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Gearing up for winter – Layering

Regardless of the activity you plan on enjoying over these cold winter months you should look at your gear stash and figure out what is useful and what can be stored until the warmth of the spring returns. The major things that are effected during winter sports are clothing, shelters, navigation techniques and understanding of winter's impact on the outdoors.When dressing for outings you should remember the basics of layering. Once you are outside it is difficult to add clothing but removing it is simple. So always go prepared!

Wash Yourself!

Although it might seem foolish but start clean, seriously, wash yourself, dirt inhibits the bodies ability to regulate temperature, also try and keep clean while outdoors. I know, I know…I am not saying be a psycho and wash up every time you see dirt on yourself, what I mean is wash up at the end of the day. Don't crawl in your sleeping bag dirty. Now that we've addressed that issue on to the clothing.


Think moisture wicking, breathable, and layers. Each layer has its own function and should be addressed accordingly. The 4 Main Layers of clothing are:

  1. Base Layer
  2. Mid Layer
  3. Insulating Layer
  4. Outer Layer

In the backcountry, where activities can vary from slogging up a steep hill with a heavy pack one minute, and digging a snow shelter the next, to enjoying relaxing at camp, you need more flexibility and warmth. You must also be able to handle any weather condition that nature may throw at you, from hot sunny days to a raging blizzard. You must keep in mind the weight and bulk in your pack, whether you're out on a one-day hike, or a multi day adventure. By carrying several lightweight layers of clothing, you have the flexibility to handle many different conditions.

In Practice

Let's say that there's a storm moving in. As the wind picks up, I'll add the Gore-Tex or jacket to stop the wind-chill effect, which is the strongest contributor to lowering body temperature and causing hypothermia. I'm still working hard as I move along, but the Gore-Tex shell allows my body moisture to escape, while keeping the wind from destroying the insulating value of the rest of my clothing. If it starts to rain, I'll add the Gore-Tex pants and probably some gaiters, if I'm not already wearing them. In falling snow, I may not wear the Gore-Tex pants, because my body heat will keep my legs dry but the gaiters become useful. Once I reach my planned campsite. I begin to alter my wardrobe accordingly. At first, the warmth from skiing keeps me warm, but as I cool off, I add the fleece jacket for warmth. If it's raining or snowing, I'll put the jacket on under my Gore-Tex shell. I may also add the Gore-Tex pants. To keep my hands warm, I'll wear the windproof gloves over my lightweight gloves. In wind, rain, or snow, I'll add the GoreTex shell mittens, and also flip up the hood of my Gore-Tex jacket. On a summer trip, I'd probably leave out the lightweight underwear bottoms, and carry a polyester T-shirt instead of the long-sleeved underwear top. I'd carry a fleece beenie cap instead of a balaclava, and add a brimmed sun hat. As you have probably noticed I have not mentioned cost of this equipment. Prices vary widely, just remember do your research and buy the best product you can afford. If you spend the money up front on quality gear it will pay off in the long run.

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