Everybody knows that staying warm on the mountain is crucial, that’s why creating the right layering system is essential. Let’s dive in and talk a little bit about how to layer for skiing and snowboarding.
Which base layers and insulators are right for you?
Keep in mind that you want to create a comfortable environment for yourself, so choosing the correct base layer will ensure the perfect amount of warmth and comfort. Base layers are designed to wick away moisture so that you can stay dry, because the drier you stay the warmer you’ll be in the long run.
Base Layer Weights
You never know what the weather has in store, and the longer you’re outside the more the temperature can change, that’s why base layers come in different weights:
Ultra-Lightweight: Ultra-lightweight base layers aren’t the most common on the slopes, but they do exist. Most are designed with a regular fit that is suited for everyday use, making them good for both work and play.
Lightweight: Lightweight base layers are often used as the basis of your layering system. They can be worn as stand-alone pieces in warmer weather and as performance base layers during high intensity workouts in cool weather. Lightweight base layers are often the fastest-drying and best-wicking base layers. They sit comfortably on the skin and are easily slip under mid-layers and jackets, without increasing bulk.
Midweight: Midweight base layers are designed to be the most versatile of the bunch. With the ability to be worn as a single layer in cold weather, or a base layer in frigid conditions – they are often ideal for stop and go activities like skiing and snowboarding. With the right combination of weight, breathability and wicking, midweight base layers seem to take the cake on all-weather wear.
Heavyweight or Thermal Weight: The warmest of the base layers, heavyweight or thermal weight base layers are made to provide warmth in frigid weather. They are commonly used in activities such as dog sledding, where you’re spending long amounts of time in frigid weather, but not being active enough to keep yourself warm.
Now that you know about the different weights that base layers come in and the benefits of them, let’s talk about insulators you can use when layering for skiing and snowboarding.
Base layers also come in different materials; you can read about the benefits of Merino wool vs. Synthetics here.
What is an insulator you may ask? It’s an insulated piece used for layering in freezing temperatures. We’ll break it down into weight and material so you know what to look for:
Down Insulators: Down is by far the warmest and best insulator on the market, and has a warmth-to-weight ratio three times that of synthetics. Overall, down is lighter and more compressible than synthetic insulation, however it doesn’t have the ability to insulate when it gets wet. If you choose down as your insulator, you’ll want a waterproof shell to keep moisture from seeping into your insulated layer.
Down Weight: One thing to consider when purchasing a down insulator is the fill-power. This is designed to indicate the quality of the down. The higher the number (800-900 fill power) the more compressible, higher quality and lighter weight the down is. While the lower the number (500-600 fill power) requires more down to reach the same level of warmth as an 800-fill power jacket, thus resulting in a bulkier layer.
Synthetic Insulators: High-quality synthetics are often treated for water and odor-resistance, making them ideal for performance. As stated before, synthetic insulation doesn’t lose its ability to insulate when wet. It is also known to outperform down due to its capability to dry faster, making jackets like The North Face Women’s Ventrix Hoodie an ideal layer for skiing and snowboarding. Synthetic insulation is a construction of fine-filament polyester made to create pockets of air between fibers designed to mimic down. And new insulations like The North Face ThermoBall are engineered to more closely resemble down; making them warmer and lighter than other types of synthetic insulation on the market today.
Synthetic Weight: Most commonly Synthetic insulation is weighted in grams, so for example 60g insulation is going to be slightly thicker and provide more warmth than a jacket with 40g of insulation. Synthetic jackets typically range from 50g-200g in insulation, and those with lower weights like the Men’s Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket are often used in mild weather and are better for layering. While higher weighted synthetic jackets like The North Face Men’s Apex Flex Insulated GTX Jacket are designed as stand-alone pieces that only need a base layer, or light mid-layer to provide additional warmth.
Remember, the weight and type of base layer or insulator you choose depends on how hot or cold your body temperature runs.
If you tend to be on the warmer side, lightweight base layers and a synthetic or lightweight down insulator will be a better fit for you and your active lifestyle. If you find that you’re cold all the time, midweight base layers paired with a down or heavy weighted synthetic insulator will be the way to go, providing warmth even when you’re standing still.