A winter walking holiday is a great opportunity to enjoy some beautiful parts of the world during one of the most beautiful times of the year. But to avoid your trip being ruined by the cold and wet, you’ll need to make sure you have all the right kit to keep you warm, dry and safe. Layering forms a vital part of keeping warm on long, winter walks, so make sure you have everything you need.
Layering, sometimes known as the layering system, is the most effective way to keep warm in the cold. Wearing a number of thinner layers rather than one thicker one allows warm air to be trapped more easily next to the skin, helping your body to regulate its temperature better. Most commonly, a baselayer, midlayer and outer layer are worn together to provide optimal comfort, although more layers can be added or removed as temperature varies.
The baselayer is one of the most important items of clothing you can wear whilst walking in winter. It acts almost as a second skin and allows warm air to stay close to the body, keeping you warm. Baselayers can be worn as tops and trousers, making sure the whole body is properly insulated against the cold.
Baselayers also work to keep you comfortable by wicking sweat away from your skin. This prevents you from feeling clammy and uncomfortable as you walk, as well as making sure that moisture doesn’t cause your temperature to lower.
Cheaper baselayers can be found made from polyester and other synthetic materials. Though these are good way to keep costs down, they can often restrict breathability, become smelly from sweat more quickly and generally won’t last as long. A better, more eco friendly choice is a quality baselayer made from organic merino wool. This natural fibre is thin and lightweight yet insulating, and is naturally more breatheable than polyester versions. Another good choice is bamboo fibre, which is both sustainable, organic and makes comfortable, lightweight and performance baselayer clothing.
Above: The Rab women’s Baseline Hoodie is a high-quality baselayer which uses a double-knit construction to trap warmth and draw moisture away from the skin. Image sourced: Rab.
Don’t be tempted to ignore the baselayer in favour of an ordinary cotton t shirt. Cotton is unable to deal with sweat in the same way as polyester, merino wool or bamboo, and when it gets wet, it loses all of its insulating properties. This can lead to you feeling soggy and sweaty underneath your other layers, and in more extreme conditions, can lead to a quicker onset of serious conditions like hypothermia.
The mid layer is most commonly found in the form of a fleece or jumper, but you could also use a lightweight softshell jacket. Mid layers are important for adding extra insulation to your layering system, and in warmer conditions can often be worn as a top layer. Fleeces and other mid layers can often vary in thickness, from very lightweight fleeces to heavy piled ones, so choose yours based on the temperatures you are expecting and how badly you normally feel the cold. Buy high quality to ensure a fleece which will last you for years, avoiding the need to buy and buy again. Jumpers make a good alternative to fleeces, helping to trap warm air within their fibres. An organic wool jumper makes both a cosy and an eco friendly option.
Provided you aren’t walking in heavy rain, your outer layer when on a winter walking holiday is likely to be an insulated jacket, the thickest and warmest part of your clothing layering system. Traditionally, high performing insulated jackets have been made with down stuffing, a lightweight, highly packable and extremely warm filling. However, whilst down is known for being soft, warm and lightweight, it loses its insulating properties when wet, making it a less convenient material when there is risk of rain. And of course, it isn’t a vegetarian or vegan-friendly material.
A more recent development has been the introduction of a material called Primaloft. This material mimics down in that it is just as insulating and of a similar weight, although it is less packable. It does, however, continue to insulate even when wet, making it more convenient to wear on drizzly days.
We are less likely to feel the cold in our legs when we walk in winter, mostly because of increased blood flow to this part of the body. However, on a winter walking holiday, it is still important to stay warm all over. Teamed with thermal baselayer trousers, a pair of medium-weight walking trousers should be fine in most conditions. Some specially designed winter trousers will be insulated or fleece-lined to add extra insulation. If there is a risk of rain, drizzle, snow or mud, a pair of soft shell trousers often prove to be most effective. These fleece-lined trousers are made of a stiffer, water resistant material which stop most water from soaking through, though you’ll need a waterproof outer layer if caught in anything heavier than drizzle.
Image sourced: Mary & Dantagseco clothinglayeringwinter walking holiday