There are a lot of reasons to like winter. Few experiences are more satisfying than stepping outside on the first really cold day of the year, and feeling that distinctive crunch of frost under your boot. It is probably only topped by the feeling of stepping inside after a day spent hiking or a couple of hours spent skiing in cold weather.
But as lovely as winter and cold weather is, dressing for being active in it is not always the easiest thing. Cold, in itself, actually won’t challenge your wardrobe all that much. Really cold weather tends to be quite dry and if you aren’t going to be very active it is just a matter of wearing enough layers to retain the heat you generate. It is when you are intermittently active and inactive in cold weather that you need a strategy for how to deal with the challenges posed by the climate.
Basically, what it will come down to is using the layering system so loved by Scandinavians. By wearing an outer layer, a reinforcement layer, and a baselayer you will be able to adjust to the level of activity you are undertaking. But just having a layering system in place will do little if you are not using it correctly. In fact, the the whole point of the system is that all the individual pieces will rarely be used at the same time.
For starters, the outer layer, which is most often a shell jacket designed to keep out heavy rain or strong wind, should stay packed in your bag most of the time. Using a membrane type jacket when it is not really needed often leads to both your body and the layers you are wearing underneath becoming overloaded. The result will be layers that won’t work as well when you actually need them.
Instead, try to wear something that will breath better for periods when you will be active. For example, cotton and polyester coats put a lot less strain on the layers beneath while being pretty much windproof. Another alternative is using something even more breathable like the Aclima WoolShell material, which is wool reinforced with polyester, allowing it to offer some wind and water resistance still. A solution like this is ideal for high intensity activities.
The same logic as with the shell jacket applies to the reinforcement layer. It is very tempting to wear your nice and thick fleece or wool jacket when you are starting out. However, it is in fact a lot better to be a little cold in the parking lot than to quickly overheat when you start exerting yourself. The reinforcement layer is for the breaks, when you need a little extra warmth to maintain an even core temperature. In those cases, you don’t want to be left with a jacket soaked in sweat as your only option.
In cold weather the reaction to every action tends to be even more pronounced than in milder climates. Consider this: much of the heat leaving the body is lost through the neck and head. Think about this next time you are looking up a steep slope. It might be worth taking your hat off before you start making your way up, rather than keeping it on and then taking the sweat soaked hat off at the top. Doing this will lead to a rapid loss of heat. In response to this the body will reduce the blood flow to your hands and feet, to maintain an even temperature in the parts of the body deemed more important. So, wearing a hat in the wrong situation can leave you with cold hands and feet.
The key to using a layering system effectively is staying balanced. This means that there will be a lot of dressing and undressing to adapt to what you are doing. While this will in some ways will mean more work, it will soon become second nature and keep you more comfortable. Besides making you feel more comfortable, an even body temperature will also increase your endurance since your body won’t have to work as hard at either warming you up or cooling you down.
Not all these changes to your outfit have to be big. A lot can be done by adding or removing smaller accessories. Something people often forget is that the same layering principle that you are using for your body should be used for your head, hands, and feet. Using headovers and liner gloves are good ways of easily adjusting your outfit.
The ease with which you can adapt to different requirements is the beauty of the layering system, and why it has been so popular in Scandinavia over the centuries. The extra effort is easily outweighed by the added comfort, allowing you to truly enjoy the outdoors.
Explore our range of Aclima layers here!