Dressing in Layers: How to Stay Warm While Out in the Cold

How to Dress Appropriately for Winter WeatherIt’s easy for people who are new to winter sports to get caught up in the thrill of playing sports. But like other athletes, new winter sports players must be responsible for all aspects of their sports activities, and that includes knowing how to properly dress in the bitter cold. Although it may not seem as important as selecting the best sports equipment, it is very important.

When playing snow sports in the dead of winter, it’s important to know how to dress properly to protect yourself, not just from the cold, but also from other ailments as well. It’s even more important when dressing children for cold weather. Otherwise, you could be susceptible to a wide variety of threats from frostbite to hypothermia. Dressing properly while playing winter sports is critical.

If you are new to playing winter sports, the information below can point you in the right direction with respect to how to dress properly to protect yourself in the cold and keep you from using your travel insurance.

The Importance of Dressing in Layers

It’s important to dress in layers so that you can become more flexible when the weather temperature changes or when there are changes in your overall body temperature. Basically, according to the National Ski Patrol, dressing in layers allows you the flexibility to remove or add layers as needed.

Dressing in layers also assists with the creation of the air space that develops between the skin and the cold as space is what creates the insulation. Layers should also be looser so that they allow better circulation during the bitter cold. This helps to maintain a certain body temperature.

The Risks of Not Dressing Properly

Not Dressing Properly Risks Your HealthAs you are playing winter sports, it’s easy to start sweating during the process. If the sweat gets trapped next to your skin it will cause you to feel extreme chills. Not only is it exceptionally uncomfortable, but it is also known to be somewhat dangerous as you began to cool down.

Other risks include becoming more exposed to frostbite as the skin becomes vulnerable when the wind penetrates through your clothing. According to Mayo Clinic, this happens when the insulating layer of warm air that provides a warm coating your body is removed. Mayo Clinic has also indicated that this risk decreases to less than 5% when the air temperature is more than 5°F. However, this risk increases as the wind chill decreases.


Frostbite is a dangerous injury that occurs when the skin is exposed to extreme cold. The injury is caused to the skin and underlying body tissues that often affects the fingers, toes, ears, cheeks, nose, or chin. Although frostbite occurs more so when the skin is exposed directly to the cold and windy weather, it can also occur on skin that is covered with clothing as well. This is why layering your clothes during the winter months is highly recommended.

Frostbite can occur on skin that is exposed within 30 minutes or less due to freezing. And if you happen to play a sport that results in you getting wet, you become even more vulnerable. Some signs of frostbite consists of loss of feeling or numbness altogether or a stinging sensation. It’s important to know the signs of frostbite before going out in the cold for extended periods.


Unlike frostbite where the skin tissue becomes frozen due to extreme chilly weather conditions, hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature is abnormally low. This occurs if the body starts to lose heat faster than it can produce it. Exercising or playing sports in extreme chilly or rainy weather conditions often increase the chances of getting hypothermia. That’s why you should do all that you can do to wear the proper clothing and the right amount of layers. You should be familiar with how to react in the case of hypothermia if you’re going to be outside.

Your Base Layer

The best material for base layers includes either merino wool or polyester. Although polyester is a lot more durable and also has moisture-wicking capabilities, it’s not the best choice as it relates to comfort and resistance to odor. Merino wool is both warm and soft. It also handles moisture very well. However, it is much more expensive of the two. It is, however, said to be exceptionally comfortable and highly functional.

How to Choose Your Base Layer

Taking into consideration that the base layer is the garment that will be directly next to your skin, it plays a very important role in that it will pull moisture away from your body as it regulates its core temperature. The base layer should be selected based on the type of activities that you plan to participate in. Look for fabrics that will not stay wet. Fabric such as merino wool and polyester are the more popular choices for base layers.

The key when selecting a base layer is making sure that the undergarment is comfortable and is mid to light in weight as is the case with the merino wool. Another great benefit of this material is that it’s very breathable and it dries relatively easily.

Your Middle Layer

The best middle layer that should be worn when participating in cold winter sports consists of fleece. A lightweight fleece that is between 100-200 weight is ideal for the middle layer. Not only is a nice fleece shirt or jacket a lot warmer and more versatile, but it’s also great at insulating and slowing down the winds’ ability to penetrate to your skin. They are a wide variety of fleeces available to choose from. In the next section, we talk about how to go about choosing the middle layer.

How to Choose Your Middle Layer

Keeping in mind that the function of the mid-layer is designed to basically insulate you from the cold while you are participating in winter sports activities, it’s also designed to help move moisture outward as opposed to inward. Although your mid-layer selection should depend on the actual weather conditions, the temperature and the activity that you will be participating in, you should also make sure that the layers are lightweight, breathable, fast-drying and continue to insulate even when it’s wet. You should also keep in mind that if you’re planning to participate in a winter sport activity and extreme windy conditions occur, you may consider purchasing a fleece that blocks the wind.

Your Outer layer

The outer layer, which in most cases is considered the last of the three layers should be suitable for all types of winter snow sports. From hiking, riding, skiing and more, your outer layer is what will have direct exposure to the water, wind and snow. So having said that, the best type of outer layer is one that is also water-resistant.

How to Choose Your Outer Layer

How to Choose Your Outer LayerConsidering that the outer layer should be water-resistant, you may want to be mindful of the fact that some outer layers could be waterproof whereas others are water-resistant. You should look out for materials that have surfaces that have been treated with a DWR, short for a Durable Water-Resistant finish. This type of finish helps to shed water so that it’s not absorbed by the fabric.

However, those that also have some form of a coating or a laminate on the inside and seams that remain sealed, you can also stay dry from the inside out. Basically, water-resistant garments are good as outer layer garments. However, if you if your outdoor sports activity will require you to be outdoors for a sustained period of time, a waterproof outer garment is probably your best bet.

Layering Tips

One of the greatest things about layering clothing while playing winter sports is that you can remove or add additional clothing based on your own personal climate control. The selection of fabrics also play a part in trapping warm air between layered clothing. You should also be mindful that there is a wide variety of styles and fabrics that are required for each layer since each layer plays a different role, as indicated above.

Additionally, you should select garments that are as lightweight as they are comfortable. The garments should also be able to be removed relatively quickly and able to fit into a fanny pack or something similar without interfering with your activities. High-quality synthetic fabrics that are breathable should be your top choice. Keep in mind, however, that your shell garment should be large enough to easily fit over several other layers. The garments should also be useful enough for a wide variety of activities, as well as adaptable enough for the different changes in the weather temperature.

Also consider your body type, the sports activity that you will be participating in, your level of fitness, and whether or not you sweat easily or whether you get cold relatively quickly. All of these areas should play a part in the type of garments that you select. For example, snowboarding versus hiking in the snow requires different garments and each effect’s the body’s temperature differently.

Avoid Cotton

It is not recommended that cotton be included in the layers that you would consider when participating in winter sports. It’s considered a poor choice because it does not insulate well. This is due to how it absorbs moisture and loses its ability to insulate when it gets wet. It does not have moisture-wicking synthetic properties that move the moisture away from the skin as some of the other garments do. Cotton is known for trapping in moisture and can cause you to get colder a lot faster.

Although cotton is considered a universal fabric that can be made out of thin material (which is great for summer months), or out of thick material (to hold up against the winter elements), this very durable and soft fabric is not the perfect choice when participating in outdoor winter sports.

Adjust Layers as Needed

As you are selecting the proper attire to participate in winter sports, make sure that the outer layer is large enough to fit over the other layers that you may be wearing. Additionally, if you need to remove one of the layers, particularly if it needs to be removed while you are engaged in your sports activity, make sure that you can do so easily and discard of it properly. You also want to make sure that it’s placed in a convenient location so that you can have access to it should your temperature change again.

Layers Need to Work Together

Layer Materials Should Work in HarmonyWhen layering your clothes, they need to be done so in a manner that allows them to all work together. Here’s what we mean: since your middle layer will be acting as the layer that provides the insulation, it should be looser than the base layer, as long as it’s not fitted too loosely. These two layers actually work together in that they trap in the heat that keeps you warm. The fleece and wool work very well together.

Other Winter Clothing

As you are out and about and participation in your winter sports activities, There is other winter clothing that you need to be mindful of as well. So in addition to properly layering your winter garments, you should also consider other things that will help you to stay dry, warm and comfortable.


When selecting a winter hat, make sure that it’s comfortable and convenient enough for you to effectively participate in your winter sport. Also, make sure that it covers the ears, as they are prone to being frostbitten if not covered properly. Hats that are made with merino wool is not only soft and moisture-wicking, but they also insulate well.

Gloves or Mittens

Selecting the proper winter gloves or mittens can make the difference between effectively playing your sport and being miserable and uncomfortable. As with purchasing other winter garments, you should consider the type of activity that you will be participating in and then purchase your hand protection accordingly. For the most part, those with synthetic exterior combined with a breathable waterproof barrier and some form of installation is ideal for keeping your hands warm and dry.


When selecting winter boots it’s very critical to select the right boots because your feet are the foundation for your entire body. They must be comfortable and dry. Waterproof or water-resistant and breathable boots should be among the first on your list. You also want to find boots that have soles with good gripping ability. This will help keep you standing if you come into contact with black ice.

Goggles or Sunglasses

While you may not think of goggles or sunglasses as a layer of clothing, they’re still important for protecting your eyes. If you spend too much time out in the snow on a sunny day, you could experience snow blindness. Snow blindness can potentially cause permanent damage to your eyes, so you need to make sure they’re just as protected as the rest of your body.


Stay Warm by Dressing in LayersAs you can probably tell by now, selecting the proper winter gear from head to toe is of extreme importance. Every aspect of your body must be properly protected. All while maintaining enough comfort and flexibility so you can participate in the winter sport that you’ve signed up for as effectively as possible.