How to layer-up for outdoor winter sports

Layers are essential when exercising or playing sports outside in the winter. There are numerous garments that can keep you dry, warm and comfortable, even when it's wet and freezing.

How to layer-up for outdoor winter sports

Why layer?

It's simple: you are going to be more comfortable with layers. You can stay warm and dry and can add or remove pieces if you're too cold or too hot.

  • There are different kinds of winter gear for different activities so layering for winter sports is important as well.

Layering clothing for winter sports

To protect yourself from the elements by keeping your skin dry and keeping you warm. Additionally, you want the clothing to fit well so that motion isn't inhibited.

  • Clothes that hang too loosely, for instance, can make skiing very dangerous.

Keep your skin dry with the inner layer

For the base layer, steer clear of cotton, as it retains perspiration and becomes a poor insulator once wet.

  • Go with Merino wool or polyester, as these two fabrics retain heat well and are moisture-wicking.
  • Silk is good for less strenuous sports like hunting.
  • A base layer can include anything from t-shirts and sports bras for milder weather to long underwear and thermal underwear for harsher conditions.
  • Liner gloves and liner socks are also essential.
  • In addition to considering the climate, think about the activity. For cross-country skiing, go with a lightweight base layer, as you want to be able to move freely.
  • For a slow-paced hike, wear mid-weight gear. And for ice fishing at Lake Simcoe, go with heavy base gear to keep you drier.

Stay warm with the middle layer

The middle layer is for insulation. Again, Merino wool and polyester or other synthetic fabrics are the best materials as these trap heat well.

  • Fitting should be neither tight nor loose, so that movement isn't restricted and the jacket and pants can insulate effectively.
  • Adding a pair of heavy insulation socks and gloves is advised, as well. Just like with the inner layer, a light insulation layer is recommended for those participating in intense sports like mountain trekking.
  • Heavier clothing is better if you're not going to be moving much.
  • For added comfort, get a fleece coat and pair of pants with zippered vents, which can be opened if you're feeling hot or closed if you need more warmth.

Protect yourself from the elements with the outer layer

The shell layer includes everything from sunscreen to waterproof shoes or boots.

  • In the cold weather, a winter hat is a must, of course.
  • Fleece and wool are the go-to options for jackets and pants. You want to get clothing that's waterproof while still being breathable, as this ensures no moisture seeps in and that perspiration can exit and won't condense.
  • Getting wind-resistant clothes is important, especially if you are going to ski, hike, run or bike.
  • Outer wear for winter sports should be roomier than the base and insulating layer, but not too loose, as you still want to be able to move efficiently.

Layering for outdoor sports in the winter requires that you consider the activity you'll be doing and the climate. Then, by thoroughly selecting clothing for the base layer, middle layer and shell layer, you'll be comfortable, warm and dry all winter long.

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