Crisp air, fresh animal tracks, bug-free evenings, and water all around—in the form of snow. A winter campout is a gorgeous way to experience nature. Here's a selection of gear to keep you safe and (relatively) warm. —Michael Frank
The MS Snow Trainer Insulated GTX by SALEWA is the perfect boot for winter trekking's harshness: It's warm and exceptionally light, and its outsoles are made of a unique grippy rubber that stays pliable in the cold.
A built-in gaiter prevents snow from spilling over the top and soaking your toes. And while you won't want to wear them to a wedding, you'll be styling through the slush. $279, backcountry.com
In the coldest heart of winter, anyone who skis, snowshoes, or hikes will still work up a sweat. Which is why the Nano Puff hybrid jacket from PATAGONIA is designed to stay warm even when wet.
It's made of recycled polyester and has thin Polartec R2 fleece panels to vent your 'pits and back. The seam pattern won't bunch under straps or harnesses. $249, www.patagonia.com
Ever since THERM-A-REST debuted its NeoAir line of sleeping pads, it has become the brand of choice—nothing else on the market will keep you as warm or as comfortable.
The incredibly light (15 ounces) XTherm mattress incorporates more than 100 inner cells and a reflective material, features that direct cold away from your body and into the ground. $190, cascadedesigns.com
Even high-loft hand covers cause a chill when moisture freezes on the outside. So MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR utilizes a technology called OutDry in its Jalapeno Gloves to prevent moisture from penetrating and turning your hands into painful blocks of ice.
If you're a person whose fingers get cold easily, these will keep you insanely warm. $125, mountainhardwear.com
MSR's Lightning Ascent snowshoes integrate the frame with the claw that bites into the snow, dropping overall weight (a pair is 3 pounds, 15 ounces) and distributing it more evenly.
Backpackers get an added bonus: The claw and teeth are independently flexible for durability and better grip on uneven terrain. And if you're headed into deep powder, you can add extension tails to increase float. From $270, msrgear.com
In warm weather, most stoves run like jet engines because ambient heat helps maintain canister pressure. But as the mercury drops, so does that pressure.
In JETBOIL's Helios stove system, however, the fuel in the inverted canister exits as a liquid, not a vapor, allowing a consistent flow to the stove down to minus 10 degrees. The Helios has a wide, stable base and comes with a 2-liter pot. $150, jetboil.com
The BIG AGNES String Ridge 2 comes with a fly (3 pounds, 11 ounces, with poles) that can be set up as its own floorless tent, which saves weight but still offers wind protection.
Bring tent and fly together (5 pounds, 11 ounces) to get a bombproof shelter that can be erected in less than five minutes. It's also ecofriendly, with solvent-free seams and poles made without the use of toxic chemicals. $600, bigagnes.com
Snow can slash the effectiveness of any insulation. So the Zissou 0
(as in zero degrees) sleeping bag by SIERRA DESIGNS has a water-resistant fill called DriDown.
Though the fill isn't meant to be waterproof, in our tests, it stayed totally dry. The Zissou is also more compressible and lighter (3 pounds, 1 ounce) than many synthetic bags and should last you a decade or more. $299, sierradesigns.com
Even in winter, synthetic base layers can start stinking. But BodyFit 200 lightweight leggings by ICEBREAKER stay smell-free thanks to merino wool's natural odor-resistant properties.
They're just the right weight for active days and chilly nights, letting you pack less clothing. (Icebreaker's Everyday line is also merino but typically costs 30 percent less—leggings for women and men are $60.) $80, icebreaker.com