It can be quite tough to know exactly what to wear in the mountains when you’re skiing, boarding or hiking. So, to help, we’ve written a guide to get you feeling warm and comfortable for winter conditions in the mountains.
The base layer
One of the most important layers to get right. It can be the difference between being freezing cold or boiling hot, or, if you get it right, being the perfect temperature. The pivotal thing to get right with your base layer is moisture control.
You need a fabric that can wick moisture away from the skin and dry quickly. Going for a synthetic fabric will save you money, but paying a little more for all natural fabrics will perform better overall. Avoid anything cotton. You’ll thank us later when you’re not dripping in sweat.
Our choice would be an all natural merino wool layer. Something thin enough to layer with, while being a non-irritating fabric that sits against your skin with the natural moisture wicking capabilities.
When layering clothing it is easy to forget about how important socks can be. They can be the difference between cold, damp feet or cosy happy toes all day long. So, don’t neglect your sock choice!
We suggest a sock made of all natural material. Wool is best. Not too thick, (it is a misconception that thick socks will keep you warmer) with a positive warmth to weight ratio, and padded in the right areas for protection, comfort and to avoid blisters.
When you’re skiing and boarding, you need to keep those sock seams above your boot line. Too many layers inside your boots will cause pressure against your calves and shins. After hours of hitting the slopes, you’ll definitely feel it.
The mid layer
Another important moisture wicking layer that doubles as an air trapping layer to help with warmth. This garment should be quite thin, with the material able to transfer moisture away from the base layer underneath. Again, natural materials are preferred, like merino wool, failing that a thin fleece will do a good job. Look for long sleeves for more warmth. Avoid any garments with a hood, as these a better utilised on upper layers.
The second mid layer
This is your main warmth layer. It needs to be think and light, but as warm as possible. A puff down jacket or synthetic alternative is best for the job. This is the main layer that you will be adding or removing depending on the weather and your physical activity. These layers don’t tend to be water or windproof, but that is ok as they aren’t designed for this purpose.
Mid-layers are less important on your legs, as your legs are so active with mountain sports they tend to stay warmer than your upper body. So with your leggings serving as a base layer, you can move straight onto your outerwear. A waterproof set of ski trousers, with at least 5k level of waterproofing. Higher is better though. They also need to be breathable, having zipped vents are a great extra to allow airflow if your legs get too hot.
The outer layer
This layer is responsible for keeping your dry and repelling the wind. Therefore it needs to be fully waterproof. Again, at least 5k waterproofing but higher is most certainly better. A shell jacket will work best as it doesn’t add bulk. Something with sealed zipped storage pockets will allow you to store any bits and bobs, snacks etc within easy reach while keeping them dry. Like the trousers you’re going to want some pit vents to allow air flow incase you get too hot but don’t want to remove a layer (because maybe it’s dumping it with snow!). A powder ‘skirt’ is also important to keep out the snow, especially if you’re heading off piste.
Neck warmer / snood
An under-estimated piece of kit. A thin neck warmer can keep you warmer than you realise. Helping to trap warm air in and protecting your neck and face from the wind. As per usual, natural materials are better, but a quick drying synthetic will do a great job here too.
Keeping your hands warm is so important but layering for your hands can be tricky, as not all outer gloves allow enough space for under layers. Certain brands, like Hestra for example, design glove layering systems that often incorporate a natural wool inner glove for warmth, with a leather outer glove for weather proofing. If you’re looking for a single layer glove, then we suggest getting some full leather ones, as these will offer the best in natural wind and water proofing. Leather gloves can often be made more waterproof with the addition of wax, which can help them last longer too.
Now you know how to layer for warmth and comfort in the mountains. Just remember that different weather or physical activity can mean you need to add or remove a layer. Common sense is key to success. Carrying to many extra layers can mean you sweat it out, but being without that layer when the weather moves in and you’re freezing will make you unhappy – and could even be dangerous to your health.
Why not take a look at some of our gear reviews for some inspiration into your new layers for the next mountain adventure.