Staying warm and dry in the backcountry is especially important in winter months. Most people active in the outdoors know when to put on another layer or take off a hat or coat to regulate temperature.
But what if you’re new to the backcountry, or you’re trying to raise an outdoor enthusiast? How do you know what should be worn and when?
Here’s the lowdown on layering:
Layer One: Start next to the skin. The first or inner layer keeps skin dry and comfortable. Cotton may be comfortable and breathable in hot weather, but it absorbs and retains water. This makes it difficult to dry. Damp bodies are soon uncomfortable in the cold. Avoid heavy cotton clothing in the outdoors whenever possible.
Synthetic fabrics, such as polypropylene, help move moisture away from the skin — a process known as wicking. Long underwear pieces made of these types of fabrics are good inner layers in cooler months.
Layer Two: Now add a layer of protection and light insulation. Long-sleeved shirts and pants provide warmth for winter. This middle layer can be lightweight, but should cover exposed arms and legs. If it’s really cold, turn up the heat with a thick woolly sweater or comfy pile jacket and pile pants. Both wool and synthetic pile stay warm even when wet. Pile has the extra benefit of drying quickly.
Layer Three: When wind and rain are a concern, break the elements with a shell layer. Waterproof, breathable fabrics are perfect winter weather shells. If cost is a factor, remember that kids sweat 40% less than adults, so breathable fabrics may not be necessary for your young outdoor enthusiast. Any good shell though, should have an attached hood that covers all of the head.
Now it’s time to put the whole system together. Add or subtract pieces depending on the weather. Add a layer if the temperature drops. If the wind blows, break it with a shell. If it the snow flies, bust it with a waterproof shell (both top and pants).
A couple of extra notes: When your child is young (0-3 years), they are active only in short spurts, if at all. They will be spending downtime being carried and need to be dressed in warmer layers. Also, when you stop skiing or snowshoeing, you will get cold. Adding a down coat keeps body temperature warm until your start moving again. And don’t forget about headwear, over 30% of heat is lost through the head. If your toes are cold, put a hat on.
Layering is simple once you get the hang of it. In fact, it’s as easy as 1-2-3!