Layering: The Key to Staying Warm in the Outdoors

Motivation to get outside, particularly for recreation purposes, can quickly dwindle when the temperature starts to drop. 

The occasional hardcore enthusiast might embrace the cold with certain gusto, but for many who are just breaking into the outdoor scene, chilly weather can be a bit discouraging.

However, winter offers some spectacular natural beauty that shouldn’t be robbed from our enjoyment just because it’s cold.

The key to help an aspiring outdoor recreationist brave the low temperatures and stay warm while doing it is simple: layering.

Effectively layering makes the difference between having a positive memorable experience during winter recreation and just a really bad day.

To begin, start with a base or thermal layer. 

  • Avoid wearing cotton, as it retains moisture and is a poor insulator. 
  • Synthetic material (like polyester) is the best for the innermost layer, as it wicks away moisture and has greater flexibility for active recreation.
  • Heavier or lighter fabric can be appropriately worn depending on how cold it is.
  • Thermal bottoms are just as important as tops, though they are often overlooked.

Next comes the middle layer.

  • A regular hoodie is enticing, but a better option is a midweight jacket made of down or synthetic material. 
  • “Puffy” jackets are commonly used for this layer, as the air inside acts as an insulator, returning body heat back to the wearer.
  • Fleece is another great mid layer, as it offers great warmth and can dry fairly quickly if it gets wet. The heavier the fleece the better.
  • The best pants will again be synthetic or a poly-cotton blend, but avoid denim. Denim does not dry easily and becomes stiff and unforgiving when it gets really cold

The outer layer comes last, and it should be something to protect from the elements

  • When selecting an outer layer, look for coats and jackets that are waterproof, not just water resistant. Waterproof material will better endure sustained periods of moisture.
  • The heaviest layer will be the mid layer, so don’t panic if the jacket doesn’t seem very heavy. Remember that warmth is derived from the compounded layers with a durable outer shell to keep out rain, snow, hail and other forms of moisture.
  • Nowadays, almost all waterproof shells are manufactured to also function as windbreakers, and that includes waterproof pants.
  • Breathability is another crucial function to look for, as ventilating any perspiration will help the wearer stay dry. 
Even when it’s cold enough to freeze the beard, proper layering will keep you warm and cozy

There’s no need to break the bank on this clothing either. Secondhand stores like Goodwill or Deseret Industries (the DI) will likely have the clothing needed for effective layering.

SUU Outdoors also rents outer layers such as rain jackets and rain pants for $10 and $8 per day, respectively.

Some of this clothing might even be laying around the house, so it’s worth a second look with a new perspective to see what will work for proper layering.

The basis of layering is to keep moisture from getting in, allowing what moisture builds up to get out, and retaining warmth and dryness. 

And of course, the point of layering is to temper the frigid weather so as to soak up whatever sunshine there may be and enjoy some of the fleeting winter spectacles while they’re around.

Story by: Reyce Knutson
Photos by: Reyce Knutson and  Roxane Clediere on Unsplash