Often we spend so much time focusing on how to dress our children for outdoor winter adventures, we forget that we as caregivers need to focus on us as well. I’ve learned the hard way (multiple times) about dressing and layering for the weather.
In April 2011, I decided to run my first Tough Mudder. I wore a cotton tank top and shorts to an early, wet, cold spring event. I enjoyed my time but I know I had issues because I wasn’t wearing gear that worked for what I was doing. As I started to do more obstacle courses and moved into long events like GORUCKs, I had to get my gear and layering on point. I was constantly wet, cold and shivering. Things had to change. So, I experimented with gear during training until I had successfully figured it out.
Here are a few things that I have learned:
- Cotton is rotten. If you can avoid cotton, do it. Cotton is absorbent (highly in fact) and doesn’t wick moisture away from the skin. If moisture stays next to your body, you become colder. Try things like wicking technical fabrics or merino wool. Technical fabrics are designed to wick sweat away from the body and keep you dry. This is great, as it pulls moisture away from the skin, allows it to evaporate, and helps prevent chafing. Merino wool also wicks away moisture but it’s slower. The advantage is that merino wool is typically warmer and less stinky. Both merino wool and technical fabrics have good points about each. This article may help you decide which is right for you.
- Layer, layer, layer. I think base wicking layer, mid warming layer, and outer weather resistant layer. Think of this W trifecta as the starting point. Experiment in different temperatures and weather conditions. Is it moderately cold but very windy? Might need something extra. Remember, you can always remove a layer, but you can’t add so it’s better to start off with too many layers than not enough.
- Babies are hot. If you are carrying your child on the trail, remember that you are sharing body heat. When I know I will be carrying my daughter the entire time, I think of her as my warming layer. Sharing body heat is great for infants in the winter as it helps regulate their temperature as well.
- Breastfeeding? Think about clothing that you can zip up and down. I’m currently in love with my half zip fleece that has a high collar. I keep warm and there is easy access for nursing.
- Splurge on good gear. Good gear will last you longer. If I’m going to spend money, I want it to last more than one season. The purple leggings in the photo above… I’m still wearing them today. They might fit a bit snugger but they are still amazing for heading out into the cold.
- If you can’t splurge put it on your holiday gift list. My mother in law has a habit of buying me amazing gear for the holidays (she bought that half zip fleece I’m currently in love with). This is a great way for your family and friends to support your hobbies. They know you will use it so it’s a win for everyone involved. Make specific gear recommendations so they know what you want.
- Go on a walk in your neighborhood in your gear. Make sure to go for how long it takes for you to really exert yourself and start sweating. How comfortable are you? Do you need more gear or less? This is a great way to get your gear on point as the seasons change. I figure all my gear out on my morning walks with my dogs. It’s less than a mile and I won’t be be miserable if I didn’t layer right.
- Don’t forget your feet. This is an area you should splurge in. If you live in a cold climate buy a great pair of cold weather hiking boots and some cushy, comfy, warm wool socks. If you have cold, uncomfortable feet..you won’t be hiking.
Remember hiking is more fun when everyone (including you!) is comfortable, warm, and dry.