To practice your favorite winter activities, the key to fun is the multi-layer clothing system. Manual.
Dressing in layers, also called “onion skin”, is far from being rocket science. Once you understand its principles, it is easy to adapt it to all activities.
This way of dressing in winter is covered in this winter coat buying guide . I remind you here of the main elements.
Basically, the idea is to superimpose layers of clothing so that you are neither too hot nor too cold, while being protected from the external conditions. To all this, we add a judicious use of materials: we must opt for synthetic or woolen fabrics; cotton should be avoided because it retains too much moisture, dries slowly and loses its thermal capacity when wet.
Multi-layer clothing comes in three main parts.
The base layer : It has the function of removing moisture from your skin and evacuating it. It must therefore dry quickly so that you do not get cold. Choose a comfortable and close-fitting garment, such as a set of thermal underwear (“combines”). Wool, especially merino, is recommended, as are synthetic materials, such as polyester. In an ideal world, your underwear should also have these characteristics.
The middle layer: This is what keeps you warm, a bit like the insulation in a coat. It may in particular be a polyester fleece (a “fleece”). This type of garment, warm and light, dries quickly. For their part, “down jackets” (quilted jackets or coats) made of down or synthetic fibers will allow rapid heat gain during a break from activity, for example. However, be careful with down: it loses its thermal capacity when it is wet, that is to say when the humidity manages to pass through the fabric of the coat.
The outer layer: It protects you from the outside elements (wind, rain, snow, sleet, etc.), which allows you to stay warm and dry. Depending on the external conditions and the type of activity, you could for example opt for a rigid shell ( hard shell ), a flexible shell ( soft shell ), an insulated coat equipped with a water repellent (for example a ski coat), even a waterproof windbreaker. The latter can also be used in combination with a soft shell if the weather ever gets bad, for example.
In practice, the important thing is to plan enough clothing to be comfortable and protected during a break or at the top of the mountain, if necessary, but in such a way as to deconstruct your clothing easily. The goal is to avoid sweating and then getting cold because of this humidity against your body.
For the rest, adapt the principle of the three layers according to the situation. Thus, you could combine several intermediate layers when it is colder or, on the contrary, not use the three layers simultaneously. The one layer that should never leave you is the base layer. Unless you change it for another at the appropriate time, of course.
And the lower body?
For the lower body, it’s the same principle. That said, it’s often less practical to change pants on the way, but also less vital.
The base layer and sweatpants duo can do the job for many people in most conditions, especially if you wear gaiters that protect the lower legs from snow.
You can also add protective pants, such as a windproof and/or waterproof soft shell, which does not retain too much moisture (in a so-called “breathable” fabric).
Colder temperatures might call for something warmer, like adding a fleece liner between the base layer and the shell. There are even insulated skirts or shorts (like a down jacket) to put on over everything for the chilly and chilly of the buttocks.
Insulated snow pants are often too warm and uncomfortable for mountain hiking. But, again, it all depends on the intensity of your activity!
No need to spend a fortune
Who says multilayer system does not necessarily mean technical garments that cost hundreds of dollars. You don’t need a hard Gore-Tex shell, an expensive down jacket or a set of 100% merino thermal underwear to apply this method and enjoy beautiful, even more adventurous hikes.
You probably already have everything you need at home, for example an old synthetic wetsuit, fleece and a ski jacket (not too warm) with ventilation flaps.
Technical clothing is obviously designed to be practical and comfortable, but it’s up to you to see, as you go, what is really necessary for you. Personally, I am far from qualifying to make the front page of an outdoor magazine with my mismatched style and my old-fashioned pieces!