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May 22, 2022
WHAT CLOTHING SHOULD I WEAR TO STAY WARM WHEN IM SNOWSHOEING?
There is no better way to ruin your snowshoeing adventure than ending up cold and wet! The most common mistake that contributes to a bad day on the trails is packing the wrong clothing and this is one of those mistakes that I can guarantee you will only make once. I believe there is a great benefit for those less experienced outdoor enthusiasts, to gain the knowledge in choosing the right outfit; knowing that clothing choices can make the difference from an epic day on the trail to a complete disappointment. My goal in this article is to prevent someone from learning this lesson the hard way, that would make this article a success. Here are some tips on clothing to ensure you stay comfortable and enjoy your day.
DRESS IN LAYERS
Dressing in layers is one of the best ways to regulate your body temperature. From the time you start your hike, to only a few hours into the trip, the outside temperature can change drastically. Starting the trail on a cold crisp morning before the sun is up can bring sudden warmer temperatures once the suns out. Having multiple layers on allows you to adjust for the temperature difference as opposed to a heavy winter jacket and a t-shirt. As well as the outside temperature constantly changing throughout the day, your core body temperature will also be changing depending on your level of exertion. Your hike might start off with a very minimal incline and those extra layers will feel very comfortable but once you start entering a steeper terrain and your heart is working at a higher level, you will be instantly wanting to shed those extra layers. Bring a backpack to enable yourself a space to put extra layers when you are no longer in need of them. I also highly recommend bringing an extra base layer. Lots of times when doing an intense trip you will find your base layer may be damp from sweat. Having the ability to put a dry undershirt on mid trip while you stop for lunch, will be a desired luxury. I find for the extra few ounces of weight in your pack, its well worth it.
TYPES OF LAYERS
With the developments of fabric in the last several decades there are lots of brands and choices available. Let’s break down a typical 3 layer system that we recommend when snowshoeing.
The most desirable features in your base layer is a material that wicks the sweat away from your body, something that is fast drying, durable, maintains insulating properties when wet and is comfortable against your skin. Marino wool (from Marino sheep) checks all these boxes and in my opinion is the best choice as a base layer. Another benefit of marino wool is it ability to be odor resistant which is a huge plus if perspiring all day long on the trails. Having an odor resistant base layer might make it easier to find a partner that will want to come out with you on your next trip. Another option for base layers is polyester. There are lots of different blends of this material which also have some great properties such as moisture wicking and fast drying. The material that should be avoided for base layers is cotton. It does not provide the moisture wicking ability as the previous materials mentioned and once it gets wet it takes forever to dry thus losing its insulating properties.
All the properties that you want in a base layer are also what you want in a mid layer. Marino wool is my go-to mid layer, however, fleece (polyester) also works great. Your mid layers should be heavier and warmer than your base layer.
For my outer layer my material of choice is down. There is no synthetic material that comes close to the warmth to weight ratio that down offers. It also is very compressible and makes it very handy to store in your backpack when not in use. Down is the under feathers from ducks or geese. These feathers create thousands of air pockets creating a loft which traps the heat. Not all down is of the same quality. Fill power is the term that measures the loft or “fluffiness”. The higher the loft, the more air pockets are trapped by these feathers creating more warmth with a lesser weight. On the low end of fill power that you would see in a lower cost jacket is 400-450 fill power and the highest more expensive jackets the fill power goes up to 700+. A 700 fill down jacket will have a much lower weight to warmth ratio than a 450 fill jacket.
For early or late season conditions where rain is a possibility, I recommend a gore-tex shell overtop of your down jacket. Gore-tex is lightweight, waterproof, windproof and breathable. It does not offer any warmth, however, combined with a down jacket it is a very effective layering system.For early or late season conditions where rain is a possibility, I recommend a gore-tex shell overtop of your down jacket. Gore-tex is lightweight, waterproof, windproof and breathable. It does not offer any warmth, however, combined with a down jacket it is a very effective layering system.
To keep your legs dry, I highly recommend gore-tex rain pants or gore-tex gaiters. Gaiters are a protective layer that fit over your pants and position from your shoe to just below your knee. These are highly beneficial to keeping the snow out of your boots and keeping your legs dry. Gaiters are made of many types of material that claim to be waterproof but from our experience gore-tex (although costlier) is the only material that seems to keep the water out and has the advantage of being breathable.
Last but not least do not forgot to bring a toque and warm pair of winter gloves. Being able to easily take your toque on and off is a great way to help regulate your body temperature on the snowshoe trail. Make sure your gloves are rated for the temperature you will be snowshoeing in. If you follow this clothing guide this will ensure you stay comfortable and enjoy your next trip out!