Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"Made in the USA" Gear Review: Wintergreen Northern Wear Expedition Shell Anorak & Guide Shell Pants

Wintergreen Northern Wear, located in Ely Minnesota, was originally founded by Paul and Susan Schurke, a husband and wife team with extensive experience exploring the Arctic Circle.

Paul had the notable distinction of being on the famed 1986 Steger International Polar Expedition, the first team in history to reach the North Pole without resupply.

Paul's wife Susan, taking a cue from the garb she'd seen Eskimos wear, designed and crafted the clothing that was used by the Steger team.

This clothing was so well made that it kept the team warm down to an incredible -75 Degrees Fahrenheit. Based on this success, Paul and Susan decided to create the Wintergreen Northern Wear line.

The 1986 Steger International Polar Expedition Team, which includes Paul Schurke, wearing clothing designed by soon-to-be founder of Wintergreen Northern Wear, Susan Schurke (photo credit: Will Steger Foundation)

Susan Schurke, notable dog sledder, wilderness skills instructor, and Arctic explorer.

Expedition Shell Anorak and Guide Shell Pants

Wintergreen's Expedition Shell Anorak and Guide Shell Pants were designed to be extreme cold weather technical outer layers for trekking through arctic and subarctic climates.

Since many parts of the Rocky Mountains are considered subarctic, the Anorak Shell and Guide Pants looked to be excellent candidates for winter bushcrafting when I ran across them during an online search last year. Coincidentally, I also found out that they were made in the USA. So I contacted Wintergreen, asking if they would be interested in having us review them for our "Made in the USA" series. Happily they agreed!

During this inquiry, I found out that Paul and Susan Schurke sold Wintergreen to current owners Curt and Becky Stacey back in 2009, in order to focus more attention on their Dogsled Lodge and Adventures Company.

When specialty companies sell their businesses to new owners, it doesn't always go so well. Luckily for Wintergreen, this hasn't been the case.

Even though the Schurkes are no longer running Wintergreen, quality and customer service has remained high. In fact, having spoken with Becky Stacey several times (Becky manages the day to day operations of Wintergreen), I can tell that she is very committed and enthusiastic about Wintergreen's quality, history, and pride in employing US workers.

(From left to right) Curt Stacey, Becky Stacey, Susan Schurke, Paul Schurke

Expedition Shell Anorak


  • Outer shell constructed from treated 3-ply nylon with DWR (Durable Water Repellency), made to shield the body from the wind, also breathable.
  • Shakes off moisture easily and breathes better than Gore-tex under extreme cold conditions
  • Designed for polar expeditions or other extreme cold adventures
  • Ample design for layering to trap air and hold in body heat
  • Silky polyester shelter lining is suspended from the shoulders to prevent moisture traps
  • Adjustable draw-cord waist and hood and inside zip pockets
  • Zip-on Coyote Fur Ruff as an option (ruffs are obtained only from Inuit hunters who harvest them as a sustainable resource in the Canadian Arctic)
  • Two styles available- 1) Partial-Zip pullover style with a single front hand-warmer pocket 2) Full-Zip style with a two-way zipper and two front hand-warmer cargo pockets (The Full-Zip model is the one used in this review)
  • Machine Washable
  • Made in Ely, MN U.S.A
  • Price- $300.00 USD

The Anorak features adjustable draw cords on the waist and hood, as well as an inside zip pocket. The inside of the jacket has a polyester shelter lining, which is suspended from the shoulders to prevent moisture traps. A really nice touch is the hand-warmer cargo pockets, which have a fleece lining on the front (shown in the top left photo below). I found these to be especially handy after working without gloves in frigid weather.

(click to enlarge)

Guide Shell Pants


  • Constructed from 3-ply nylon with DWR (durable water repellency), with wind flaps inside and outside of leg zips and Velcro tabs at cuffs
  • Knees and buttocks are reinforced with heavy, waterproof Cordura nylon for durability and comfort while sitting and kneeling.
  • Shakes off moisture easily and breathes better than Gore-tex under extreme cold conditions
  • Designed for polar expeditions or other extreme cold adventures
  • Zip-fly crotch
  • Two deep side pockets
  • Removable web belt
  • Wear over thermal layer or alone
  • Machine Washable
  • Made in Ely, MN U.S.A
  • Price- $235.00

The knees and buttocks of the Guide Pants are reinforced with heavy waterproof Cordura nylon for durability and comfort while sitting and kneeling. They also come with a removable web belt, a zip fly and two deep side pockets. The legs can be unzipped half way up which makes them easy to put on and take off while on the move.

(click to enlarge)

Field Testing the Anorak Shell and Guide Pants

We originally received the Anorak and Guide Pants for testing last February and since that time, Dave and I have worn them on numerous winter treks and cold weather gear testing trips, including a couple of trips on Longs Peak Trail. Even in windchill temperatures down to -30 F, the Anorak and Guide Pants both performed brilliantly. True to Wintergreen's polar expedition heritage, these items kept us warm and dry, and also proved to be durable even after rolling around on rocks, dirt and mud when setting up remote camps. 

The Anorak and Guide Pants were large enough to wear multiple layers if needed, while also feeling light and not overly bulky. Truly an excellent design.

Dave sporting the Wintergreen Anorak and Guide Pants at the Longs Peak trailhead last February, getting ready to do some hard-core snow-shoeing up the trail!

Yours truly sitting in a puddle of ice water last March, trying to see if the Cordura reinforcement on the buttocks area was really waterproof. After sitting and dealing with Dave's bad jokes for 30 mins, the water still didn't leak through.

I found the reinforced knees on the Guide Pants to be particularly useful while kneeling in wet or snowy conditions:

The pockets on the Guide Pants are simple but worked well in the field. We carried all kinds of stuff in them and never had any issues with things coming out or getting snagged.


If I won the lottery tomorrow, and could afford absolutely any type of winter technical shell for bushcraft and winter trekking, I would still pick the Wintergreen Anorak and Guide Pants. Considering that these clothes would be responsible for keeping me alive and comfortable in dangerously frigid conditions, and would give many years of service, I think the choice is obvious.

Yes, the $300 price tag on the Anorak (and $235 on the Guide Pants) might seem a bit expensive to some, but considering that many big name Chinese-made winter shells cost upwards of $500 a piece, I think the price is definitely reasonable, especially considering the outstanding quality and performance of this dynamic duo.

"Fantastic" is not a word I've used in a review before, but in this case, I'll make the exception. Simply fantastic, and absolutely recommended if you are serious about cold weather adventures.

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

For more information, visit Wintergreen's website at www.wintergreennorthernwear.com

UPDATE- Wintergreen set to reopen this winter under original owners

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

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