My butt gets cold. Dare I say, I have one of the coldest bottoms in the history of womankind. I struggled for years with debilitating “cold-butt syndrome,” but I’m happy to be here today and tell you: it gets better. You need just one key piece of gear to transform your life – and your backside – forever.

My friend Katy introduced me to the down skirt back in 2013. Katy, her husband Ben, and two kiddos, are that adventurous family you love to stalk on social media. I met Ben and Katy when we were in the marching band at UW and have enjoyed exchanging holiday cards with them ever since. It’s been fun watching their relationship grow: from getting married on the flanks of Mt. Rainier to growing their family and taking their daughter to Panorama Point when she was just four weeks old. These folks are the epitome of outdoorsy. They embrace any time spent outside and personally inspire me to think differently about adventuring with kids.


Katy in her favorite place – Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo by Ben Stuart.


When it comes to both parenthood and fashion, Katy is ahead of her time. She’s a visionary among women. Hers was the first bottom I ever saw adorned with a down skirt and an unabashed, unapologetic bright pink one at that. I immediately messaged her to learn all about it. It’s Scandinavian (of course), and was purchased by Katy’s mom in Teller, Alaska (70 miles northwest of Nome on the Bering Sea). Apparently, you pretty much have to wear a down skirt over your pants there all the time in winter if you want to survive (and you can buy full-length versions too!).


Inspired by Katy’s claims that the down skirt was “super comfortable” and she “loves it,” I set out to find my own. This did not go well for me. Apparently, when you live in Seattle in March, they are not available anywhere—online or in stores. Teller, AK, doesn’t distribute broadly, it turns out.

Naturally, like anyone who can’t get what they want immediately, I had an adult tantrum for about 20 minutes then pulled it together and made a plan. My friend Nick is into gear, so I sent him a note asking him to weigh the pros and cons of the available models. He wrote me back with diagrams explaining grams, fill, features, and fashion. I think he wanted one himself after all the research.

Eventually, I bought one and it’s awesome. I’m not nearly as fashionable as Katy, and the skirt is lacking some serious bells and whistles, but at the end of the day my ass is warm and that’s all that matters. Which is why I’m writing today to tell you:


You need a down skirt. Here’s why.

The down skirt keeps you warm. When you are cold in the backcountry you put on your “puffy.” You know how much of a difference even a light puffy can make in terms of personal warmth. Think of the down skirt as a puffy for your bottom half. It warms your thighs and bum, and helps keep blood warm on the way down to your tingly toesies. For me, the down skirt has been a game-changer in winter camping. I used to have a really hard time falling asleep, even in the heaviest sleeping bag. Wear a down skirt to bed to transform your camping experience.

The down skirt is easy to wear and easy to carry. It’s relatively lightweight and compacts nicely, making it easy to carry for a single or multi-day trip. Most of the skirts have full zips, so you can put it on and take it off without stepping through. Get a skirt that’s sized up a bit to make sure you can layer over your ski pants or fashionable leggings. Or hell, go Scottish commando style. I don’t care.

The down skirt helps you stand out. While out in the wild, a down skirt is a pretty rare sighting (I’m sure this article will change everything). Just like wearing a tutu, the down skirt is a backcountry ice breaker and gets you noticed. Can’t find your friend? Just look for the bright pink down skirt or ask a stranger if they’ve seen someone with a warm-looking, bright-pink backside.

I believe in the down skirt so strongly that I advocated for its inclusion in the 9th edition of Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills. For you fashion-forward men out there, rumor has it a rain kilt may also make the cut (here’s a super lightweight version). If the down skirt does end up being included, I’m pretty sure that counts as life achievement UNLOCKED. The down skirt is truly a piece of safety equipment you need in your arsenal.

Tempted? Try these on for size

The Skhoop Short Down Skirt has pockets, belt loops, and 500 fill-power duck down to keep that lower body toasty. $160

Only 6 ounces and with 700 fill-power down, the Big Agnes Zirkel Circle has a funny name, tons of warmth. $119

Wool insulation isn’t the same as down in terms of weight and warmth, but it can handle moisture a bit better. Smartwool’s Smartloft 120 gives you recycled wool, wind resistance, and enough warmth to ski just a bit longer. $120.

This post originally appeared at Kristina Travels.