For outdoor enthusiasts, a key component to success and sticking with a new outdoor pursuit is comfort. In the cooler fall and winter months, that means considering types of fabric and construction for garments and also smart layering. More important than even comfort is safety. Hiking or snow sports can be deadly when proper caution is not taken to stay warm and dry whether you are actively participating or at rest in between runs. Even if you are not hitting the mountains but prefer walking in the winter, smart layers should be considered.
When you layer your clothing you are able to stay warm when you are resting, yet also prevent overheating for outdoor workouts. Layers allow you to flex and adjust your insulation as you fluctuate between the two.
The three basic layers for all winter sports are your base layer next to your skin, your middle insulating layer, and your outer layer. For certain sports such as mountain climbing, people may opt for two insulating layers for greater flexibility and options.
- Base Layer: The most important function of this layer is to wick sweat away from your body. When you sweat and moisture is insulated next to your skin, you chill faster. Wicking ability in the bas layer keeps your skin dry and therefore avoid cotton at all costs. Look for fabrics such as Thinsulate, Thermax, and Thermion, silk and polypropylene. Even your under-skivvies should not be cotton, so consider investing in undergarments just for your fall and winter sports.
- Insulating layer: This is important to keep you warm when at rest or when you are not going really hard at it. Wicking ability is also important for this layer since some people will sweat all the way through their base layer. Vests or shirts that are easy to peel off are extremely helpful. Zip vents and even zip off sleeves and legs such as seen in convertible clothing articles are a good option. Fabrics to shoot for are fleece, wool, down. What you choose for this layer depends on the elements you will be facing. Wool and down are highly suggested for more extreme elements. Make sure to size this layer for fitting over your base layer and not constricting movement.
- Outer Layer: This is your protection against direct contact with the elements such as rain, snow, and wind. Invest is a good quality water proof, windproof and breathable jacket or shell. Zipper options for ventilation when you get hot, offer that much more customization for your comfort. Zippered ankles make it faster to adjust and take off clothing over boots or shoes.
- Head, Face, and Hands: Wicking for sweaty heads and hands is also a consideration for hats and gloves. Fleece is a good option, but with gloves, making sure to have a weather proof outer-mitt is essential. For extreme conditions, a full hood face mask offers face and neck coverage and flexibility to pull it down around your neck when not needed.
It is not necessary to spend top dollar on the most expensive gear. You can find amazing choices at thrift stores if you know what to look for. Just be sure to choose quality and flexibility for your greatest comfort and you will be enjoying those outdoor pursuits even in the most extreme of conditions!
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