To enjoy your outdoor trip to the fullest, you must be prepared to brace the weather. You might be tempted to just put on one bulky jacket to protect yourself from the elements and keep warm as opposed to a few layers. However, in actual, it’s a good idea to put on multiple layers of clothing and keep removing them as the weather changes. This “layering system” is used most commonly by hikers, climbers, snow sport lovers and many other outdoor enthusiasts to combat the cold weather. This technique keeps you warm or can be used to cool you down. Wearing multiple thin layers will keep you warmer than a single thick layer. While you keep removing layers, you’re removing the heat trapped in between each layer, thus cooling yourself down. This is used mostly with tops and jackets but you could use it with leggings and trousers in the same way.
The main motive behind layering is to get rid of sweat from your skin, then dry quickly so you don’t get chilled. Cotton would be a bad idea as it takes a long time to dry, so the next option is wool. This is a better pick as it is warm when it’s cold, cool when it’s hot, and they don’t stink up like other synthetics. In general, synthetic materials (polyesters) are good base layers and are suitable for people that have sensitive skin (wool can be itchy).
A 3-4 layer system is adopted for a day in the mountains; the outer layer or shell keeps you prepared for any kind of weather, the mid layer or insulation (fleece) keeps you warm and a wool based inner layer provides the optimum insulation.
This is the first layer that’s closest to your skin. The main purpose of this layer is to regulate your body temperature and get rid of moisture from your skin. In itself, this layer provides very little warmth to your body. Cotton is not recommended for this layer as it retains moisture and will make you feel wet and clammy. For comfort, merino wool and synthetic polyesters are the best as they keep sweat/perspiration away from your skin, thus keeping you dry.
This is the insulation layer and helps in retention of heat by trapping air close to the body. Micro-fleeces, merino wool tops, soft shells and thin insulated jackets are ideal for this layer. A good middle layer should be breathable and wick moisture away from the body. When the weather is fair, a base and middle layer would be all that’s needed.
Also called the shell layer; this is very helpful when you’re playing in the snow. These need to keep you dry while still allowing breathability; having said that, they need to be waterproof. This ensures that the sweat and water vapor escape the body and you’re dry when it rains. The shell’s main purpose is to protect you from rain, wind and snow.
With the layers in place, you’d need a hat to cover your head; use one that fully covers the ears. Additionally, add a neck-gaiter, balaclava and a face mask. To keep your fingers warm, wear gloves or mittens. Make sure to keep your feet warm; wool or wool blend socks act as natural insulator. Blood flow is constricted when your footwear is constricted causing your feet to get cold.
The guiding principle here is to add or remove layers to keep your body temperature even. It’s likely that you may build up heat as you climb, so you may need to reduce the layers. Finally, ensure that you are properly hydrated; you can’t keep warm and effectively operate without it; drink often in winter and have your internal fires burning.
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