The Glampeur's Guide to Layering Up When Playing Outdoors This Winter


Protect Yourself From the Elements

“From the Spanish moss-canopied sidewalks of Savannah, Ga., to icy villages in coastal Maine, emergency officials reckoned with the rages, whims and remains of a storm that shut down schools for more than a million children, flooded roadways, filled homeless shelters and forced the cancellations of thousands of flights.” The New York Times, ‘Bomb Cyclone’: Snow and Bitter Cold Blast the Northeast, Jan 24.

Photos and text by Angela VanWiemeersch

Protecting yourself from the elements is so important in the winter, whether you are ice climbing, skiing, or simply trying to walk the dog. Consider the shocking Arctic temperatures on the East Coast this January, and keep these clothing and layering tips from professional ice climber Angela Van Wiemeersch in mind if you go outside.

Keep Your Clothes, Gloves, etc, Dry When you’re taking your gloves off to remove your dogs leash at the dog park, do not set your gloves in the snow. Stuff them in your pocket. Setting them in the snow allows for moisture to get inside your gloves. Put them inside your base layer, and they'll be toasty and warm. And if you’re going on a long cross-country ski outing, consider bringing extra gloves if it’s going to be wet out. Frostbite is no fun. Even Green Goo’s First Aid Goo won’t help you if you hit the intermediate stages of this painful condition.

Eat & Drink More Than You Think! One of the best ways to stay warm while outside for long periods of time is to drink and eat more. Often we forget to eat when were busy recreating. Stuff a few meat sticks, peanut butter, or coconut bars in your pocket or backpack. When your body processes fats, it kickstarts your metabolism and warms you up. "I’ll often eat butter or straight coconut oil if I’m in the mountains for multiple days," VanWiemeersch says. And most people hate drinking cold water when they’re already cold, so bring a thermos of hot water or hot decaffeinated tea to avoid dehydration. Dehydration is enemy #1 when it comes to hypothermia.

Wear Properly-Fitted Footwear Make sure your hiking, skiing, or ice climbing boots aren't too small! When boots are tight and too small, they restrict the circulation to your feet; this can result in varying levels of frostbite. Make sure to size your boots up if your in-between sizes. Remember, feet swell after a long day out. So make sure they have room to wiggle around and allow blood to circulate to your toes. 

Don’t Sweat It: Manage Your Body Temps While Being Active Outdoors

We all sweat, but try to mitigate perspiration by shedding layers/adding layers accordingly. "Often when I get to the base of a climb I see my friends standing around in their base layers; it’s as if they’re just waiting for the heat to escape their body," VanWiemeersch explains. Not good! The best thing to do the minute you reach your destination or anytime you take a break to chat with a friend or eat a snack is to layer up immediately. Keep your puffy down coat handy and put it on. And, if there’s any chance at all that you’ll be getting wet in potential rain or wet snow showers (or if you’re sleeping in a snow cave), use a jacket with a synthetic fill. If it’s very cold, dry and bitter wear a down-filled Jacket. Here are VanWiemeersch's suggestions:

Lightweight Layer (32 degrees or above)

  1. If it’s relatively warm (32 degrees or above), I will wear only a lightweight polyester blend fleece layer top and bottom when I’m on the move outside—whether hiking to go ice climbing or mountaineering or simply biking to the grocery store. This layer helps prevent me sweating from sweating too much. Start your outdoor adventures “cold and bold” to avoid sweating through your layers. And the minute you start to feel warm, shed a layer. Don't arrive at the base of the climb, the dog park, or wherever you are going sweaty and soon to be very very cold.
  2. And if there’s any chance I will get wet or if the wind is blowing too hard, I will also wear a lightweight and breathable hard shell over the top of my fleece
  3. Now on colder days, if it’s below 25 degrees, above 10, I’ll wear a mid-weight jacket or thick soft shell instead. When the temps are cold and the ice or snow is dry, I want a jacket that has a water resistant coating and provides moderate insulation with maximum breathability. I get hot when I climb, and I'm always mitigating overheating so I'm never sweaty. If it’s extra cold, I will throw a hard shell right on top of this kit to cut wind and keep the heat in.

Gloves: 

VanWiemeersch uses various types for her different adventures. But when she goes ice climbing, this is her glove kit:

  • Thin—when it’s warm and you don't have to worry about frostbite, bring a thin but insulated, water resistant glove.
  • Medium—when it’s cold, but you still need the dexterity to tie knots and put in ice screws, bring a medium-layer glove. 
  • Warm—if belaying for long periods of time or otherwise staying still, use big, thick gloves, such as down mittens.
  • "If you’re out on a big adventure and you plan to bring multiple pairs of gloves, keep the gloves you aren’t using warm by keeping them within your layers and close to your body. Keep the opening of the gloves facing up so that when your body generates heat the moisture from your gloves is able to escape from the top of the glove," VanWiemeersch adds.

Cuddling your kitty is also a great way to stay warm 😉

Need some tips on taking care of your skin this winter, check out our December blog post, "The Glampeur's Guide to Taking Care of Your Skin This Winter!