How to Stay Warm and Dry in Any Weather: The Basics of Layering
Often times the amount of fun you have while snowboarding or skiing is directly related to how comfortable you are during the day. If your snowboard clothing is too warm, or your skiing clothing is not warm enough, you’re bound to have a miserable day in the snow. Being prepared for any condition is easy; when you understand the basics of layering.
Snowboard clothing and ski clothing can be broken down into three different sections, or “layers.” Each of the three layers has a specific function in working toward the same goal: keeping you warm and dry. There are many different types of clothing and clothing brands to choose from. However, the function of each item is essentially the same, no matter which brand you choose.
Here are the three basic layers of snowboard and ski clothing and when you should use each:
• Layer 1: Inner (or “base”) Layer. The base layer consists of a long sleeve shirt and thermal pants or “long johns.” This layer should be worn in all conditions from spring to heavy snow. The base layer helps keep your body warm by wrapping the entire body in a tight fitting, insulating layer. The items you choose for your base layer should be made of synthetic materials like polyester or polypropylene. These materials will help to pull moisture away from your body without absorbing it and keeping it near the body like clothing made of cotton does.
• Layer 2: Insulating (or “middle”) Layer. The middle layer is a loose fitting layer consisting of a long sleeve top and pants. The insulating layer of snowboard and ski clothing should be made of fleece or wool. Again, cotton should be avoided as it will trap moisture, causing you to become wet and cold. The middle layer is effective in trapping air next to the body. As you ski or snowboard, the air trapped in the middle layer gets heated by your body temperature, keeping you warmer on extremely cold days. The insulating layer can be skipped on warmer days and during spring type conditions but is a must have on colder days.
• Layer 3: Outer (or “Shell”) Layer. This layer will consist of your snowboard pants and snowboard jacket, or ski pants and ski jacket. The outer shell layer should be made of material that is durable, windproof, waterproof, and breathable. A quality outer layer will allow the moisture to escape the lower two layers of clothing while blocking wind and snow from getting in. It’s easy to find the breathability and waterproof rating for most brands of snowboard and ski outer layer clothing. Generally found near the tag on each item, the waterproof and breathability rating will range from 5000 (or 5K) to 15,000 (15K) or more. Obviously, the higher the number, the heavier, and warmer, the piece of clothing will be. Heavier outerwear should be worn on colder days, and vice versa.
Location can also play a part in deciding which layers to use on your next snow trip. Riders on the east coast will probably incorporate all three layers; whereas west coast riders can get by with an outer layer and a base layer combined.
The most important thing to remember when dressing in layers is it’s easier to remove layers if you need to. It’s always better to plan for a cold day and wear all three layers and just remove the layers you don’t need if you get too warm. You don’t want to plan for a warm day and not have the layers you need if it ends up being a really cold day on the mountain.
Photo credit: Sierrasnowboard.com Helly Hansen Ice Crew Thermal