It’s All About Layering: How to Dress for the Cold & Snow

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When winter weather hits, some people would rather hibernate than go outside and face the elements. For those of us who actually enjoy the many active options winter provides, or who must go out in the cold air for work or our everyday routine, it’s important to stay warm and safe. The best way to accomplish this is with proper layering.

We recently released an e-book that gives the best practices for layering in winter weather, no matter what your purpose. Take a look at some of the tips that the e-book contains:

The Base Layer

This is the layer of clothing you wear right next to your skin that keeps the moisture from snow and ice from ever reaching your body. You will see the word “thermal” a lot when base layers are discussed and rightly so. Thermal clothing items create a barrier between the outside moisture and air and your skin. Your base layer should always be made up of materials that can wick away moisture as well, like sweat, so there is never a chance that hypothermia or frostbite will occur.

When it comes to picking out the best fabrics for your base layer, wool should top the list. Wool, and especially Merino wool, naturally allows sweat to dissipate in the material without getting your other clothing wet. Other synthetic fabrics also work well for the base layer, especially if they are manufactured expressly for hiking, skiing, and other cold-weather outdoor activities. For low-activity outdoor feats, silk is also a good choice for the base layer and can be found as individual pieces or as long underwear.

Make sure you consider your whole body when you are picking out base material items. Don’t neglect your feet or think that any basic pair of socks will do the trick. You need to wear socks with a good liner so that sweaty feet stay dry and that outside moisture doesn’t reach and linger on your feet.

The Insulating Layer

The main job of the base layer is to keep your skin dry but the job of the insulating layer is to keep your body warm. You will want to choose your insulating layer clothing carefully, depending on how cold the weather actually is where you plan to be outside. Wool is another great choice for this layer, but perhaps even better is fleece, which has a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than wool, according to REI. Wearing a long-sleeve fleece shirt or light jacket and fleece leggings or pants can serve as a smart secondary layer that is comfortable, and keep your body heat from escaping.

Fleece items are available in three categories: lightweight for mild climates or aerobic activities (like skiing or hiking), midweight for moderate climates and activities, and expedition-weight which is reserved for the coldest climates with the least activity for the wearer.

If the weather is especially cold, or you know that you’ll be in wet conditions for a while, you may want to add a second pair of socks. You can double up on the wool socks, or just add a second layer of thermal socks. You want to be sure your socks don’t make your boots too tight, or you could risk hurting your circulation.

The Outer Layer

Outerwear is the part that people tend to care about the most because it’s the one that others can see. There are plenty of fashionable options for men and women that can keep them warm and protected, while also making them look good. Aside from fashion though, you’ll want to find outerwear that is capable of completing three main jobs: blocking the wind, allowing sweat to vaporize, and keeping out the snow or rain.

The most obvious piece of outwear is your coat. If possible, purchase one that has the insulating layer included in the form of a built-in jacket of fleece or wool. You also want to be sure that the coat is waterproof so that it does not absorb the snow or rain it encounters. The coat should also have some breathability.

The items you put on your feet matter a lot too. Don’t be tempted to take the fashionable route when it comes to boots or snowshoes, unless you can be sure the ones you choose are also functional for the most extreme of winter conditions. Buy boots that are at least ankle high to prevent snow and ice from seeping into the top. To keep your feet extra toasty and dry, look for boots that have a wool or fleece-lined interior. You can always buy a removable liner for your boots that contains these elements as well and take it out to dry it when you come inside.

The final portion of your outer layer is all of the accessories you add to stay warm. This includes hats, scarves, mittens/gloves, and even face masks that complement the three main layers of warmth. Look for items that are wind-resistant and can keep moisture from soaking in. The last thing you want in cold weather is to be wearing heavy, water-soaked items.

When it comes to your outer layer, be sure you are able to move and function without impediment. Your winter-wear clothing should never be so bulky or heavy that you have trouble doing normal things, like walking or lifting. With savvy layering, you shouldn’t have too much trouble staying warm while accomplishing normal tasks.

Tips for Winter Layering

Now that you know what to wear for your winter layers, here’s a review of a few general tips to help you stay warm and safe.

  • Look for waterproof items. Materials like wool are naturally water-resistant and will keep you warmer because they stay dry.
  • Value movement. It’s just as unsafe to wear clothing that is too bulky and uncomfortable as it is to not be warm enough. Make sure you can move and function like normal when you have all your winter wear on, or swap out items for more streamlined versions.
  • Think about your feet. If your feet are cold, then the rest of you is going to be really uncomfortable too. Comfort isn’t the only reason to layer socks and buy waterproof boots; feet are one of the most common areas on the body for frostbite to occur.

The secret to staying warm no matter what winter brings is picking the right clothing and accessories to layer. Wearing the right base, insulating layers, and outer layers will keep you warm, dry, and mostly importantly, safe and healthy throughout the coldest months of the year.


Contributed By: Javier Sanchez-Mariscal is an integrity-driven, multilingual Consumer Insights and Communications Manager with a strong concentration and enormous success utilizing technology and sales strategies to support business objectives and revenue generation. With over 5  years of working with Injinji, Javier’s passion for fitness and the outdoors has only grown. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook for tips to bring your fitness hobbies to the next level.



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