Extended Winter Op Gear Advice

WinterOp

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Nov 20, 2017
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Hello All,

I signed up because I need some advice on winter gear.

I'm going to be working an event in a few months that will require my team (3 LE sniper/observers) to be outside for an extended period. With recent activity, we've been told that we will be overwatch during a major event in the winter. This will be rooftop / catwalk exposure for about an 8 hour period, for a week, at night. This is a 8,000' elevation, high Rockies environment. Night time temps can be expected to be single digit, with wind chills in the negative teens. Snow is likely.

We're very familiar with cold weather ops, but usually only for a 24 hour period. The week long event has us rethinking how we do things.

Any gear advice? Personal clothing, covers, etc. We like the look of the HPG Mountain Serape, as it seems quick to get off. Maybe cover that with a regular poncho and have a wind/snow cover that's easy to remove? We're very familiar with cold weather base layers, shell layers etc. I'm looking for the next level in smart equipment.

Glove advice? If it comes down to it, we'll need our hands functional. We currently use a ski glove/liner combo.

What would everyone use for static position, in this type of weather?

The event is 2 months out.

--Winter Op


 

chorizo

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Jun 19, 2017
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A key bit of advice........a layer of protection from you and the ground when having to be down in a static position. Upgrade to a self inflating pad that has foam in it which provides better protection....therm-a-rest or boulder ridge pad ....don't go cheap....will hold you in good stead as they are durable and deflate into a somewhat compact package.

Nothing more miserable than having to be in ground contact with the cold, motionless for hours on end.
 

White Mamba

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Mar 28, 2011
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Can you post a picture of what you do have?
I have two HPG serapes but whens its really cold I still need a good insulation layer . I have had good luck with the Kryptek Aegis extreme bibs when I have to sit still for awhile
 

WATERWALKER

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  • Apr 19, 2014
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    BEYOND Gear. This stuff is badass. It’s warm, comfortable & durable. It’s also expensive so it’s no joke. I was a gear tester a few years ago for this brand, & I was given no money or anything else for my efforts. I was just asked for an honest evaluation of said gear. I had the option is switching to Arc’tryx, but BEYOND had proven it’s worth to me so I saw no reason to take a chance on an unknown / unproven product. Eventually I was forced to return my BEYOND Gear when I opted for a PCS move.

    BEYOND Fear is a seven layer system that has the ability to mix & match different layers as the weather changes. This includes rain & wind suits as well. I’ve worn it down to -25* F & never felt the cold. For gloves, I’d suggest Outdoor Research glove / mitten combos.

     

    PDXGS

    Sergeant
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    May 31, 2009
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    If you're planning on being static I'd have serious look at down garments from Western Mountaineering.
    They are the real deal.
    http://www.westernmountaineering.com.../flight-pants/

    I met with several members of the Norwegian Special Forces several years ago to look at their winter kit.
    Base layers were a fishnet type that really traps air. Aklima make a better version
    http://soldiersystems.net/tag/aklima/
    It's tough to find in the US.
    The Norwegians cover this with Arcteryx LEAF mid layers and down-filled layers and out their GoreTex outer layers.

    If you can tolerate soft wool, then I'd suggest Icebreaker base layers in their 260 gram or 320gram weights. They are amazing and can be found in the US.
    You wont stink after a few days in this stuff either.
    https://www.icebreaker.com/en/mens
    Consider a down-filled sleeping pad too...at least 2" thick.
    Heat conduction to the ground can be a killer....literally.

    Beyond Apparel are legit but your demands likely exceed their specs.
     

    WinterOp

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    Nov 20, 2017
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    Can you post a picture of what you do have?

    Probably, but I'm new and just figuring the site out. We have full ski type gear, back county SAR type, and our tactical stuff is Crye Precision. The back country stuff ranges from Patagonia base layers, Crye or Arcteryx mid layers, and all sorts of shells and ski gear. We use a lot of Spyder, Black Diamond and Helley Hanson for the bibs and ski jackets.
     

    WinterOp

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    Nov 20, 2017
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    And just to be clear, we probably won't be sitting. So far, I am presuming most of it will be on our feet on Bino's. Both on catwalk and commercial building rooftop. The area we have to cover be about two full city block sized venue.
     

    YO_Doc

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    Catwalks will have a special level of suck if it is cold and windy!

    I am also in the high Rockies, not 8000 MSL high, and in a rural area, but I feel your pain with this mission.

    Like others have said you will need layers and a good number of them, with how variable the weather can be. Beyond does make good stuff, I use their A7 Cold Suit and it is GTG. Arc'Teryx, Wild Things Gear and HGP all make good stuff. HPG Serape could be a good option for core warmth depending on conditions.
    But you will need to pay attention to your feet and hands. OR gloves are good to go for a lot of conditions. For your feet you will want good insulated boots, but even this will depend on conditions for when you are on station. I wouldn't rule out a good pair of Sorel's. Also something like the Superfeet Merino Wool foot bed can add a bit of additional warmth to a pair of boots. Smart Wool socks are also GTG. I would also recommend lacing your boots loosely to aid blood flow and also to not crush the insulation in the sock/boot combo. Heck even having a section of a closed cell foam pad to stand on can help add some warmth. Another section can add some warmth when sitting in a chair.
     

    YO_Doc

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    Even if you already have down jackets or pants these could also be used to great effect.
    Even Carhartt makes some good insulated stuff that could be used to help hide in plain sight
     

    Airw4ves

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    Oct 10, 2014
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    Prone Positioning: Buy a good insulated sleeping pad. If you're worried about rips/damage then pick up a cheap foamy as a sacrificial bottom to place underneath. You can tape some of that pool edge grip tape to the bottom in strips to help keep it from sliding around on ice. I personally use a cheap foamy on bottom, then my Thermarest pad, and finally my shooting mat on top (to prevent my gear or a hot piece of brass from poking/burning a hole in the pad) which has a grommet in each corner so I can stake it down so it doesn't blow away or move under recoil. Seems to have worked for me up here in Canada for long days in the Rocky Mountains. Another option is a space blanket under the foamy to reflect the cold back at the ground and lower the amount of absorption from the ground.

    Boots: Some people are effected by cold in extremities more than others so each guy should note his sensitivity to the elements. First off I would invest in good quality wool socks. Next a good insulative insole (shiny material with thick wool base), or even invest in heated insoles, but those rely on batteries so come prepared. Then you can go with really any winter boot. I personally use my issued Canadian Forces Mukluks, but they can be found on eBay if you're looking to save some $.
    I like the Neos overboots as you can wear your regular duty boots and slip them on when in the cold, but Sorels or Military winter boots work well. As stated below, go up a size and layer up with socks. Too small and they’ll be tight, defeating the purpose of insulation (air space).

    Gloves: I had a tough time finding good quality gloves that allowed for shooting. My hands are prone to cold, so I tend to wear gloves more insulated that most. The best one I could find after quite some time searching were the Swany Toaster Supreme or their Arctic Mitt for a white alternative. They allow for Mitt and Glove use, and when shooting I just leave the zipper open and when I want to shoot, pop my finger out. Ive had mine for 2 years now and I absolutely love them. Ive spent far more than I care to admit on gloves in the past 5 years searching for a good quality product, but my search has since ended. Pair it up with a good base layer glove and you'll be good to go. If you're like me and hands hate the cold, you can always toss in a hand warmer (I like my refillable Zippo Warmer) too if it gets really bad out.

    Headware: I like my OR Windwarrior Hat. Its lasted me many years and does what I need it to do. Coolest looking piece of kit? Nope, but I'm warm and I still have my ears after many winters into the -30's. A good balaclava is a must too for wind protection of the face. Find one with a specific mouth vent to prevent it from icing up with the condensation from your breath. If you dont, the ice becomes a pain and basically becomes a frozen clump of ice stuck to your lips. OR makes a few, as well as Arc'teryx and surplus kit.

    Layering: Probably already know this but layering is key. Get a good base layer of merino wool, and change out socks/underwear daily. Puffy mid layer for insulation, and a good wind/waterproof outter shell, that allows for venting in the pits is good too as you can still be protected from the elements while dumping excessive heat.

    Propper Food/Water: You’ll burn through water much quicker than you realize so staying hydrated is key, also pee lots as it takes energy to keep urine warm inside your body, get rid of it and you decrease the energy need. Eating is also key. Not to get too technical, but when we eat, we increase our metabolism, which in turn creates more heat. Warming from the outside is good, but creating our own heat is better.

    Movement: Not sure about specific time frames for whos on the gun/spotting, but take your normal warm weather times and cut them in half or less. Get up, move, wiggle toes, do some sit ups/push ups, whatever it takes to move your blood around. Muscle movement is a key part of what moves the blood back to the heart from your extremities in your veins. Lying still for hours on end in the cold allows the blood to cool in your extremities, then that cool blood returns to the heart. Long story short, moving will help keep you warm.

    I tend to buy a lot of Arc'teryx stuff, but thats because I'm a Dink (dual income no kids). If money is a bit tighter, surplus gear works well enough.
    Hope this helps a bit.
     
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    J!m

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    Aug 25, 2017
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    I was up in the attic circle in February a few years ago and @air4ves has good advice. I’ll add a purple suggestions as well.

    1) I use a silk base layer. Wool is fine but silk is nicer against skin that is dry from extreme low humidity for extended periods. Unless you moisturize...

    2) get your “laying here trying not to freeze” boots oversize. After silk liners, wool socks and footbeds, they can get tight. You want air space for circulation and insulation.

    3) no mention of Canada Goose? I have a snow mantra parka from that trip and I can’t wear it unless it is in the 20’s or below. They supply all nations at the South Pole and they have jump suits used by the roughnecks on the North Sea drill rigs. Not cheap. Available in white if you need to stay hidden.

    4) if your hands get cold go with silk glove liners in a down mitten. Keep it loose and you can rip the right mitten off and never be exposed. Trigger mittens are a good idea but I’ve not found any I like.

    5) warm water in your camelback and keep it inside your top layer. Drinking cold water will not help you. You need lots of water as I’m sure you know at altitude especially in the dry cold.

    5a) urinate often. You body will be trying to keep that fluid volume at core temp- this can take from your body’s ability to keep fingers and toes warm.

    6) eat well. Have plenty of quality fuel to keep the fires burning. Granola bars whatever for snacks.

    7) the hot hands things tend to be too hot in too small an area for me. I do get cold feet and hands but was never able to use these things. If you can it might be good to have.
     

    PDXGS

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    May 31, 2009
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    Practice practice practice - In this environment it's critical.
    Everyone's body handles the cold/ heat loss differently. High calorie foods and warmer fluids are great advice.
    You need to spend time in a similar environment with your gear to find out what works for you.
    Waiting until the callout will be way too late.

     

    WinterOp

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    Nov 20, 2017
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    Awesome intel here. Many thanks, guys.

    Beyond gear came up several time. It looks awesome. I'm going to get in touch with them on some T&E before the event so we know what we're getting into.

    Airw4ves; thanks for taking the time to type all that up. It's great. RE: Swany Mitts - Can you slide your index finger out and shoot with the mitt on?? If so, they look awesome.

    Boots: For extreme weather we use the Sorel Bear Extreme boot. I have mine one size larger, WoolPower socks, and change them often. They don't allow a ton of mobility, but we'll be deployed from a vehicle, climb a few ladders, then be pretty static. I don't foresee mobility to be an issue.

    Also, we won't be prone. It will be standing on bino's with long guns deployed, but at our feet.

    Anyone ever use something like a Sideline Cape? I'm not sure of it's feasibility???
     

    The King

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  • Sep 17, 2004
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    So - I'll chime in here - I found some time to sit down and type. Many of the people here have reported the same, and I'll be just doubling down on their notes.

    1. Practice. Do it in the dark, at altitude. Night time winter work is VERY different than daytime. There is no sun to heat anything, and it is much more brutal.

    2. You need to overcome the "heat loss threshold". Every person has a different thermal threshold, and when you dip below it you get the shakes and start having other early hypothermia symptoms. Overcoming the heat loss threshold is primarily achieved through movement, clothing, warm liquids, and external heat sources. You need to stay ahead of the heat loss.

    3. Don't underestimate the value of hand/foot/body heat packs.

    4. The military has come a LONG way in issuing better kit, especially to SF guys. Its worthwhile to research that.

    5. Don't let snow get in your rifle if you can avoid it. If snowing, cover that thing with a sheet of plastic or some such. Most rifle actions are very resistant to freezing, followed in toughness by magazines, and at the bottom of the barrel is the trigger mechanism. Coming out of a hot vehicle into the snow can result in the snow melting into the trigger area and then refreezing.

    6. Anyone who has had frostbite or frost nip will be more prone to the same injury in the future.

    7. Batteries are a key concern - lithium's are quite a bit more resistant to cold than the others. This is quite true of your commo gear, like a Motorola XTS5000. Lithium batteries are available for the Motorola's, but don't work in all chargers.

    8. Watch your powder temps. Its best to let your gun reach ambient, and shoot a chronograph run in the ambient temps, preferably at the altitude and angles of fire you will experience. The worst outcome is to let the gun warm up in the car and then keep taking it out and putting it back in.

    9. Don't hesitate to resort to a face mask. These work good for heat retention.

    Having done this in the past at night in the dark, my load out was as follows:

    Military silk base layer
    Halys Waffle Pattern Long Underwear
    Arcteryx Beta LT insulation layer, or military primalofts
    Arcteryx Alpha goretex pants and jacket
    Liner gloves for shooting
    OR Mutant glove/Mittens
    Fire Resistant Face mask/balaclava
    Goggles (a surprising amount of heat is lost through the eye area)

    Liner socks
    Thick wool socks
    Meindl winter boots
    Antipersirant all over the feet

    SEVERAL different types of chemical hand war
    mers as well as body/foot warmers, a dozen each

    A half gallon of hot coffee in a thermos, and a gallon of water.

    Comms kept inside the jacket between the Halys and the Beta LT.

    For any fixed position work, I would drape a camo tarp with a silvered liner over myself, and insulate from the ground. If you are stuck in sitting position, oddly a dog bed like you get from Costco works good as a comfortable seat and insulated layer. Not very portable though.



     

    Airw4ves

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    Airw4ves; thanks for taking the time to type all that up. It's great. RE: Swany Mitts - Can you slide your index finger out and shoot with the mitt on?? If so, they look awesome.

    Yep, I usually sit with my hand around the grip and when Im ready to shoot just pop (abduct) my trigger finger out onto the trigger and once done shooting, pop it back in. I tried specific shooting gloves with a singular trigger finger but ended up taking it out of that finger and keeping my fingers together. Made trying to get my finger back into the proper place slow and a pita.
    Side note, they’’re nice for skiing too as you can pop out a finger to get to your lift ticket or adjust bindings :p
    Another option for you is the heat company and their glove, the HEAT3.
    http://www.theheatcompany.com/en/gloves/heat-3-smart
    I considered them but when doing some research, it appears people have had the zippers fail as its in an area that is prone to a lot of rotational and pulling apart movement of the zipper. Still a solid option and allows for all your fingers to be used a little easier than the swany, but for me I only needed my trigger finger out quick. If I want use of my whole hand, I just take off the mitt and wear gloves. Just another one for you to consider though.

    Also, as stated, keep the weapons outside in a dry place (case, etc) or let them acclimatize prior to your shift so you can watch for freezing. Taking them into the tent or wherever will result in condensation on the metal, which when brought outside will freeze, rendering it useless. Bolt guns are less prone to this, but AR’s can be a btch to thaw quickly. If stuck in super cold environments, graphite powder as a lube can be used. Same goes for ammo, test it in similar temps to get your dope, and keep it in that temp, tossing it next to the heater will yield some odd results.
     
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    Nodakplowboy

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    Mar 4, 2017
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    The best cold weather hand gear I've fond is a pair of glove liners inside a pair of aviator gloves inside a pair of wool lined leather mittens. It keeps all the fingers together for warmth and allows the thumb to slide out and join the fingers. Pull the mitts off when needed. They used to make, and still might, clips that attach mitts to the cuff of your jacket, keeps them from getting lost. Whether that would work for your situation is something you'd have to experiment with.

    As stated above, get acclimated to the cold. It works.
     

    RoterJager

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  • Oct 21, 2013
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    I run both Arc'Teryx LEAF and Beyond Gear. Currently my favorite piece is the Arc'Teryx LEAF Cold WX SV Jacket. Under that, I alternate between a Beyond Alpha Sweater with zip off sleeves or an Arc Atom LT.
     

    mcameron

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  • Nov 17, 2011
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    get yourself some wool.......wool base layer, wool socks.....and get yourself a nice thick wool blanket.

    that and some Hot-hands, buy a few large packages and place one in your shoes, one in every pocket, and one in each glove
     

    Timetoshoot

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    Lots of good advice here, I work outside in the winter elevations range 10000 to 12,000 feet. Laryering, Hard Shell exterior layer, Mickey Mouse boots or quality packs with wool liners. Surplus wools mittens with thumb and trigger finger inside a pair of over sized expedition mitts, Electric socks and vests work well. I’ve used them to help me survive the last hour or two of an 8 hour exposure. If heat signature not an issue you might use propane heater while on station.

    Might also consider adding one or two additional teams, allowing you to rotate teams off of station in regular intervals. Something along the lines of two hours on station 30 minutes to warm up.
     
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    deersniper

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  • Feb 22, 2007
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    Static ? Get some snowmobiling gear. If it keeps you warm at 60mph in 10* weather it will easily keep you warm siting still. Base layer plus mid layer plus outer layer.
     

    afv338

    anthony
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    Feb 21, 2017
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    along with all the other good cold weather advice if it was me and i do the same thing as you i would at all costs not use a cat walk as a operating position, surely you can find a hide in side a building if needed in this capacity you do have to be able to make the shot and being on a cat walk sounds like you will be made very easy and suck shooting off of. anther thought for a rooftop hide is to build a plywood box paint it the color of the roof and take a propane heater just a thought. we are down to 3 guys now too you can recruit other team members to just use as spotters as anther option and switch out. if you want you can pm me with the details and if you want to call me i will give you my number if i can help.
     

    Dwillis496

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    BEYOND gear is mainly what I have been running during colder times. Layering correctly as mentioned already makes a huge difference. A good insulated mat as well.
     

    tt123

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    Aug 1, 2010
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    Just a thought, but maybe some electrically heated undergarments would be a good idea? I know they're getting quite popular among hunters sitting in high seats here in Scandinavia.


    This brand seems quite popular: http://www.nordicheat.dk/en/
    I can imagine you'll need a few extra batteries though.