Cold Weather Gear Help Needed « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Cold Weather Gear Help Needed

What’s Up?

At the suggestion of the brilliant Dr. Cliff Oliver, I am trying to learn and execute the basics of race walking to help with my hip pain/weak glutes. It is nearly 3pm on Saturday and I am headed for a 1/2 mile swim on this warm, beautiful Florida day.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear, especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

Cold Weather Gear Help Needed

Please leave a comment if you would like to chime in on anything below. Please refer only to gear that you have persoonally used. Please include the correct product name. It is fine to include a link.

What are the best/warmest (waterproof) cold weather boots that you know of?

What are the best/warmest cold weather socks that you know of?

What are the best/warmest cold weather photography gloves that you know of?

If you know of and have used any battery-heated socks or battery-heated gloves please do share.

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To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, we sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And please remember that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

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16 comments to Cold Weather Gear Help Needed

  • Boots and socks will depend a lot on what you will be doing the most of ie walking or standing. The snow pac boots are great for standing in very cold weather (think ice fishing or standing at the upper Mississippi locks shooting Eagles) but a bitch when needing to walk any distances due to their weight and size. For hiking in cold weather (think Rocky Mountains) I’ve always gad great luck with the Rocky Boots.

    Gloves/mittens. A thin pair of shooting gloves (guns) will work if you have hand warmers in your pockets or strapped to your tripod or camera body (I tried to keep one on the camera battery when out on long shoots). There is also a shooter (gun) mitten that you can cut off the index finger and thumb ends to help with camera dials. The battery powered ones are great when you are not moving for long periods of time (hours) in very cold temps and or wind.

    I myself have used the disposable hand warmers (the shake ones). Different sizes are made but try to get ones that arn’t old. Also, to help keep you warm, especially us aging guys, get you some of the peel n stick muscle/body warmers and put them on your lower back by the kidneys, around your neck and any of those places where major arteries are.

    My biggest problem when shooting in near zero or sub zero was not breathing on my camera viewfinder thus fogging then freezing it up!! I found that having a full face mask (one that covers the mouth) helps, but ultimately, learned to slowly breath out my nose when near my camera body was my best bet.

  • colin bradshaw

    These are the warmest gloves I’ve ever used

    The index winger is just neoprene to can work the camera fine.The thumb had a flat neoprene pad as well which works for rear focusing. Bizxarrely the problem is sometimes your hand get too hot in them!

  • Norm

    What are the best/warmest (waterproof) cold weather boots that you know of?
    >>>>The Original L.L.Bean Boot, The Duck Boot

    What are the best/warmest cold weather socks that you know of?
    >>>>I LOVE my “SMART WOOL” socks I found mine at Bass Pro

    What are the best/warmest cold weather photography gloves that you know of?
    >>>I was fishing and the nerophrene gloves would NOT be good for photgraphy…. but sure kept my hands warm 🙂

    My brother lives in Alaska…when I visit him I get to see how the locals live. They layer with:

    *polypropylene long handle underware (NEVER COTTON)
    *fluffy fleece shirt & pants …kinda look like sweat shirt/pants
    *Raingear pants&coat (to break the wind)
    *Hat lined that can cover the ears…
    those worked for me.


  • Bob

    It would help to know what this is for as this class of garments gets very exotic and few go where they are needed. Dry cold above zero single digit, I use the steiger mukluk double wide artic. Warmth depends on how much you can stuff in. Extra sole and heavy socks is about all for me as I have wide feet. Not for snowshoes and you have to pick and choose chains or other traction device carefully to prevent crimping toes. Probably as warm as a typical sorel boot unless you have a really loose fit in either boot which allows you to stuff more in. very light weight and comfortable. Next step up, US military bunny boots. A real survival boot. Hard to find but rated to -65f totally waterproof and the -65f was not a number invented by the ad department. Biggest negative is weight. Best are considered to have been made by Bata and I believe are currently being made by air boss. Comes/came in at least 5 widths not one width fits all like most boots. These two boots have been my standard for 20 years. You asked for things I’ve used but I’m sure there are boots that may be better than my old standards.

    Next step up is Cabela’s Trans-Alaska™ III Pac Boot. These are Iditarod boots and are the kind of boot people wear near churchill in winter standing waiting for polar bears to emerge with cubs. No temperature rating but considered warmer than the bunny and my guess comparable to the baffin below. I rarely use it because 1) sole not very flexible and like walking in high heals 2) no weight advantage over bunny 3) there are few places or situations you need such a boot.

    With the exception of the bunny boot (not necessary as insulation sealed in rubber and cannot get wet), you should buy extra liners if possible. Alternate liners so one is drying in the room while you are wearing the other.

    Socks Smartwool Merino Wool Mountaineer Socks use a thinner sock if necessary to maintain loose fit which I have to do with the cabela or baffin boots. A tight fit restricts blood circulation circulation. same for glove fit, keep it loose.

    gloves I’m using windproof fleece fingerless climbing gloves or marmot windstopper convertible glove XXL with mountain hardwear Men’s Power Stretch® Glove (better dexterity) or Klim 3.0 Liner in colder weather (windproof). Put chemical warmer between outer glove and inner glove over back of hand. Colder put a second warmer inside convertible portion of marmot where fingers go. Super cold, you are looking a an over glove that you pull you hand out of for photographing for a minute or two at a time. Mine are outdoor research big enough to get the climbing gloves with liners in. Have a string like kids gloves that runs from one mitt to the other running through the sleeve of your coat so you don’t loose them. Have not used the over glove that much as I normally stick my hand in my coat pockets where there is another large, not glove size, heat pack. I’ve used cabelas battery gloves. less dexterity but may be just the ticket for photographing wolves in Lamar valley for endless hours. Not sure but I think these were made for them by gerbing. Batteries are not lasting more than 2 or so hours depending on heat seating (low or medium), need charger (get 12v one as well) so I prefer the chemical warmers.

    on the camera, extend the buttons out using small furniture or cabinet bumpers. I’ve found a product a bhphoto called prodot but have not used it, for shutter button. The biggest problem I’ve had is that the glue can get into the button making it stick. Therefore I use and remove rather than leave permanently. the Q feature on the latest canon cameras is a real big plus in this regard eliminating the need to work a lot of the small buttons.

  • Victoria Sokolowski

    Heated gloves- On Amazon “VentureHeat Avert Unisex-Adult 7.4V Battery Heated Glove Liner (Black, Large)” – Expensive but SO worth it. I have an older version no longer available, but these seem the same but now they have touchscreen-friendly fingertips. These are liners – you wear them inside another pair of gloves or mittens. My fingertips frosted badly a couple years ago, and I am in intense pain if they get cold. I spend tons of time outdoors in Wisconsin when often below zero. I walk even if -25. These will last about 4 hours on medium, and you can leave them on to shoot. I just pull off the outer glove on my shooting hand, and my hands are OK. I never need them on high even if -25. I know the minute they run out of juice! I had tried all the other hand warmers but they just could not keep my fingers warm. I have 2 sets of batteries for the gloves- they to not charge very fast so I just alternate each day. The gloves do not feel warm to the touch when on, but they are just enough to keep my fingers comfortable. I cheat sometimes and wear “Thermacare Heatwraps Lower Back & Hip ” made for back pain (one wrap will last about 8-12 hours) which wraps around your middle and just having that warm your back keeps your entire body warmer. I sit for hours out in my blind, and this tip can really help. Not sure if you can wear a wrap with your diabetes, but thought I would mention it. I am looking for good battery socks – looking forward to any hints on those from this thread. I keep camera batteries indoors overnight, but leave camera outside in car except when very cold. I wear a “Seirus Facemark Ultraclava” from Scheels which keeps my neck and head warm, then a stocking cap, then a hooded sweatshirt over the hat, then a hooded coat if really cold. I am a wimp for cold but I love shooting when below zero ! Also, Under Armor long underwear. Also I have insulated jeans. The most expensive part of my gear is the gloves, but I could not go without them these days. I also wear snow-boarding goggles when the wind is blowing- they are easy to pop up on my head out of the way to shoot, but my eyes tear badly in cold wind and this stops that. Sorry to be so long with my suggestions. Hope this makes sense.

  • Kerry Morris

    I love the ‘HotHands’ Hand Warmers and have just put them inside my regular gloves – this has served me well and kept my hands toasty for birding and photography.

    Another must for me (though you didn’t ask about this): a cashmere scarf that is long enough to wrap twice around my neck and tied in the front, and a cashmere hat. Absolutely wonderful!
    Keeps me toasty and if i need to i can pull part of the scarf up and over my nose and just breathe through it.

  • Eugen J. Dolan

    For my choice
    1)Muck Boots – winter- very toasty (Sit in duck blond and -20F toasty)
    2)I use a Liner sock and then Acorn fleece socks
    3) choices for Gloves – Aquatec Sensory gloves (B&H has then)
    But THE warmest by far are by -Gloves/Mitts in on- with Places for heat packs- An austrian company designing winter gear for the Swiss and Austrian SPecial forces

  • David Policansky

    Artie: the Muck boots we used for shore excursions from the Sea Spirit were the best, warmest, waterproof boots I’ve used. I’d guess they’d be good down to the teens F (-8 C) at least. I found them reasonably comfortable for hiking a couple of miles over somewhat rough terrain.

  • Karl Fiegenschuh

    I use Baffin Control Max boots for sub-zero (F) photography when I’m going to be standing in one place a lot; Columbia Bugaboots when it isn’t so cold; and Vasque Snowubran Ultra Dry when I’m going to be doing a lot of hiking. I like Smartwool socks and use whatever weight I need for the boots I am wearing. The key is to leave room for your toes to wiggle a bit and for an air pocket to trap the warmth around the foot.

    I’m still searching for the perfect winter photo gloves which are thin enough to operate camera controls and still keep my fingers warm in sub-zero conditions. I currently use a thin pair of gloves with sticky palms/fingers such as Eddie Bauer First Ascent or Head digital sport running gloves when it isn’t below zero. When it is below zero, I wear a thin pair of gloves (like the above) inside polarfleece fingerless convertible gloves with flip back mitten tops. The best ones I’ve found have the fingers cut off but the thumbs covered (no longer available at Eddie Bauer). I’ll usually use the mitten top to cover all the fingers of my left hand and leave only the index finger and thumb of my right hand sticking out. Then I put a heat pack inside the mitten top flap. Later this winter I’m going to try Serius Heat Wave reflective “aluminum” glove liners. Friends tell me they work well. And I’ve given up on back button focusing when wearing gloves…I just can’t reliably and consistently operate that tiny button with gloves on.

  • I use the Heat 3 Smart Gloves. Only gloves that have not failed me yet. Here is the product description:
    Originally designed for European Special Forces for warmth, grip and dexterity, the Heat 3 Smart Gloves are the perfect extreme winter gloves for photography.

    Featuring the hightest quality construction, the outer shell is made from an Elastic Microfiber with water resistant and breathable qualities much like Gore-tex. The palm has full goat leather for added grip, warmth and durability and the insulation is Primaloft for optimal warmth. With a mitten and glove design, a zipper across the palm opens up to expose the fingers for working your camera. A magnetic clip holds the mitten top in place and the thumb cap uses velcro. Heat packs can be installed on both sides of fingers and in the wrist. A draw string around the wrist of the extra long cuffs keeps snow out and wrist safety harnesses are included.

    The thumb and index fingers are conductive for touch screen operations. The ultimate cold weather glove with the ultimate dexterity!

  • Boots: Baffin Extreme

    Gloves: Heat 3 Smart

  • Jerry Murray

    Hi Artie
    I just came back from 10 days in Glacier NP and Waterton Lakes NP, so I’ll be glad to give you some suggestions on cold weather gear. I used the Steger mukluks arctic ( LL Bean cresta hiking socks (wool, nylon, spandex) when the temp was below 0. One day it was -16F and another day was -25F. The socks come in a midweight and heavyweight option. For me the midweight socks work great down to about 20 F. For you with diabetes, you might want the heavyweight socks. Other people like my brother swear by their Sorel caribou boots ( for cold weather. Steger also makes a moosehide arctic mitts with a polartec 300 wt fleece liner. Very Warm but may be hard to photograph with! I was using a glove liner with a fleece, gore tex wind stopper mitten and hand warmers or my Columbia ski gloves when the temp was below 0. The ski gloves are harder to use for photography than the mittens. I also used a fleece balaclava on those cold and windy days. Hope that helps and feel free to ask any follow up questions you may have. Jerry

  • Ron May

    Hi Art…cold weather gear

    What are the best/warmest (waterproof) cold weather boots that you know of? The best ones that I know of are Sorel Caribou. They have a waterproof rubber bottom and a waterproof leather top on them. They come with a removable 9mm washable recycled felt inner boot with sherpa pile snow cuff. They are supposedly good to -25°C (-13°F). If you do go for these, then I would recommend that you buy an extra pair of liners. That way you can change them each day and the ones that were used can be left in your hotel room to dry. I have used these when I was up in the Northwest Territories photographing Aurora at -20°C ± a couple of years ago.

    What are the best/warmest cold weather socks that you know of? Don’t know of any brands, just make sure they are all wool socks – no cotton. Again extra pairs are de rigeur.

    As far as gloves/mitts go, I have always used hand warmers with a good pair of winter gloves. The warmers that are activated by exposure to air. They last about 7 hours. There are, of course, reusable ones that plug in to a USB port on your computer. I have never used them as I couldn’t find any when I was looking. I also have a thin pair of wool gloves that I keep on my hands when I am photographing in the cold.

    I have no experience with any battery-operated stuff.

    Hope this helps. Where are you going that you need this gear?

  • PKUK

    For socks – Sealskinz
    I do a lot of winter carp fishing and I’ve never found anything better.

    For boots – SkeeTex
    Absolutely unbeatable for warmth but are not great for walking great distances in.

    Note – the two above are incompatible with each other – I go barefoot in the Skeetex due to the thermal liner but use the Sealskinz for walking in (or sleeping in!)