Dressing For The Cold

Prepare for changing conditions by wearing clothing in several adjustable layers, you’ll want a base, mid, and outer layer.  It is just as important to prevent overheating as it is to prevent chilling.

Make sure your clothing includes a windproof, hooded outer layer with wool or other insulated garments underneath. Wool or synthetic trousers and long underwear will help to keep your legs warm and dry in deep snow. Wind or rain-pants are lightweight and provide extra warmth on windy days. Avoid cotton jeans and sweatshirts. Thick wool socks and gaiters over boots help to keep your feet warm and dry. Wear gloves or wool mittens with shells that breathe to allow moisture to escape.

Since you lose more heat through your head than any other part of your body, wear a face mask-style stocking cap or parka hood when you need maximum protection. Dark sunglasses are a must for sunny days. High altitude sunlight reflected from snow is much more intense than at lower elevations; snow-blindness may occur if sunglasses are not worn. Apply sunscreen lotion to exposed skin to avoid sunburn.

  1. Dress in layers. Use many thin, warm layers rather than a few thick layers. It will insulate better and allow you to strip off layers if the temperature climbs.
  2. Wear insulated boots. Ideally, the lining should be wool or synthetic–not cotton. You can purchase boots already with the lining, or use boots two sizes larger than usual, and use a lining.
  3. Wear winter socks. Warm winter socks are important in keeping warm dry feet. Wool is best, or good synthetic “fleece” socks. You can layer socks, but be careful that your feet are comfortable and your are not too tight.
  4. Wear a base layer. A “base layer” : long johns, union suit, long underwear, or whatever can provide a warm, light base to your winter gear. Merino wool products are recognized as one of the best base layers available.
  5. Avoid cotton for outdoor activity. Also known as “the death fabric” because it does not insulate when wet, and causes a rapid loss of body heat. Choose wool, performance fabrics, and silk instead.

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