Believe it or not staying warm while outside in below-freezing weather is not just possible but it’s incredibly easy. Going out for a hike? Camping in the snow? Shoveling your driveway? Anytime you’re going outside for an extended period of time during the winter, there are 3 steps to staying warm and they all revolve around wearing the right type and amount of clothing. It’s time to get to know your layers.

 Step 1: Layer Up

Staying warm while winter camping

So much down. So much warmth.

First, ensure that you’re wearing layers. This part is absolutely imperative. Find a base layer that works for you, then mid-weight or heavy-weight a layer to keep you warm, and a waterproof/resistant layer to keep you dry. Now add another packable layer (or two) to toss in your pack. Oh, and don’t forget your hat! When used altogether, you’ll be able to stay warm no matter what you’re doing.

This is especially true when you’re doing something aerobic such as hiking a mountain. As you get out of the car, you’ll most likely be bundled up. About 10 minutes into the hike, you may need to shed your heavier layer. Now that you’re at the steepest climb of the day, you’re potentially down to just your base layer. But as soon as you reach to the summit, it’s time to put everything back on again. Adjust your layers as your body temperature changes to make sure you’re never too cold or too hot.

 Step 2: Know Your Fabrics

Cotton kills. You’ve heard that saying before, right? Cotton is never an ideal clothing choice while heading outside, especially as a base layer. Instead, learn which fabrics will work best for you and give them a go. Here’s a chart from REI’s Underwear (Base Layer): How to Choose blog post. They have a much better handle on it than I do.

REI Underwear Baselayer Comparison ChartREI Underwear Baselayer Comparison Chart

I personally wear the Patagonia Capilene for my base layer and then I add some EMS mid-weight or heavy-weight Techwick on top of it. However, if you’ve got a few extra bucks to spend, I’d definitely invest in some Merino Wool.

Patagonia Women's Capilene 1 Bottoms

Patagonia Capilene 1

EMS Women's Heavy-weight Techwick

EMS Techwick Heavy-Weight 1/2 Zip













Step 3: Don’t Get Wet 

Clearly you want to ensure that you don’t fall into a freezing cold stream on your outing adventure this winter. So do your best to avoid not-quite-frozen streams, ponds, and lakes this winter. However, snow is also wet. (Surprise!) It’s important to take the necessary precautions depending on your activity to shield you from the snow and any other winter elements.

So make sure you’re wearing the right water-resistant or waterproof jacket, gloves/mittens, boots, pants, gaiters, etc. Your new layering knowledge will go to waste if you don’t protect them from the outside elements.

It’s also equally important to keep your inner core regulated. Not only do you want to be warm, but you need to make sure to not get too warm. You need to make sure you don’t sweat.  Really. Because once you take a snack break, reach the summit, or take in the scenery, your sweat will begin to cool and make you very, very cold. Instead, the moment you start sweating, slow it down or take off a layer or two to become more comfortable. Trust me on this.

Staying warm while winter hiking

Fortunately, we never fell into this nearly frozen stream…

Investing in layers can be expensive. But I’m certain that they will make your next winter outdoor adventure exponentially more enjoyable.

Have any tips to add? What layers are your favorites? Shout it out in the comments below.