The importance of dressing warmingly during winter activities can not be understated. It is necessary not only for the enjoyment but the safety of the individual in cold weather.
The key to dressing for the cold is layering. Each layer performs a specific function and outer layer can be shed as things begin to heat up throughout the day and the activity level. There are three basic layers:
- Base Layer – (wicking) – This is the layer that is closest to your skin. It’s purpose is to wick sweat away from your skin.
- Middle layer – (insulation) – Insulation is used to retain body heat.
- Outer Layer – (shell) – The shell provide protection from wind, rain, and other things the outside environment throws at you.
Depending upon the weather conditions it may be necessary to either have multiple layers within a layer or different components depending upon the conditions that are expected.
The purpose of the base layer is to wick sweat away from the skin. Sweating if your bodies way of helping to control temperature. In hot environments when the skin is exposed to air that is no problem, as you sweat, the sweat evaporates and cools the skin. When you are bundled up for the cold weather it is not possible for the water in your sweat to escape and take the heat with it.
The wicking layer provides the same function as the evaporation. It allows the water to be drawn away from the skin and allow your bodies heat regulation system to work. It also prevents the moisture from working against you when or if the wet layer is exposed.
When choosing a wicking layer it is important to choose the proper material. Wool and silk are good natural choices, but cotton is not. There are also synthetics and blends that also work well.
The colder it is outside, it may be necessary to add additional or wicking layers that cover more of the body.
For this layer to be effective wicking the sweat away from your skin, it must be next to your skin. The wicking lay works best when it is comfortable snug fit.
The insulating layer retains the body body heat. Depending upon the expected weather conditions and the activities, it may be necessary to have multiple insulation layers.
For this layer, it is important to choose materials that provide good insulating properties. These could include polyester fleece, down , or synthetic insulated clothing.
The colder it is or the more variation expected in the temperature or activity level, it may be advantage to have multiple insulation layers.
As the activity level or temperature changes throughout the day, it may be advantageous to be able to control the amount insulation.
The outer shell provide protection from the elements. It should be wind and water resistant at the least. It also needs to fit comfortably over the other layers. Crushing the insulating layer will reduce its effectiveness.
Hats, boots, and gloves are important. Do not forget to include them.
In more extreme weather conditions, a more aggressive outer layer may be required.