What to Wear in Winter

by | Published on February 13, 2014 | Last updated on October 27, 2018 | Guides, Stories

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Sometimes the difference between a great day and a good day is all in the clothes! Layering is the name of game for a day outside in the snow. Starting at the base layer and moving outwards, layers can be easily added and removed for comfort in any weather. With so many different brands, styles and materials available the best advice is to find what fits you best.

Base Layer

This “next to skin” layer is a tighter fitting layer designed to move moisture away from the skin where it can evaporate without leaving you cold (a process called wicking). Base layers are separated into two groups, synthetic materials and natural materials. All materials have their benefits and some drawbacks. Natural materials like merino wool have great antimicrobial properties (they don’t stink!) and keep their insulation if they get wet, but are heavier and will take longer to dry. Synthetics tend to be lighter and quick drying but they can get stinky a lot quicker. My preference is towards merino wool. I tend to use my winter gear for paddling in the spring and fall so the extra warmth and non-stink really comes in handy. Valhalla Pure Outfitters in Red Deer carries a variety of brands in either style like Icebreaker Merino products for wool or Patagonia Capilene for a synthetic.

Mid-Layer

This is the insulating layer, keeping you warm and happy while playing outside. There is lots of variety available, it’s all about finding the right level of warmth. You’ve got your pick of materials here: down, Thinsulate, Primaloft, fleece, heavier weight wool and all the different blends you can imagine. For insulation nothing beats down for warmth, low weight and packablilty but it comes at a premium price. Thinsulate and Primaloft are common types of synthetic insulation. They are great insulators, but are slightly heavier and they will take up more room in your pack. Fleece is a classic material for insulating layers. It’s warm, quick to dry and oh so fuzzy but it carries a little more weight and takes up a bit more space than the other options. For myself, it’s usually a fleece jacket or a thin down sweater, depending on which one I find first in the morning! An important thing to keep in mind is mobility. Try on a few options with your shell and base layer to make sure that it doesn’t restricts your movements.

Outer Shell

Like a turtle, this shell is all about protection! Waterproof, breathable and windproof are things to be looking for to keep you warm and dry. With so many styles, colours and brands to choose from this might be the hardest decision so we’ve come up with a few questions to help you decide:

  1. Is it long enough in the torso & arms to keep you covered with your arms moving up and down?
  2. Are the pockets easily accessible when you’re wearing a backpack?
  3. Are the zippers, hood and Velcro easy to adjust with gloves on?
  4. Do I look good? (yeah, you do!)

Outer Insulation

On really cold days, having a nice warm puffy coat to wear at lunch can be one of the best feelings there is. Puffy coats are found in both down and synthetic varieties and just like insulating layers, the materials carry their benefits and drawbacks. When I’m out for a day of adventure, I usually pack along a down coat. I love the way they pack down so small! Once again, always try on a variety of styles to find what fits your body shape and suits your needs the best!

Taking your time picking the right layers can make your day of adventure that much nicer. Keep in mind it can take a few trial runs to get your layering system perfected for you, so always pack along some extra layers! If you have any questions, please let us know in the comment section below.