GearSnow Sports
Gear Guy

I need to upgrade my gloves, socks, and base layers for winter. Any tips?

I a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, currently stationed at Cp Barrett, Quantico, VA. My 299 fellow lieutenants and I will be enjoying five more months of training here, a majority of which is spent out in the field. Currently I wear mainly issued gear, and I would really appreciate your input on the following: good cold-weather boot socks, gloves that allow us full use of our fingers for fine motor skills, and thin insulating base layers. Also, any leads on good chemical packet handwarmers? Suel Quantico, Virginia


I’ll do what I can, lieutenant. And thanks for asking! I’ll take your issues one at a time.

Seirus Hyperlite Gloves

Hyperlite Gloves

There’s nothing wrong with the boots you’re issued, but they aren’t insulated. So in the winter, you need to take care of that yourself. I’d suggest a two-fold approach. First, get several pairs of a decent liner sock so that you can swap them out and keep your feet dry. Polypro, if the Corps issues it, is fine. Over that I really recommend wool, something on the order of SmartWool Mountaineering Socks ($19; These are tall, warm, fairly thick socks that also manage moisture well. Replacing the insoles on the boots may also help – Campmor carries Insolator Winter Insoles ($8;, which put a warm layer between the soles of your feet and the ground. When temps are near zero, you also can use vapor barrier socks ($30 from Integral Designs; other makers also sell them). These are completely waterproof light booties worn over socks that reduce evaporative cooling. They work very well. But you must change out socks every day, as they can lead to wet feet.

I think the best mid-weight gloves, ones that still afford good agility and “feel," are the REI ONE Gloves ($46; Made with Polartec Powershield, they’re wind- and water-resistant and fairly warm. Waterproof leather palms help with grip and hand protection. I also like Seirus Hyperlites ($25;, which are very thin gloves made with Polartec Windbloc. They act as a good light standalone glove, but also work well as liners under an outer glove, such as Seirus Xtremes ($50), which are waterproof.

I’d suggest you move to mid-weight base layer for better cold-weather performance. The very best thing would be wool, but budget may be an issue. Icebreaker’s Bodyfit 260 L/S Crewe ($70; and leggings (same price) are fantastic. Marmot Midweight Crew ($45; and bottoms ($45) also are very good in synthetics. REI’s Midweight MTS crew and bottoms ($35 each; offer comparable performance for fewer dollars.

I don’t have any particular insight into chemical packet warmers. The only useful data I can pass on here is that Cabela’s sells the Grabber MyCoal warmer ($10 for 10 in the hand size;, and that its fairly demanding hunter/fisher users give them uniformly high ratings.

Good luck!

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