Winter is a beautiful season that provides snow-dusted forests, astonishing icicles and a nice blast of cold air. Backpacking and camping gear are generally much heavier during this time of year and saving weight becomes difficult, but not impossible.
Properly preparing is vital to a comfortable night in the tent when temps hoover in the single digits, but even so nothing could prepare me for a cold head and even colder feet. I am convinced that there is nothing worse in this world then having cold feet! Many nights I have fought with my body and struggled with maintaining warmth with in a 10 degree quilt, 25 degree liner, proper base layers and a hot nalgene bottle.
But then came Goosefeet Gear Balaclava and Socks. They changed the way I sleep, literally.
Down Balaclava ie the Hood
Having my down quilt with my Balaclava is like having warm gooey chocolate chip cookies with a well-deserved glass of warm Macadamia milk. It is a heavenly match and one that I will never do without. The shape, I’ll admit, is a little funky and it took a while to get used to looking like an alien with a square head, but its function is well worth the aesthetic tradoff.
The ultralight Down Balaclava can be worn both during the day and at night, while backpacking, camping or other activities. It is a one-size-fits-all and comes with a nifty draw string so that you can clamp down on it and be as smug (and snug) as a bug.
It comes in twenty-two colors and you have the option of choosing between 8D and 20D fabric for both outside and inside of the hood. Warmness is never a concern as the 850 fill power water-resistant goose down insulates perfectly and feels soft on the skin.
What I Love About the Goosefeet Balaclava
Customizable Fabric/ Weatherproofing
There’s something fun about choosing colors and personalizing gear that makes me feel like it was made just for me. Not only can you choose colors, you can also choose whether you want a single or double fill.
For my balaclava, I went with Sailor Blue 20D on the outside and 8D charcoal grey for the inside with a double fill. These two types of fabrics offer different advantages. According to Goosefeet, the 8D has a nice next-to-skin feeling. It’s also ultralight, has a DWR treatment and is 100% downproof.
The 20D is composed of nylon, is durable and has DWR treatment applied to the outer layer so that small amounts of water slide off. Condensation is a constant battle that I have with my tent while camping in the winter (even with a door open) and having that DWR treatment is gold.
Staying warm and dry is the recipe for a perfect night in the backcountry and this piece of gear delivers. As someone who struggles to maintain warmth due to anemia, I found the Balaclava delivers exceptional warmth. Because this piece is detachable, it is versatile and can be worn with outerwear of your choosing. I personally like to use it as a hood with my hoodless puffy and it manages to contain my full head of dreads without being too bulky.
When the glorious sun sets and the great moon rises, temperatures in Jersey in the winter can range between 8-28 degrees fahrenheit. The coldest I have slept was at 10 degrees and frigid temps did not penetrate through. I have absolutely no complaints about sleeping on this cloud of fluffiness during cold mountain nights.
At 2.2 oz, I don’t think it gets any better for anyone looking to save weight. There are a few factors that vary the weight for the Balaclava. A single fill will be ultralight ranging from 1.4 oz to 1.8oz max with a 20D fabric while a double fill will vary between 2.0 oz to 2.4 oz with a 20D fabric. Either way, it feels as light as a feather and compresses into any corner or crevice of my pack. It comes with its own little cute sack but I toss it in my stuff sack with my down quilt for extra protection.
What I Didn’t Like
The Drawstring Cord
This is debatable but I found the silky and smooth drawstring cord to be a bittersweet feature. I love how it cinches down around my face when it is gnarly cold outside. It’s non-irritating on my sensitive skin. But it must be handled gently or it can be pulled out of the hood.
The Balaclava, like the socks, are meant to be handled lightly and cannot withstand roughness. My string got pulled out when I stuffed the gear into my stuff sack and it was annoying to put back in. I can be a little rough with my gear so words of wisdom: Treat your gear nicely and it will take care of you! Oh and don’t forget to read the care instructions.
The Down Socks
Cold feet can ruin anyone’s camping experience, quickly lowering morale. My quilt has a drafty footbox and no matter how many socks I wear, I cannot seem to get them warm. I am an extremely cold sleeper but it doesn’t keep me from hiking or camping in the winter. Adapting to the environment is my specialty and thus came the lightweight Goosefeet Gear Down Socks! Made with 850 goose down fill power and treated with Downtek for water resistance, these lightweight but insanely warm socks are what dreams are made of.
What I Love about the Goosefeet Gear Down Socks
Just like the down balaclava, Goosefeet offers a plethora of colors for its down socks and two fabrics to choose from, with the bonus to add extra down fill. The standard fill is rated to 35 degrees but you can even get more extravagant and do a 100% overfill, which will bring the temperature rating to 15 degrees. I opted for the 100% overfill and have absolutely no regrets. I like to couple my down socks with a nice pair of warm wool socks for that extra bump on nights under 15 degrees.
If you’re huge on saving weight and do not want to carry a pair of camp shoes, look no further, Goosefeet Gear has you covered. The socks, as plush as they are, should not be walked on outside of the tent space. However, there is the option to purchase Waterproof Over-Booties that are specifically designed to fit around and protect the socks — turning your ultralight socks into a camp shoe combo.
Feet come in all shapes and sizes and the socks do too! Tailored for both kids and adults, everyone can have exceptionally warm feet. The sizes of the socks are pretty on point and fit perfectly around the ankles with the help of the elastic cuffs. The ankle cuffs help the socks stay put and keep the warmth in and the drafts out. You’ll never have to worry about leaving a sock behind or it turning around in awkward positions while you rest peacefully.
The weight of these delicate socks range from 0.8 oz to 3.3 oz and are well worth it. I stuck with the 20D for the outside fabric and 8D for the inside with the 100% overfill and ended up with 3.3 oz added to my pack. They compress with ease, leaving plenty of room in your pack.
I can't come up with anything that I dislike about the Goosefeet Gear Down Socks!!!
The Bottom Line
The Goosefeet Gear Down Balaclava and Socks perform exceptionally well, and when coupled with the proper sleep system, the coldest nights will feel not so cold. You may even get a little toasty and that’s okay; they are easy to take off and put on.
Goosefeet Gear products are built for cold sleepers and hikers who want comfort and warmth but without sacrificing a ton of weight. Having the option to choose the fill, color and fabric makes it even more personal, creating a sense of confidence and individuality.
These two puffy, lightweight gear items offer peace as I prepare for a cold winter’s start on the Appalachian Trail.
Shilletha Curtis is a 28-year-old New Jersey native. She’s thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2021 and plans to be the second Black woman and first Black Queer woman to get the Triple Crown. She graduated from Rutgers in 2014 and got a degree in Social Work. She loves her dog, hiking and speaking her truth. Her goal is to bring diversity to the Appalachian trail and the hiking community as a whole. She also loves to do art and skimboard in her free time. Ubuntu!
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