DSC_5945_JPG_t285I'm getting older, which means winter camping just isn't as fun as it used to be. Problem is, I still love being out there during the cold season. So I put a pile of things on my Christmas list - items that I purchased for myself this winter and had mailed to myself. And they arrived two months ago, so I could pre-test them as well as take advantage of time off during the holidays to play outdoors — and be warm while doing it. Here they are. The following items, or gifts, are gear I researched a great deal prior to the winter season. I know what you're thinking. All the products are from Outdoor Research? Quite honestly, I've been a big fan of this company for years. It began with their canoe hats. I love their canoe hats. But this winter stuff overtakes my OR hat fetish. Costly? Yes. Worth it when the temperature drops? Absolutely!

Outdoor Research Credo Pants These pants are amazing. Seriously. They're rated as "weather-resistant" but I'd up that rating to almost darn-right water proof. I wore them on my last paddle of the season, which happened to be just a week ago in a snow storm at minus seven, and had three giant standing waves crash down on me in mid-rapid, unsuspectingly. I was totally dry and warm after the insistent (but havn't talked to my canoe partner since who happened to steer us into the waves in the first place). These pants also have incredible breathability with a cozy fleece interior. And with its gusseted ankle cuffs mixed with an overall soft (and light) shell fabric, I'd wrap these up for myself rather then anyone else this holiday - especially my canoe partner. Cost = $190.

Outdoor Research Virtuoso Jacket Last canoe season I lived in my Outdoor Research Transcendent Sweater Down Mini-Jacket. So I thought its big brother — the OR Virtuoso Jacket — would be a good replacement for winter. And I think it's a perfect choice. It's puffy but not too puffy (22 oz). Its loft of 650 plus down fills the gaps and keeps the chill out. And the hood and draw cord is an extra bonus. But it's the water-resistant fabric that I like the best — in a drizzle you're still dry and warm, which is darn good to have during these dark days of global warming and odd weather patterns. Cost = $280.

Outdoor Research Alti Mitts For warmth vs. weight and bulkiness I got to say these are winners. Alti Mitts offer a waterproof shell, leather palms, thick fleece on the inside palms and synthetic insulation on the backs, with removable liners. They are amazing. The only downfall is the price is close to my pants and jacket. So why did I splurge. Like I said, I'm getting too old for the cold and it's my fingers that seem to suffer the most. It comes from severe frost bite I received during my forest technician days up near Timmins in the 1980s. Froze half my digits more then once. Cost = $200.