Instead, think layering. You really don't lose that much heat off your legs, so typically you can get away with about one-third the insulation that's comfortable over your upper body. For snowshoeing when temps are in the upper teens to upper 20s, for instance, I'm usually fine with a midweight long underwear layer (for you, try the women's Midweight Bottoms from Marmot: $40; www.marmot.com) with a windproof or waterproof-breathable layer over that. A pair of decent Gore-Tex pants, or something similar, would work fineperhaps REI's Switchback Pants for women ($160; www.rei.com), which use a proprietary waterproof-breathable fabric to make an affordable all-weather pant.
Depending on conditions, you can add or remove underlayers, too. Some days a pair of light long underwear will be all you need. Others, the so-called "expedition-weight" stuff, will be trimmer than those puffy pants you're using now.
Of course, da bomb for winter activities is a pair of Gore-Tex XCR bibs. Bibs are warmer than waterproof-breathable pants because they add a layer around your lower torso. Plus the shoulder straps help keep everything in place. A great bib for winter sports is the Arc'Teryx Minuteman Bib, available in women's sizes (I guess that makes it the Minutewoman). Price is pretty steep at $350, but they'll last for years and give you excellent performance (www.arcteryx.com).
The Gear Guy is unveiling his ten favorite pieces of gear, and in the spirit of the season we're giving it all away. CLICK HERE to find out what makes his all-star Hall of Gear and enter the 2003 Great Gear Giveaway!
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