Put your warmest foot forward this winter by making sure you’re dressed appropriately before heading out the door. Whether you’re planning on hitting the slopes, snowmobiling down the trails, or just hanging out at the hockey rink, it’s important to stay dry and warm to prevent old man winter from ruining the fun.
We spoke to outdoor expert Jon Wynn, co-owner of Gear Up for Outdoors Ltd. in Thunder Bay, to find out what you should be wearing to stay toasty warm even in freezing temperatures. His advice, take a cue from Mary’s little lamb.
“Wool, in particular Merino wool, is a fantastic fabric for layering,” he explains. “It’s very warm, breathable, has antimicrobial properties so it doesn’t start to smell, and is very lightweight. I wear wool 24/7, even in warmer weather. It’s good not only for warmth, but it actually helps regulate the body temperature. It’s great for travelling!”
It’s stylish too. Gone are the days of the bulky, sometimes unflattering, wool sweaters. Merino wool is used to make tons of trendy pieces, extending well beyond the basic base layers. T-shirts, pants, even dress shirts all come made from this versatile natural material. And don’t worry about the itch factor. Merino wool is so finely spun it’s comfortable to wear, even against your bare skin.
That’s exactly where it will be with your base layer, which includes socks, tights and a long sleeved fitted shirt. Hats and mitts are a must as well, and should be made from material that will quickly wick away moisture. Wynn recommends you tailor the clothes you put on in the morning based on the outside temperature, and what you’re planning on doing that day.
“If you’re going to be very active, like cross country skiing or snowshoeing, you’re going to want a base layer for warmth and an outer layer (jacket and pants) to protect you from the elements (wind, rain, snow) that are wind and waterproof. If you wear too many layers or something that doesn’t move moisture and breathe, you’re likely to overheat and get sweaty. Not a good combination when you want to stay warm.”
For those who are planning to be less active – like going out snowmobiling – it’s a good idea to add a second layer over the base layer, usually a fleece or an insulated mid layer will do the trick. If you’re not going to be active, say standing at the sidelines watching a hockey game, you’ll need a well-insulated winter jacket on top of your base and mid layer. Down is a good choice, or several synthetic materials, like PrimaLoft®, can also offer a lot of warmth and are usually available at a lower cost.
Speaking of cost, it’s important to buy the best pieces you can afford. Down and Merino wool both come with a higher price tag than synthetics, but they have benefits equal to their price. If you are spending a lot of time outside or just don’t like being cold the extra cost is well worth it.
“I tell people to look at it as an investment in warmth,” says Wynn. “There can be a bit of sticker shock when they realize a warm pair of socks can run more than $20, but once they try a pair and see what a difference it can make, there’s no going back. You want to enjoy your time outside, and if you’re freezing cold, it’s just not a lot of fun.”
Fun in the great Canadian outdoors, no matter what the weather, is what it’s all about for Wynn and his team. They’re always happy to offer advice on what you’ll need for your favourite activities. From clothing to equipment, Gear Up for Outdoors can get you properly outfitted. For more information, or to order online from anywhere, visit www.gear-up.com. Don’t forget that CAA Members get an extra 10% off most purchases with proof of Membership.