Combat the Cold with Smarter Layers
Know what to wear when the temperature drops.
December 21, 2022
Cold. Likely the most universal enemies of winter fun. Billions of dollars have been spent combating the cold, but no matter your gear, here are a few rules you should follow to stay warm this winter:
FOR THE ACTIVE AMONG US
Climbing a mountain? Ski Touring? Fat Tire Biking? This requires a much different approach than if you’re simply going on a one-horse open sleigh ride.
Layers - and the correct layers - are extremely critical.
NEXT TO SKIN - The goal of this layer is to move moisture away from your body and towards the open air. This layer needs to be breathable, and moisture wicking. Materials like polypropylene, wool, and blends are the answer. DO NOT use cotton, as it will hold moisture, and ruin your day. As the saying goes “Cotton Kills.”
I should preface that from here on out, your layers depend on what you’re doing, how much effort is involved, and moisture and temperature of the environment you’re in.
MID-LAYER - For me, my next layer is often a synthetic, low-fill puffy coat featuring a material like PrimaLoft. Synthetics do a better job of wicking moisture than down while being active. I also like synthetic puff over fleece or a hoodie as it’s usually warmer and lightweight.
MID-LAYER, OPT. 2 - If it’s really cold, a wool hoodie paired with a mid-weight down jacket may be the ticket. The wool will pull moisture out, and given the extreme temperature differences, the down will be effective in moving that moisture to the outside environment.
OUTER LAYER - I love a good shell jacket, but it’s really not necessary unless you’re in a snow/rain storm, or a high-wind situation. Gore-Tex, while touted as being breathable is still much less breathable than simply not wearing a shell. If you’re in a super cold environment, but it’s a clear, windless day, go for a high-loft (850 fill) puffy coat as your outer layer.
FOR THE LOUNGER
If you’re not pushing yourself up a mountain, and you’re not planning to sweat, then it simply comes down to insulation. Follow my advice on base layers and even mids to build a good foundation, but High-loft puffy coats with a wind-resistant shell are the perfect selection if you’re headed out to watch a ski competition on a January night. Think a Canada Goose style jacket - puffy on the inside, hardened layer to block wind on the outside.
Two final notes - make sure to cover as much of your body as possible - your body loses heat at the same rate everywhere, so as an example, not wearing a hat exposes 20% of your body. Bundle up!
Finally - if you are sitting or standing on something cold, consider bringing an insulating layer to either sit or stand on. Firm contact with cold ground, or a frozen metal bleacher will quickly pull heat from your body and counter all the work your jacket is doing.