Merino Wool 3 bottoms
Merino Wool 3 bottoms (courtesy, Patagonia)

How can I keep my legs warm in the mountains of Georgia and Tennessee during the winter months?

What type of apparel would you wear for backpacking to keep your burly legs warm in the Georgia and Tennessee mountains from November to March? Jason Calhoun, GA

Merino Wool 3 bottoms

Those would be YOUR burly legs, Jason. Mine are slim and trim. Quite fetching, actually. Mrs. Gear says so.

Merino Wool 3 bottoms Merino Wool 3 bottoms

November to March is the cold time of the year, so I’d layer up. Thinking a base layer—wool, no question. Patagonia’s Men’s Merino Wool 3 bottoms ($90) are ideal. A little more than mid-weight bottoms, so they’ll be good for cool to cold conditions. Excellent thermal regulation—even if wet you’ll be pretty warm.

I’m okay with synthetics, as well. They’re a little lighter and dry more quickly. REI makes a nice heavyweight bottom—the Heavyweight MTS Bottom—for $35 (on sale at press time for under $20). So price is a factor as well. But I do like wool.

Often, you’ll be able to just wear a pair of shorts over the bottoms. But for the wet of winter, you’ll want some sort of shell over the bottoms. The very basic setup would include Marmot’s Full Zip Precip Pants ($90). More than adequate pants, and hard to beat at the price. Best if you’re not doing a lot of real aerobic stuff.

Nicer but more expensive? Mountain Hardwear’s Typhoon Pants ($180). Made with Gore-Tex Paclite, a very light, breathable, rainproof material. Fabulous over a nice pair of wool bottoms.