Clothes to Survive

Feb 6, 2011
Outside Magazine

Our sheriff once told me stranded climbers survive longer on Mount Hood nowadays. The reason: clothing rocks. So, whether you’re out for a half-day snowshoe junket or a peak-bagging ski mountaineering tour, here’s four wardrobe ingredients to that could save your life.


SAR on Hood: No place for a soft shell

Down Jacket. Unless it’s pouring rain, down is the ultimate lightweight layer for cold-weather survival. Choose your weapon based on climate like the fastpacking Cloudveil Endless Down for fair weather, the stylish midweight Patagonia Fitzroy for hut tours, and the burly Mountain Hardware Sub Zero XL for going deeper.

Gauntlet Gloves.  If your hands get even slightly cold, simple tasks like clearing snow from a clogged ski binder become dangerous. Mittens are warmer but the dexterity of gloves rule for essential tasks like ripping skins or rappelling. I love the burly Gore-tex-clad, leather-palmed Outdoor Research Remote and Arc’teryx Alpha SV gloves.

Headgear. I work on Mount Hood, where storms come in all flavors: Pineapple Express rain, blistering wind and rime, and heavy snow. Cover all exposed skin to prevent frostbite. I like the washable ultrathin Smartwool neck gaiter because I can tuck it under my goggles and helmet, (which you’re wearing too, right?).

Hardshell. Soft shell are versatile and comfy, but for search and rescue callouts, ski resort doc patrol, and stormy sidecountry junkets, I always have a hardshell. The Helly Hansen Odin Mountain Jacket is lightweight, rime-proof, and the hood actually fits over my helmet (did I already mention wearing a helmet?). Pants come in all styles and fits nowadays, but you can’t beat timeless, old-school simplicity of The North Face Mountain Pant.

Everyone needs a gear room (L to R): Ski Trab, Life Link, The North Face, Outdoor Research, Arc'teryx, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, Helly Hansen.

Be safe.

--Christopher Van Tilburg, MD

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