Dress in lay­ers when ac­tive in win­ter

Ottawa Citizen - - OUTDOORS - DAVE BROWN Dave Brown is the pub­lisher and editor-in-chief of Ot­tawa Out­doors Mag­a­zine — www.ot­tawaout­doors.ca. To com­ment, email Brown at editor@ot­tawaout­doors.ca.

It still as­tounds me. One may be­gin cross-coun­try ski­ing in frigid mi­nus 30-de­gree tem­per­a­tures, and a short 20 min­utes later be peel­ing off lay­ers of cloth­ing try­ing to not over­heat.

In the old days, it was heavy furs and buck­skins to keep in the warmth. But that wouldn’t work to­day with the count­less out­door sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties we play. No, to­day we need lay­ers.

Plus, the weather alone isn’t the only fac­tor dic­tat­ing what you’re about to wear out­doors. Where you’re go­ing, what you’re about to do, how long you’ll be out, and even the fore­cast will de­ter­mine how you should dress.

In this au­tumn sea­son, if you’re just head­ing out for a walk in the Glebe, you’ll dress for just the right amount of warmth in re­la­tion to the level of ex­er­cise you’ll be do­ing. If you’re go­ing out for a hike with your spouse and chil­dren you’re wear­ing your base layer, mid layer and outer layer. And if you’re go­ing for a run, or snow­shoe­ing, what you choose to wear has to work with your ris­ing body tem­per­a­ture as you ex­er­cise, yet keep you warm when you’re not.

These lay­ers not only en­sure your com­fort, but your safety. Here they are ex­plained:


This is the wick­ing layer. Here is where the cloth­ing touch­ing your skin is able to ab­sorb per­spi­ra­tion, pulling it away from you, and dry­ing both it and you quickly. This base layer should fit snug, and is of­ten long- or short-sleeve tops and full-length bot­toms.

Com­mon ma­te­ri­als of the base layer in­clude polyester, ny­lon and polypropy­lene.

These fab­rics are de­signed to wick mois­ture away from your skin, keep­ing you dry and warm in the process.

Look for brand names such as Omni-dry or COOL­MAX, which have en­gi­neered base layer prod­ucts for years. Some of these hy­brid ma­te­ri­als in­clude anti-bac­te­rial agents, which al­low the ma­te­rial to re­duce odours or act as a bug re­pel­lent.

But con­sid­er­ing the wick­ing ben­e­fits alone, it means this base layer will al­low you to per­spire while ex­er­cis­ing, and still re­main com­fort­able.


This is your in­su­la­tion layer. Not only does this need to be breath­able, but also fast-dry­ing. As well, it needs to main­tain con­tact with the in­ner layer to func­tion prop­erly. Fleece is the most com­mon, but polyester, wool and down are of­ten used.

These ma­te­ri­als trap and hold body heat in small air spa­ces in the ma­te­rial. It’s this mid-layer that is also de­signed to carry mois­ture away from the in­ner layer, push­ing it to the outer layer.

Fleece is pop­u­lar be­cause it comes in dif­fer­ent weights: light, mid and heavy. This di­ver­sity al­lows you to match the fleece with the ac­tiv­ity.

A thin mid-layer fleece is per­fect for climbers, trail run­ners and moun­tain bik­ers be­cause it con­forms and stretches with the body. Back­pack­ers and moun­taineers, though, will seek a light­weight, pack­able thicker in­su­la­tion mid­layer to deal with the cold.

When pur­chas­ing mid lay­ers, look for the com­fort found in ex­tra ad­justable fea­tures. Un­der­arm zip­pers and zip-up col­lars al­low you to trap in heat or open for ven­ti­la­tion to reg­u­late your tem­per­a­ture. And though some mid lay­ers can zip into the outer shell, think twice, as of­ten this means it’s not snug to your base layer where it needs to be to func­tion prop­erly.

Don’t for­get to choose appropriately in­su­lated pants as well. At some point, most have ex­pe­ri­enced the painful feel­ing of the cold on the legs.


Dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies de­fine their outer shells dif­fer­ently. Some say the shell will pro­tect you from the el­e­ments, while be­ing breath­able so mois­ture can es­cape. Oth­ers just prom­ise to block the wind and water.

Ei­ther way, all you need is a light­weight, but durable, outer shell. Gore-tex is the top choice, but al­ways con­sider the out­door pur­suit.

Snow­board­ers need a shell with key ven­ti­la­tion ar­eas around the torso and armpits. Ice climbers need greater ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity. And back­pack­ers need a shell with abra­sion-re­sis­tant ma­te­rial around the shoul­ders to pre­vent tears. There are many op­tions from which to choose.

The good news is that when you’re out­doors this fall and win­ter, you’ll of­ten start your day wear­ing just your base and mid lay­ers and your shell will be packed away. That should keep you in great com­fort un­til the weather turns, or you change what you’re do­ing. Ei­ther way, lay­ers are they key to your out­door com­fort.


Lay­ers of cloth­ing al­low you to ad­just to vary­ing con­di­tions.

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