best winter camping gear, we spent many long nights out backpacking, skiing, and climbing in northern New Mexico, often at elevations above 11,000 feet, usually when the weather was at its worst. These are the pieces we trusted most to keep us safe, warm, and happy when the mercury dropped.
The North Face Inferno Double Sleeping Bag ($1,000)
The North Face’s new technical double sleeping bag is the brainchild of mountaineering’s first couple, Hilaree O’Neill and Jim Morrison, and it’s a hit for all adventure buddies who like to cuddle. At first blush, $1,000 sounds like a lot for an 800-fill, 15-degree sleeping bag. But consider the cost and weight of two comparable single bags (about 4.5 pounds to the Inferno’s three). In addition to money, you’ll save space and weight. The Inferno Double comes in at just over three pounds, which is about 1.5 pounds less than two similar individual bags together. Another benefit: sharing a bag with your partner means twice the body heat. Our testers remained comfortable far below the temperature rating of 15 degrees.
Klymit Everglow Light Tube Lantern (from $20)
This inflatable light comes in three sizes, the smallest of which weighs 1.9 ounces and packs down to the size of a pear. Inside the inflatable tube, white LEDs put out 160 lumens of soft, diffuse light that add functional ambiance to your tent, camp kitchen, or car. All three sizes have a small carabiner loop for hanging; the two larger ones also have internal magnets so you can connect them to your tailgate. They need to be hooked up to an independent power source (no batteries), but connect easily to the same USB-compatible bank you might carry to recharge your phone or navigation device.
Leatherman Curl Multitool ($80)
Fans of Leatherman’s Wave lineup will recognize that iconic tool’s influence in the new Curl. The svelte, 7.5-ounce device hides 15 tools, including pliers, scissors, a bit driver, and a blade you can open with one hand. The Curl is roughly half the size of a standard wallet, making it both streamlined enough for everyday carry (there’s also a built-in pocket clip) and utilitarian enough for any camp chore.
Men’s Labyrinth Loop™ Omni-Heat™ Infinity Insulated Hooded Jacket ($180)
This is your next cold-weather jacket. Columbia’s Men’s Labyrinth Loop™ Omni-Heat™ Infinity Insulated Hooded Jacket comes with recycled synthetic down insulation and a pop of gold thermal-reflective lining to keep you toasty on cold hikes. The insulation squishes down for easy packing without losing any loft, and it even stays warm if it gets wet.
GSI Pinnacle Pro Stove ($200)
If you’ve shopped for a two-burner car-camping stove at any point in the last 60 years, you know they’re all pretty similar. The Pinnacle Pro is a notable departure. Folding legs and a grate that collapses flat against the burners mean the Pinnacle Pro takes up less than half the space of other double burners. Its stainless-steel construction is sturdier and more rust-resistant than oft-used coated steels. All this while still including twin 11,000-BTU burners, piezo ignition, and a reliable simmer.
High Camp Flasks Firelight 750 Flask ($125)
The Firelight is the perfect way to carry a beverage in the backcountry. The vacuum-insulated stainless-steel flask will keep your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks from turning into blocks of ice. Meanwhile, two magnetic tumblers slide over to the top and bottom, providing a clever and sophisticated way for you and your traveling partner to share libations. At 750 milliliters, it’s big enough for a bottle of your favorite red or enough coffee to get you through a frigid morning.
Exo Mtn Gear K3 4800 Pack ($650)
Skip the heavy, oversize expedition pack. Exo’s K3 series is the smoothest modular pack and frame arrangement we’ve seen yet. A system of buckles allow you to pull the bag away from the frame for securing heavy items close to your back, or to detach the pack body and swap in a smaller for shorter trips. A waterproof hydration-bladder pocket protects sensitive down gear from spills, while the massive horseshoe zipper on the back panel makes access to everything a breeze.
Nemo Kunai 3P Tent ($700)
If you’re looking for one tent to do it all, you’d be hard-pressed to find something better than the updated Kunai. Convertible construction allows you to transition three of the Kunai’s four sides from alpine double-walled warmth to breezy midsummer mesh with the tug of a zipper. Other thoughtful design pieces like reinforced seams and an aggressively tapered profile on all sides mean the Kunai can shed snow, resist gale-force winds, and still leave you warm and dry.
Nocs Zoom Tube Monocular and Inspector Microscope ($75 and $35)
At 270 grams, this 8x monocular is a no-brainer to throw in your pocket for long-distance gazing. Its rubberized housing is ridged to improve grip and dissipate impact from inadvertent drops. Attach the Inspector Microscope for 32x magnification, which will allow you to see basal facets in your snow pit. Nocs even offers an attachment to connect the Zoom Tube and Microscope with your smartphone, so you can turn the camera into a macro lens.
Zippo HeatBank 9s Plus Rechargeable Hand Warmer ($60)
Zippo’s granola-bar-size HeatBank provides emergency warmth and also stores power, with twin USB ports for recharging a headlamp and a phone simultaneously. When we got caught in unexpected cold, we were grateful for the heat source.
Helly Hansen Verglas Polar Down Jacket ($450)
Through frigid summits and overnights, the Verglas’s 800-fill goose down and box-wall construction kept our testers warm. Breathable synthetic insulation in areas like the hood and chest pocket holds up better to moisture. (women’s XS–XL / men’s S–XXL)