Whether you are going on a walking, Nordic walking, hiking or snowshoeing experience with Active by Nature, the approach to dressing for warmth and comfort is the same: wear multiple layers and pack one or two extra in your backpack. You will likely add or subtract a layer or two as your body warms up to the activity, when we stop for a break, or if the weather changes, which it frequently does.
The most common mistake people make is to come out for an active day of adventure wearing a heavy winter coat or parka and heavy, thickly insulated pants more suitable for snowmobiling or downhill skiing. They get uncomfortably overheated, produce buckets of sweat, which eventually leaves them feeling cold and clammy, especially if they are not wearing a moisture-wicking base layer. I have a lovely super warm Kanuk winter parka that I wear when not moving too vigorously or when I am standing around at an outdoor event. I hardly ever use it as I am rarely just standing around outside. Indeed, the most recent photos I have of me wearing this parka are from 2018, when I broke my wrists!
Another mistake I often see is women hiking in tights as their only bottom layer, while bringing along no backpacks or very small packs which I am sure do not hold extra layers. The tights look great when posting to the ‘gram and while tights may be fine when going out for a jog, by themselves they are not suitable for day trips in the wilderness. I understand that high-end tights have moisture wicking properties but on most days you need an extra layer that that traps warmth against your body and is windproof and waterproof or at least water resistant.
The layer closest to your body is your base layer and its role is to wick perspiration away from your body. It should not be cotton, as cotton does not wick away perspiration and will quickly get wet. Wet = cold. Merino wool and polyester are good materials for your base layer. My favourite upper-body base layer is my Alchemy of Ride ladies “Transcendence” thermal long-sleeve jersey. It is 100% polyester, with a super soft micro-fleece inside. Often, when the temperature is around zero, I am down to hiking or snowshoeing in this base layer as the caloric expenditure of these activities is causing my body to generate a lot of heat. My lower body base layer is one of several pair of thermal long underwear in my wardrobe, that are either polyester or merino wool.
Next comes an upper body mid-layer, which I only wear on the coldest of days, but always comes with me in my pack. Synthetic fleece jerseys are great as a mid-layer and so are down-filled “puffy” jackets that come in various weights or wool fabrics. I personally don’t wear a mid-layer on my lower body as I find my legs are always warm enough with the two layers I wear.
My outer upper layer is a soft-shell windproof and waterproof hooded jacket. It is currently the bright red jacket you see in so many of my outdoor adventure photographs. The shell is polyester and it has a Polartec micro-fleece liner which has lots of pockets for tissues, camera, lip balm, etc. My outer pants are windproof, water-resistant, micro-fleece lined. They are made of 84% polyester, 12% polyurethane and 4% spandex. They have pockets also as I find you can never have enough pockets! One of these is where I place my phone/camera for quick access. I place it against my thigh, where my body heat keeps it warm and I have one of those insulated hot drink warmers that I place on the outside of my phone. This eliminated all problems of my phone battery dying on cold days.
On my head I either wear a toque or a head band. If it is a pretty warm and sunny day, I will often be too warm with the toque, so I pack a headband, or vice-versa. Your head is important for regulating your body temperature so it is good to be able to adjust your head gear. Of course, on super cold or snowy/wet and especially windy days, there is always the hood on my jacket as another layering option.
The older I get, the more my extremities are sensitive to the cold. I will always bring both light-weight gloves and my heavy downhill ski mitts to alternate between. Lately, my fingers can get so painfully cold that I always ensure I bring along a pack of chemical hand warmers, because I want to be comfortable at all times outdoors. As far as socks are concerned, once again you can’t go wrong with wool or merino wool. Avoid cotton.
In my pack I have my rain coat that lives in the bottom of my pack year round, just in case. I have sometimes used it as an extra-layer on summits and super windy days. It also serves (gasp) as something I pull out to sit upon to provide excellent insulation from the cold ground or a cold bench or log seating. I also will stuff in my backpack my super-puffy but super warm down filled Alchemy of Ride vest, which I pull out for lunch or rest stops as you do cool down rather quickly on cold days.
Now let’s talk footwear. After breaking both wrists in an ice-skating accident in 2018, my first concern is for traction on slippery winter walking surfaces. I was delighted to find ICEBUG brand boots. My first pair were the Ivalo3 Women’s BUG-grip shoes because they had steel studs imbedded in the soles. They provide excellent traction and are my everyday, around town winter boots. But they are not the warmest for outdoor adventure in extreme weather. My second pair, purchased for the winter of 2021 are the well-insulated Torne model, designed to withstand -30 C temperatures. I swear these are the warmest winter boots I have ever worn! I purchased these unstudded so I could wear them with my snowshoes. When trail conditions are well-packed and/or icy, I add my Hillsound trail crampons.
One final tip: I advise people to purchase bright coloured outerwear. Not only do these make for outstanding winter photos, but they make you visible to others, which is important in low-light conditions, when it is snowing heavily or heaven forbid, should you become lost or injured and require rescue.
Today’s winter wear is exceptional! It is light weight and performs the functions of moisture wicking, insulating and protecting against the elements extremely well. I have been totally comfortable outside at well below -30 plus windchill. As someone said, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Don’t let the weather stop you from being active outdoors. Get out there and be comfortable, warm and most of all, have fun!
What to wear & bring (Spring, Summer, Fall):
What to wear & bring (Winter):
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Public restrooms are available within a short walk:
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