Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter Layers

ExOfficio's Strom Logic - a very warm Primaloft Jacket that packs into its own travel pillow.  Ski Beanie & Zip T by Smartwool, Klonyx Snow Goggles by Rudy Project.
Now that the thermometer is dropping, we need to take extra care to stay both warm and dry on winter outings.  There is really nothing worse than being on the slopes or on your bike with the wind cutting you to ribbons.  You'll feel it later too and won't be a happy camper. 
Kestrel 4500 Pocket Weather Tracker

Before Getting Dressed...
To get a more accurate idea of the conditions you will be facing in your area, you'll need to factor in the windchill index.  This will allow you to adjust clothing and gear to the more realistic weather patterns you'll be exposed to.
We make sure to keep a Kestrel Weather Tracker close at hand for not only wind speed and windchill monitoring but to stay on top of incoming storms and squalls.  Put it out before you get dressed and it will give you a better indicator of how to prepare for the day.  The 4500 gives you wind speed AND direction via a very accurate digital compass.  Good to have when your cell phone signal cuts out.  Plus your Kestrel will give you the current weather conditions where you are, not the nearest weather station in the next county.


Smartwool Women's Microweight Zip T in teal
It bears repeating that COTTON does not cut it in the wintertime.  This is because cotton does not have the wicking quality of wool, silk or even some synthetics.  It gets wet and stays wet which is especially dangerous as damp fabric next to skin increases your risk of hypothermia.

An example of wool as a perfect base layer is Smartwool's Microweight Zip T.  Long sleeved and made of incredibly soft, non-itchy Merino Wool.  Really it is the ONLY wool garment that I am able to wear right next to my skin.  The zip neck and flatlock seams of this light, long-sleeve base layer can be worn year-round and enhances the performance of your top layers.  I like the fit and princess seams which makes it less bulky and better for outdoor activities.  

Smartwool Merino Wool Tights & Merino Wool Skirt


Likewise if just thinking of wearing wool tights makes you break out in a rash, check this out:
Smartwool's soft Merino Wool Tights make a great base layer for your legs and feet.  You can wear them under a pair of Gore Tex Paclite Pants for skiing and snowboarding but the Nordic prints and patterns are so beautiful, you may not want to hide them!  I've worn them on my bike with a wool skirt and was completely warm in 45 degree weather.

Gore Tex Paclite Pants
The best way to describe wearing wool base and mid layers is being warm and dry even with the exertion of pedaling, skiing or walking.  Wool's ability to wick away moisture is unreal and you may find that you needn't be stuck in pants all winter. You can always add extra layers but just remember to use wool or a non-cotton fabric next to your skin.  Keep your pieces light.  It is better to have two or three light base / mid layers than to have one thick bulky cover.  The pockets of warm air between multiple layers are more effectively maintained than when wearing just one heavy piece of clothing.


If you can appreciate how horribly cold it can get riding your bicycle or even walking in the winter wind you'll want to know about Gore-Tex WINDSTOPPERTM technology.

This jacket has a slim fit so it doesn't act like a sail on the bike, however the WINDSTOPPER feature is the deal-maker here.  That's because the jacket allows moisture to wick away and therefore keeps you warmer and dryer.  This jacket DOES BLOCK THE WIND so if you've been on a bike on a cold windy day, a lesser jacket does either one of two things:  Offers little or no insulation OR causes you to overheat and sweat.  Having wet or damp fabric next to your skin is a major factor in the onset of hypothermia.  Going out in a coat with the same thermal factors as cheesecloth doesn't work either.  Match this jacket with a pair of Gore Bike Wear Phantom SO Lady Gloves with WINDSTOPPER shown above and you will be quite ready to face a windy day out.  

Wearing the Countdown Lady Insulated Jacket, you'll feel comfortable without over heating.  The winter wind looses its bite and you can concentrate more on enjoying your ride or walk.  The two-way front zipper allows even more choice in how much to ventilate according to the weather conditions.  This jacket looks good off the bike as well so you won't feel self conscious stopping in at Starbucks for a container of coffee.

More Countdown Lady Insulated Jacket features: 

  • Fleece-lined, close fit high collar
  • Fleece-lined cuffs for comfortable fit
  • Front zip
  • Quilted jacket with PrimaLoft® Infinity insulation
  • Zip-port on collar
  • Zip tags for easy opening
  • Zip-underflap
  • Long back
  • 2 front zip pockets
  • Concealed zipped back pocket with integrated mobile-phone pocket
  • Reflective inserts on sleeves
  • Pre-shaped elbows
  • Wear-resistant elastic binding on sleeve hem
  • Reflective logo on front and back


We always recommend taking along some sort of rain cover.  That is because getting wet can quickly freeze you even when the temperatures are not that frigid.  Most heat is lost at the neck and head so it is vital to keep these areas covered with the same breathable fabrics.  Here I'm wearing a warm herringbone wool cap with a visor to help keep the sun out of my eyes.

Here I also have on my ExOfficio Rain Logic Jacket.  It is made using 2 1/2 layers of permeable fabric but also has more mechanically useful "zip pits" or zippers underneath the arms to aid in ventilation to those areas.  It has a two way front zipper so depending on where you're heating up, you can strategically cool only those areas.  I am comfortable with two light layers underneath topped with this jacket down to about 35-40 degrees.  If you are engaged in physical activity, the last thing you want to do is sweat so personally I've found it better to be a bit on the cool side when I'm working outdoors.

I especially like the flat lock sealed zippers in the Rain Logic that keep out both rain and snow.  If you're snowboarding and take a tumble, you'll understand how important sealed zippers are.  There are also pockets for your keys, cell and other small items plus the pockets are zippered.  Perhaps the best part is the hood which is easy to adjust and does not block peripheral vision.
More Rain Logic Jacket Details:
  • Shell constructed from 2.5 layers: A low-weight face fabric (first layer) to block water, a polyurethane laminate (second layer) to block wind, and a protective inner layer (a sheen considered a half-layer), which provides a touch of slickness to slide over clothing and abrasion-resistance for durability
  • Highly waterproof: Rated to 15,000 mm
  • Highly breathable: Rated to 20,000 g
  • Laminated Polyurethane membrane won’t wear or wash out
  • Fully seam sealed
  • Treated with Durable Water Repellant (DWR) for additional water and stain resistance
  • Two-way mechanical stretch nylon for maximum mobility
  • Adjustable drawstring hood with brim
  • Hood designed to fit head, not helmet
  • Microfleece-lined collar

ExOfficio's Rain Logic Jacket and Chica Cool Hoodie.
Remember to wear sunglasses or skigoggles as snow reflects 15 x times the sun's UV light, especially at higher altitudes.  A good down or Primaloft Jacket is key as temps get below freezing so we have some excellent examples of those in the left hand column.  The benefit of Primaloft over goose down is that it supposedly keeps you warm even when it gets wet.  At XX we field test every item you see featured here so check back in the season for updates.

If you layer your clothing using the RIGHT fabrics, head to toe, you'll be able to focus more on the outdoor activity and not shivering.


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