Zev Robinson, Director of Expeditions

Staying comfortable when adventuring outside is always on the mind of Manitobans this time of year, and many only go outside to travel to another indoor space. In the past I dreaded winter and being cooped up inside for so many months, but since I have been taking some time to dress and plan for my winter activities properly I look forward to the season for the rest of the year!

In this post I will discuss some of the things I find helpful when thinking about adventuring this time of year, and some tips and tricks to help with your success.

Activity Level

Movement is pretty much the only way our body can generate its own heat and it is the best way to keep warm outside. On the other hand making our own warmth can come with sweat, which once we stop moving will ultimately rob us of heat. So the first thing I do before getting ready to go is identify the most active I will be and the least active I will be. 

Once I have decided what my most active and least active times will be I can get started to think about what I will wear. 

Dress

As I am sure folks have heard – layering will get you the best results from your clothing. Layering does a couple of things for us. First, it is a very efficient way of using insulation and keeps us from having different clothing for each part of the day, and keeps bulk off our sleds and weight from our packs. Second, layering allows our clothing to pull moisture away from our body to the outer layers in a process called wicking, where it will evaporate or sublimate into the air, keeping us dry on the inside. 

A note about waterproof fabrics: Waterproof fabrics are great to keep us dry from the outside if the snow is melting, if there is rain, or if you love playing in the snow! But they can work against us in our cold winters. When our layers are wicking moisture away from our body, it will be stopped by our waterproof layer. For most of the winter the temperatures here in Manitoba are cold enough to freeze against this layer or inside our insulation. In the case of breathable membranes these will breath for a little while, but they cannot breathe at a rate to prevent icing of the fabric, and once this occurs it will no longer breathe.

The last thing I consider with dress is the tightness of my clothing, handwear and footwear. Blood is our body’s way of regulating our temperature, tight items restrict this. Tight gloves and boots are some of the biggest culprits of cold extremities in my experience, and next up would be tight socks, especially tightness in the tops of socks on ankles and calves. Another aspect of tight clothing to be aware of is that it can compress insulation that rely on taking up space, like down, or other ‘puffy’ insulations. If these garments are tight on our body the space the insulation is able to occupy will be squished and will not be as effective an insulator as possible. On the other end of this issue is clothing that is too loose. Loose items are less efficient insulators, because there is more ‘air’ or open space inside the garment for our bodies to heat up, this increases draft and air exchange with the cold outside air. Loose garments are an easy fix up to a point. If the item is not too loose, one can layer underneath it, this will increase the insulation and take up the extra space you need to work to heat, resulting in a happy, warm person!

Tips and Tricks

  • Pack an ‘oversized’ jacket
    • This is a jacket that I think is ‘too warm’ for the weather outside, that I can throw over all of my layers when I stop moving to help retain as much heat as I can.
  • Putting an extra layer on my body to keep my extremities warm
    • In the constant battle to keep fingers and toes warm in very cold temperatures I have found this one of my best friends. The extra heat in your core causes your body to increase circulation to your extremities, keeping new warm blood moving through your fingers and toes.
  • Socks without ankle cuffs
    • When buying big warm socks, I look for socks with no cuff on the ankle or a loose ankle cuff. These cuffs are often the culprits of circulation loss.
  • Keeping a layer on my hands when I get warm
    • I always try to keep some sort of glove on my hands. This is for a couple of things: First, it acts as a protection for my hands if I need to touch anything that is metal or ice. Second, it is much easier to cool yourself down then it is to warm yourself up, hands tend to go from too warm to too cold very quickly and generally unpredictable, so I would rather unzip or vent a layer for temperature control rather then get rid of one altogether.
  • Keep in mind what you will need to stay warm for your whole day, not just the travel
    • I find when I think of a day outside I often get stuck planning my dress according to how warm I will be when I am moving, and have to make a conscious decision about how warm I will be when I stop.

Happy adventuring!

We would love to hear from you about your favourite tricks to stay comfortable in the winter! Tag us on instagram @experiencemomenta with your favourite tricks!