How to dress for hiking in cold weather?
Would you like to go out regardless of the weather, but you feel like it’s always freezing if the temperature starts to drop closer to zero or a cold wind blows? Do you feel like you’re wearing warm clothing, but the cold still catches you by surprise?
The market is full of different clothing options for hikers. Fluctuations in temperature and different weather conditions can challenge outdoor exercisers to dress correctly. You often hear it said that going out in any weather is just a “matter of dressing”.
So how should you dress in cold weather to stay as warm as possible?
According to research, the best way to fight the cold is to dress in layers. Thick clothes alone don’t keep the cold out nearly as well as layering. It also matters what kind of layers you put on. If you move a lot, the body heats up a lot by itself and by reducing the layers
If you move briskly in cold weather, always remember to take at least one warmer jacket with you to protect against the cold! But don’t put the warmer jacket on when moving, only when you are in one place and are not generating as much heat. A warm jacket is always a safety factor, because the worst enemy in winter is hypothermia, which can strike quickly (we always recommend taking a space blanket with you in your first aid kit). In addition to safety, it’s nice to throw on warm clothes during the break – this way the muscles can really rest.
Woolen clothes are by far the best clothes on the market when it comes to protection from the cold. Wool breathes, warms, insulates and feels pleasant, even when damp. Woolen clothes work as insulating clothing in summer and as warming clothing in winter. For the hiker, the fact that it is not an easily flammable material can also be considered a plus side of woolen clothing.
Some woolen clothes (for example, shirts knitted from Icelandic wool) also repels moisture. Today, there are woolen clothes for every need and it is worth exploring the options a bit before deciding what to buy. Merino wool is the best wool on the market, because the structure of its fibers is different, and it does not itch the skin (suitable for many people for whom other wool products are not suitable).
In our opinion, the only downside to thick wool is that it weighs more than synthetic fiber.
Dressing in layers
1. Start dressing with comfortable underwear. Make sure your underwear doesn’t rub on anything, especially if you have a long hike ahead of you. Stores also sell merino wool underwear, which is comfortable to wear and wicks away moisture from the skin.
2. Add a basement floor above you. We also recommend merino wool for the underlay. The underlayer should not be too tight or too big, so that it is pleasant to move on the layer and you can comfortably add clothes on top of it.
3. Slip on some good hiking socks. Outdoor socks differ from other socks in that they have a thicker layer at the bottom of the sock. The thicker layer helps the feet stay warm, prevents chafing and is comfortable when walking. Please note that socks are made for different temperatures, so a thick summer sock does not warm nearly as well as a thick winter sock, even if the thickness of the sock feels the same. Socks are also made from wool and synthetic fiber. In winter, the sock’s stem should reach at least to tie the underlayer in place on the leg so that the leg does not rise when moving. If you feel it is necessary (due to heat insulation or chafing) to add socks, you can put either a thin undersock under the basic sock or a thicker wool sock on top. The layers also guarantee warmth for the feet! (Remember that the shoes must not be too tight.)
4. A warming intermediate layer is added on top of the base layer. Heat is added with the intermediate layer and this layer is thicker as needed. Others prefer, for example, a fleece layer and others again wool. This layer should be slightly wider than the base layer. You can add layers depending on how cold it is and how easily you freeze. There can be two underlayers before the intermediate layer if necessary. Find the combo that suits you for each weather condition!
5. Warmth-increasing outer clothing is added on top of the inner layers. For example, a warm down jacket and either down or top pants provide the best protection from the cold. Depending on the weather and what you’re doing outside, think about whether a light down jacket is enough or if it’s better to immediately throw on a thicker down jacket.
6. Still need protection from the wind? If your activity requires protection from wind and moisture, throw on shell clothes over the top layer if necessary. Shell clothing protects against both wind and moisture.
7. Remember appropriate warm shoes, for example hiking shoes intended for summer use are not nearly as warm as shoes intended for winter (in addition, they can be slippery). When choosing shoes, make sure that the shoes are loose enough to keep them warm.
8. Protect your neck and head! For example, add a merino wool buff (one or two, these come in different thicknesses) or a balaclava around your neck. A thick beanie that fits your head. Many wear headbands, but remember that headbands do not protect the whole head and the heat also escapes from the head! If you’re going to be in a strong wind, there are also windproof beanies or headbands in the market, which can be worn, for example, under the beanie.
9. Finish your outfit with warm gloves or mittens. In cold weather, we recommend always wearing undergloves and, if necessary, thick gloves or mittens over them. The under gloves warm the fingers and if you have to take the outer gloves off your hands for some activity, the under gloves keep your fingers warm better. Fingers get cold quickly even if you have nothing in your hands and getting them warm can sometimes be very challenging! If your gloves or mittens get wet its good to have an extra pair to switch while drying the first pair!
What else can I use to warm myself up?
If the clothes mentioned above are not enough, you can add (or change the outfit as needed) for example a down/top with a vest and a down/top with shorts or a skirt. If necessary, you can wear both, a light down jacket and thicker down jacket. For those with poor peripheral circulation, there are, electrically heated socks and mittens or additional heaters that can be placed inside shoes, jackets and mittens.
Find the right clothing combination for each activity and weather! However, in cold weather, the basic rules about layering and the importance of good materials always apply. It is good to remember that the body is really hard to be kept warm if any part of it has been left unprotected. Staying warm can be difficult, no matter how well-dressed you are, if the beanie, neck protection, or legs are not protected well enough. Feel free to try combinations that suit you and take a few extra clothes with you for the trip, it’s easy to add and subtract clothes, but remember – the one-layer tactic doesn’t work when adjusting!
Warm outdoor days for everyone! Have fun and stay warm and safe out there!