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Wear the wrong clothing for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, tobogganing, or skating, and you’ll return home freezing cold, soaked with sweat, or both. Staying comfortable is all about dressing in layers: wear something that wicks next to skin, insulation to suit the temperature, and an outer layer for weather protection.
For active adventures lasting less than an hour, leave the pack at home and dress so you’re a little chilly standing around. For more than an hour, bring a small pack, 20 litres or less, with enough room for a snack, water (staying hydrated and fuelled helps your body keep warm), and these other essentials: a light insulated jacket, a warm hat, and over-mitts.
Men's Lifa Merino Lightweight Crew 2-in-1 Base Layer
Start with a base layer that moves moisture away from the skin quickly, such as Helly Hansen’s Lifa Merino long-sleeved top and pants. The fabric mix of merino wool and polypropylene effectively pulls moisture away from the body to keep the skin dry and warm.
Add a mid-layer for insulation, if it’s cold. Pick one that continues to move moisture towards the outside and is warm for its weight, such as the fleece fabric in MEC’s Rockwall Midlayer jacket. It’s stretchy enough not to restrict movement and the interior is super soft and cozy.
Another option is a breathable puffy, like the Marmot Novus Insulated Jacket. When you’re working hard the synthetic insulation and airy shell allows sweat moisture to move through the jacket, but still locks in heat when you slow down.
To keep the weather at bay, armour up strategically. When working hard, say, running, fat biking, or cross country skiing, a stretchy, wind-resistant jacket will suffice, except in really wet conditions. Body mapping in the Daehlie North Jacket adds more protection where it’s needed, in the chest where the body’s most exposed to wind chill, and lighter, stretchier panels along the side, for dumping excess heat. The women’s version ups the warmth with synthetic down on the chest, while both have a fleecy hood.
For longer adventures, pack something like the MEC Radiator Lite Down Hoodie. Pull it out at rest stops, so you don’t cool down. It weighs less than a granola bar and packs into its own pocket, but the high-quality, 850-fill down is super warm for its weight.
Mountain Hardwear Women's Boundary Ridge Gore Shell Jacket
For windy or wet weather, take the protection up a notch with a jacket and pant that are wind- and waterproof, yet can still breathe. Gore-Tex—such as Mountain Hardwear’s Boundary Ridge Gore Shell Jacket and Bib Pant—remains the most dependable fabric for this purpose. This uninsulated, ski-focused combo links together to create a full-body barrier against errant flakes and gusts of cold. Both pieces are also reinforced in key spots for durability and built for dynamic movements.
For men, Helly Hansen’s Odin 9 Worlds 2.0 Jacket is light and packable enough for four seasons of use, but the proprietary waterproof-breathable membrane is nearly as good as Gore-Tex and the design is ready for the worst of Old Man Winter’s wrath.
The North Face Reversible Highline Beanie - Unisex
Top it all off with a synthetic toque that will pull moisture away from your head to keep it warm, such as the recycled polyester North Face Reversible Highline Beanie. It flips inside out for a different look.