Friday, November 11, 2016

What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!

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What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
Winter is just around the corner, and that means switching from your summer hiking clothes to warm, insulated, and weather proof hiking clothes. Making the switch doesn't have to be hard, all you need is to know what kind of material to buy to help prevent you from  getting cold, getting wet, and worse, getting hypothermia. Winter is a great time to hit the trails - there are less people outside, and you will get to experience the peaceful beauty of fresh snow along the way. Zip up your jacket, grab some snacks, and let's hike in the snow!



What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!

Let's start with one of the most important pieces - the sports bra! The material of your sports bra should be a mix of polyester, spandex, and nylon. NEVER use a cotton sports bra while hiking in winter. The sports bra lies directly on your skin while hiking, and therefore, is one of the first layers to soak up the sweat. A good sports bra will offer both breathability and moisture-wicking comfort. It should fit slightly tighter than a regular bra, but not so tight that you can't comfortably take a deep breath or swing your arms with discomfort. One of my favorite sports bras for hiking in winter is the Moving Comfort Fiona Sports Bra. It's made of 88% polyester and 12% spandex, and because it's a compression bra, it ahem, keeps the girls in place and warm.
What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
Always start with the first base layer, which manages moisture. For me, I like to start out with a tank top. Even in winter I can get really hot, especially on those warmer days when the sun feels like it's beating down on me from all the reflection off the snow. I usually buy my tank tops from my local Walmart, where they have the Danskin Brand. I love these tank tops because 1) they are affordable (under $10) 2) they are made of the perfect material for hiking 3) they have pretty colors! If you are not a Walmart fan, any other outdoor sports store will sell basic hiking tanks. Make sure to look for a material that is a mix of polyester/spandex. It shouldn't fit so tightly that your skin can't breathe while working hard. 
What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
The 2nd layer also lays directly on your skin, and is the insulating layer. This is considered your "next to skin" layer, and helps regulate body temperature by moving sweat away from your skin, while keeping you warm and dry. This layer should be "light to mid-weight" and a mix of merino wool and nylon. Again, no cotton! Cotton is a fabric that retains the sweat and can leave you chilled. I wear the SmartWool Mid-Weight Top. Because these long sleeve base layers tend to be pricey, I only have two, and alternate between the two colors to save on money. I've never need to wear more than two of the base layers in one week, so it doesn't make sense to buy more. When I'm working hard uphill, but the temperatures are too cold for just my tank top, I will hike in this layer, with the tank top still on underneath. Sometimes CostCo will sell a two pack of a similar base layer, and that would be a little more affordable.
What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
The last layer is your outerwear. This is the layer you will put on after you've reached your destination, and begin hiking downhill. While hiking downhill you're body isn't working as hard as it was uphill, and therefore quickly cools off. This outer layer helps you retain heat by trapping air close to your body. Natural fibers such as down are excellent insulators. Almost all outdoor brands sell "puffy coats". Down provides the most warmth for the least weight and bulk in your pack - just as long as it doesn't get wet. 
What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
 The main benefits of down is that it is ultralight, ultrawarm, and super packable. On the other hand, it won't insulate when wet and dries slowly. To determine the quality of down, look at its fill power. Fill power ranges from 450-900, and is the volume in cubic inches that one ounce of the down fills up; the higher the number the higher the quality and warmth the puffy coat will provide. Puffy coats are on the expensive side, but once you put in the investment, you won't need to purchase one for another 10+ years. I have two puffy coats, one with a fill of only 450 (for the warmer winter days) and one with a fill of 800 (for the really cold winter days). I will even wear the 450 down during summer nights, its' that light. The North Face makes a great 800 down puffy that is great for hiking in winter. Again, you can find puffy coats on sale at the very beginning and very end of the winter season.
What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
The 2nd piece of the last outerwear layer is a shell. The shell protects you from wind, rain, and/or snow. Shells range from simple windproof jackets to pricey mountaineering jackets. A waterproof shell will best best for hiking in winter. Most shells allow some sweat to escape, but not all. The shell is an important piece in bad weather because if wind and snow are allowed to penetrate your inner layers of clothing, you begin to feel cold. Keep the fit in mind when shopping for a shell. I recommend that you shop for a shell WITH all of your layers on, so you buy the correct size to fit over your clothes.
What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
My outer shell is from REI and is called the Rhyolite Rain Jacket. I have worn this shell in pouring down rain for 19 miles while backpacking the Grand Canyon, in snowstorms, windstorms, you name it. It works great for protection against the outdoor elements. I bought this jacket about two years ago (in Lime Green), and it still looks brand new and works perfectly. Shells will be another investment, but again, will last for years if you buy one of good quality.




What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
While hiking in Winter, keeping your lower body warm and dry by wearing similar material for pants. I prefer leggings that are made from a blend of spandex, polyester, and nylon because I am to move with more comfort and ease. Active wear leggings have become so popular that you can literally find them in almost any store and at an affordable price. I have several pairs of leggings I specifically use during winter, all of varying colors, of course. Even Walmart, Target, and TJ Maxx offer some really cute patterns, and suitable material for winter activities. If it's a really cold day or if I am snowshoeing, I will put on a waterproof shell to keep me dry.


What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
While hiking in winter, make sure you have boots that 1) aren't super heavy to hike around in 2) waterproof 3) comfortable & 4) wouldn't make your feet sweat. I wear the Ahnu Sugarpine Boots. Now, normally I can't stand shoes that go above my ankle. But in Winter, I want to make sure that snow or debris will not get into my shoes. When I buy a brand new pair of shoes, I also spray them with Camp Dry. It's a spray that when dried, creates an added layer of water repellent. Camp Dry can be used on ANY type of gear that you want create that extra layer of protection.
What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
Keep your feet warm and dry with wool socks. My favorite are the Darn Tough via Ferrata socks. Built to withstand the worst conditions outdoors, these wool socks are ultra comfy! They provide a smooth, secure fit so there's no bunching and no blisters. Merino Wool provides for extreme comfort with beathability and a quick dry yarn. Plus, it naturally repels bacteria, so no worries about athletes foot. Happy feet = Happy Hikers!



What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
When hiking in snow or icy conditions, use Microspikes, which provides traction while hiking on ice and snow. You will see other brands such as YakTrax or Ice Grippers, but those don't work as well on trails (they are only good for around town or shoveling the sidewalk).
What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!

Lastly for the lower body, make sure you have gaiters. No, not "gators" like in Florida. Winter gaiters keep snow out of your shoe and keep your calves warm for hiking in winter. They hook under your shoe and towards the top of your shoe, and around the top of your calf, so they will not slip off. Gaiters cover half of your shoe, so it also helps keep your shoes dry from snow.


What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
Make sure you always carry a warm beanie with you while hiking in Winter. I typically don't put on my beanie until I've reached my destination, after I've stopped working hard uphill. Once I stop, I put my beanie on for the rest of the hike. Wearing a hat keeps your body temperature warm, and prevents heat from escaping from your head.
What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
While hiking in winter, you're hands are guaranteed to get cold. Always keep one pair of gloves in your pack at all times. The outer layer should be a thicker polyester, while the inner lining should be soft and warm. On really cold days, large mittens provide extra warmth since all of the fingers will be together inside the mitten. When fingers are separated, they are more likely to get cold quicker. 
What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!
Don't forget sunglasses! Protect your eyes from the reflection of the snow and sun with UVA/UVB protection. If you love Aviator sunglasses, then you'll love these.


What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!

- Carry a thermos of hot chocolate or tea with you. Take a few sips on your rest breaks.

- Drink plenty of room temperature water to keep circulation moving throughout your body and core.

- While hiking, try not to stop moving until you reach your destination - keep a steady pace. After 5 minutes of stopping, your sweat will cool you off very quickly.

- Carry hand warmers.

- Seek the sun. Don't stop in the shade.

- Warm up your shoes, gloves, and hat before heading outside with a blow dryer or car heater.

- When taking a break, don't sit right on the snow. I use a Thermarest Seat Pad. You can also use a spare jacket or sit on a log.


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What to Wear while Hiking in Winter - For Women!

16 comments:

  1. Great post as far as clothing. Nothing makes people hate winter more than being wet and cold. Another lower body layer that's pretty great is ice breaker merino wool Leggings. They are pricey but having an extra lightweight lower layer is useful if your going to be outside all day!-Heather [www.explorewithheather.com]

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  2. Outstanding post and very helpful for anyone winter hiking!!

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  3. Great information and just what I was looking for.

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  4. The Fiona bras are great but the way the tabs in the front are made is kind of dumb, they will rub. So being a seamstress, I altered them by putting the ends through from the back and sewing them together with the end of the tab outward so there is no rubbing and just getting rid of the velcro. And just to warn ladies, the bright pink stained my shirts after sweating so you might want to go with tan or white.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this. I will share it with my hiking friends. I have that exact bra you mentioned, and it works great.

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    1. Awesome! Glad it was helpful - and that sports bra is the best! -Alicia

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  6. Gaiters....https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/gaiters.html Florida has gators, no "i". Great article though, for novice winter hikers. The mitten suggestion is good. I wear a liner glove for the uphill sweaty part of my hike, the mittens for downhill because my fingers always get cold once I slow down. Happy hiking!

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  7. Trying to get more active in the winter. This really helped me get just what I needed! Thanks!!

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