Venturing out into the wintry wonderland for a weekend can be an adventure full of surreal sights and family bonding, but it also means freezing temperatures and rough weather. Before you go running out the door in just jeans and a hoodie, you should review weather conditions for the area where you’re camping, and put some thought into what you’re wrapping yourself in to brave the elements. Remember that while you’re out there, you’re ALWAYS exposed to the cold.

Let’s start by going over top to bottom on your tops and bottoms. There are three layers of clothing you should always have on when you’re out of your sleeping bag. The base layer, which is the layer next to your skin, the middle layer, and the outer layer all combine to keep you warm, dry, and protected from the cold, wind, and snow.


The Layers

The Base Layer is essentially your underwear and the first line of defense against shivering. You want to use moisture-wicking fabrics with some heat, such as merino wool. Don’t use cotton, because it’ll just collect the moisture and stay soggy and cold against your skin. It’s a good idea to have two layers to the base layer. The inner one a light to mid-weight layer, and the outer one a heavyweight layer. Once again, you want moisture-wicking material with some warmth that’ll dry quickly.

The Middle Layer is what you’ll use for insulation, so you can stay in the cold without turning blue. Heavy fleece and other warm fabrics are great for the middle layer, along with a jacket. For the jacket, a goose down jacket will be excellent for insulation. The purpose of this layer is to retain body heat, which can go pretty quickly if you’re not properly dressed.

The Outer Layer is a breathable layer that will protect you from the rain, wind, and snow. Coats with laminates such as Gore-Tex are outstanding for weather protection while also allowing air to circulate. Find a coat with vents for the core and underarm to help get rid of excess heat and moisture that can build up.


Don’t Forget the Small Things

Another crucial element to your outdoor expedition is your socks. Once again, thermally-inclined moisture-wicking fabrics, such as merino wool, are the choice you want to make. Wearing two pairs is advisable, with the thickness of the second outer pair depending on your boot fit. You don’t want them to fit too tightly. Be sure to bring extras, and if they get wet you can lay them out in your sleeping bag so they’ll keep warm. Your boots are another thing to consider. A pair of hiking boots might work fine for you, but look into options for mountaineering or winter boots.

Your hat and gloves are a must. You lose a significant amount of heat from your head, so covering it with a warm, possibly windproof hat is crucial for staying outside. Gloves will keep you from getting frostbite and keep manual dexterity. Stiff hands aren’t very useful when starting a fire or pitching a tent. Always bring extras in case they get wet.

There are other items that can be useful, including scarves, goggles and glasses with tints, and gaiters to keep snow out of your boots if you’re dealing with deep snow. Do your research and figure out what gear best suits your needs. There are some items you’ve never used before that you’ll discover you can’t camp without them.

Winter camping might be cold and snowy, but you’ll get your money’s worth in scenic natural views and family fun around the campfire. Whether you’re hiking through a snowy pass or just roasting marshmallows while the flakes fall around you, the right apparel can make all the difference between a full weekend of frivolities, or going home early in misery.