Dressing For Winter Weather

During the winter, many people believe their favorite outdoor activities go into hibernation. They’ll put away their toys for a few months and then increase their Netflix account to “3-movies-at-home-at-a-time”. I’ll admit that I’ve allowed more than one cold season to keep me from hopping on my mountain bike, or spending a night in the woods. One way to help stack the odds in your favor is to dress appropriately for your activity.

Choosing the proper materials and layering your clothing are great ways to insure comfort when you’re in cold weather. By layering you can remove or add clothes as you heat up or cool off.

  • Starting with the base layer, preferably a lightweight synthetic, merino wool, or silk long underwear that will wick the moisture away from your skin.
  • Next you’ll put on the mid-layer, or insulating layer. Depending on the amount of aerobic activity you’ll be taking part in, something like a light fleece jacket or a down vest might be a good choice. A pair of nylon or wool pants for cold weather, or a pair of those zip-off pants/shorts if you’re going to be very active or the weather will warm up later in the day.
  • Your top layer, or shell, will help protect you from the elements. This could be a waterproof, soft shell, or wind-proof jacket/pants.

A great saying you might hear when it comes to dressing for an outdoor activity is “Cotton Kills”. While it isn’t true that the simple act of wearing cotton into the backcountry will literally kill you, it’s a fabric that doesn’t do a great job of transferring sweat/moisture away from your skin, or “wicking”. Wearing cotton in the summer-time might feel cool but, since your sweat doesn’t wick away from it, in the winter this causes your body to feel much cooler. Materials like polypropylene and merino wool do a great job of keeping your body dry and feeling much more comfortable while you’re active.

Remember to harness your inner Boy Scout and “Be Prepared”. If you can, pack some extra layers just in case you or someone else in your group needs them. Keep in mind that perfecting your layering system will take some time and experimentation. But that’s ok, it just gives you another excuse to get outside all winter.

Written by Ross Bonnewell, owner of TrailShuttles.com, a website dedicated to assisting hikers, bikers, and paddlers get to their next Western North Carolina adventure.

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