by Hailey Hirst
Whether it’s in the throes of midwinter, late autumn, or the bright but still-cold days of early spring, knowing how to dress for winter with strategic layering can make it possible to enjoy the outdoors year round. There’s no such thing as bad weather if you’re dressed properly!
You probably already a little bit about dressing in layers. But what does that mean exactly? How many layers? What kind? How do we know what to add, and when?
Even if you’re experienced in winter hiking and snowshoeing, or other snow sports, cold and wet conditions can always feel intimidating. So we polled our Facebook community and came up with our best winter layering tips and gear recommendations to help you stay warm and comfortable for cold weather adventures of any kind.
You might be familiar with the claim that we lose most of our body heat through our heads—but it turns out, this isn’t really true. It might feel like more when the rest of the body is clothed, but at most, humans lose 10% of their body heat from the head by surface area.
What’s more valuable than this outdated idea, is knowing a little bit about thermoregulation and how the body loses and retains heat. Understanding the mechanisms that your body uses, from sweating to vasodilation and constriction, can be so useful.
It’s worth reading more, but a couple highlights:
This is vital. Once your gear is wet with sweat, it’s way harder to regulate your temperature in cold conditions, and your risk of getting hypothermia is significantly higher with any wetness involved. There are a few things you can do to keep moisture at bay:
Things that can zip up and down (or open with armpit vents, for example!) give you more in-between levels to adjust for warmth and venting.
Where the main three layers give you that many options, don’t discount the power of being able to unzip your midlayer fleece or hike with your shell unzipped but still on. You’ll go from base, to mid unzipped, mid zipped, shell unzipped, shell zipped…) and zippers are so fast to adjust while on the move.
Using the vents that are often built into outer shells also helps to prevent moisture accumulation so you stay dry!
The ten essentials are pretty small to pack, but whatever day pack you’re carrying with you should also have the capacity to hold all the layers you might possibly remove. Make sure you’ve got enough room before you depart!
It’s also worth packing strategically so any layer or accessory you need to access doesn’t end up buried beneath your first aid kit or packed lunch.
Your own layers should reflect the weather conditions you expect to encounter and the activity you’ll be doing—whether or not you need waterproofing, ability for certain movements, etc, but a rundown on what the three main layers could look like…
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Hailey Hirst is She Explores‘ digital content editor and brand designer. Her leash-trained tuxedo cat and young daughter join her on the trails close to home in British Columbia and Idaho.