Winter is now upon us and it’s time to talk about layering.
Why would anyone need a lesson in layering? Obviously when you’re cold you put on more layers. Right? But keeping warm isn’t just a matter of putting on more clothes. It matters what those layers are made of and the job they are meant to do.
There was a time when getting the layering right was literally a matter of life and death.
There’s cold and then there’s Antarctica
There was a period of time between the years 1898 and 1922 that is referred to as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. If it sounds very dramatic, believe me, it was. It was a time when Antarctic explorers and adventurers like Robert Scott, Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton and Douglas Mawson captured the imagination of the world. It was a time when real life experiments were made with equipment and techniques to optimise their chances of survival. When the consequence of failure could be devastating and could come with the smallest mistake in planning or even by plain bad luck.
If you’ve never heard of these men, or the names sound familiar but you don’t know much about them, I urge you to do a bit of reading. You’ll find that their stories are at once fascinating and terrifying. They are stories of unbelievable hardship, bravery beyond comprehension and – some might even say – madness. And then try, if you can, to imagine what life was like for those men in that beautiful but merciless place.
Before beginning any discussion about dressing for cold conditions, it cannot over overstated that everyone feels the cold differently. We also need to understand that the cold of an Australian snowfield is not the same as in say, Canada or Japan. Not only that, but conditions, whether in Thredbo, Whistler or Antarctica, can change very quickly.
Be prepared. It is always wise to plan for the worst but hope for the best and the more options you have to layer, the better.
If you’re a first-timer on the slopes you might like to take a look at our first timer guide to the snow.
Base or Foundation Layer
The first layer or base layer should ideally be thermals or undergarments made of fine merino wool or a synthetic material like polyester. A brand like Le Brent offers a premium blend of merino wool and bamboo. While wool regulates body temperature, has a high moisture wicking property, is breathable and odour resistant, bamboo is super soft and durable. When selecting your thermals be mindful of the different weights that they come in. The heavier the weight the warmer they are. Generally, they come in a 200g or 260g. If you are someone who really feels the cold, we would recommend the 260’s to ensure you are comfortable. We would recommend a minimum of 2 sets (top and bottom) for a five-day trip.
A middle layer provides further insulation (warmth) but this doesn’t have to mean bulky. A vest is an excellent option as it keeps your core warm but frees up your arms for maximum movement under a jacket. Our recommendation is to consider a synthetic insulated vest like the Kjus Radiation as synthetic insulation provides higher levels of breathability allowing any moisture to pass through this layer and out of your jacket.
Just remember that one style of mid-layer will not cover all conditions experienced on a mountain. Conditions can change dramatically from one day to the next and its always our recommendation that you should consider a few different mid-layers to ensure you are well equipped for whatever mother nature may throw at us.
For ideas and options check out:
The outer layer should be waterproof and breathable. There are two styles of jackets, insulated and shell jackets. An insulated jacket means that you are not so reliant on the middle layer to provide most of the warmth. A synthetic jacket using Primaloft insulation, for example, is exceptionally warm and light, breathes and keeps you warm even when it is wet. A down jacket provides even more warmth as it’s a natural fibre, but the downside is it doesn’t breathe as well, is bulkier and when wet, can be less effective in keeping you warm.
A shell jacket provides the same protection from the elements with no insulation but does provide the user the flexibility of controlling their own temperature based on the layering system they feel best fits the conditions. This does require the user to have a number of different layering options but if you are someone who naturally runs hot, skis/snowboards all over the world in different conditions this could be a great option for you.
You’re ready for your time on the snow – layered in the right gear, all designed to keep you warm, dry and safe. And afterwards, when you’re relaxing by the fire, spare a thought for those Antarctic explorers and raise your glass to them. In their canvas pants covered in oil or wax to keep out the rain, their scratchy woollen vests and bulky fur jackets that restricted movement (and were probably pretty smelly I’m guessing), they really were heroes.
Want to book an appointment with a snow specialist for expert layering advice?
You can do so online
743 Stanley St, Woolloongabba
1300 766 911 (Toll free)