Stay Warm! – Base Layering

Welcome to the second session in our stay warm series. If you missed our previous session on the Stay Warm – Retro Respect, be sure to go check that out.   If nothing else, you will at least get a good laugh at my sister and my matching onesies back in the day. It is as embarrassing now as it was back then. But alas, it’s now out there for the world to enjoy!  In that session, we did talk a lot about how we were cold but still having the time of our lives.  However, this can get unsafe especially with the extra cold in December and early January.  With that in mind, let’s make things a little more toasty and keep you warm!

Before we do, lets briefly pause and talk briefly about the symptoms of hypothermia.  We’ve linked to Mayo Clinic as the authoritative resource, but we also found The Boston Globe recently published a great article that summarized the symptoms very well.  “Are you suffering from the umbles? Think: grumble, mumble, fumble, stumble, tumble. If so, it’s time to head indoors.”  The problem with hypothermia is part of symptoms also includes impacting your own self-awareness. For this reason alone, be sure you don’t go out in the cold alone.  If you drink or are tired from exertion, be aware, these can further make you susceptible.  If you or your friend don’t feel better in a few mins, get help from ski patrol.  They are trained to handle this and will treat it medically if necessary.

Stay WarmToday we start talking about staying warm by layering around the core of the body. Closest to your skin is a moisture-wicking base layer, followed by an insulating or mid layer for heat retention, and finally, a water and wind protecting shell layer.  Along the way, each layer maximizes overall coverage without adding that puffy thickness that previously made everyone look and perform with the skill of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man.  Investing in a high-quality item from each of these categories will really make your day much more comfortable. However, it can be quite the investment. For this reason, we will help you prioritize where to focus your dollars and attempt to provide a best of and a cheap alternative in each category.   There are also options to rent some clothing.  We will mention those options where viable.

For this reason, we are going to start our focus of this series on keeping that core warm to keep the blood flowing throughout your body.  A good base layer consists of a layer of clothing that has a moisture wicking property to pull your sweat away from your skin.  There is nothing that will end your day on slopes quicker than if you get wet clothing on your skin.  If your budget is limited, we suggest you make your sacrifices elsewhere.

We are a fan of Smart Wool, Patagonia, and Athleta for best of class options that are made with Marino wool. However, these can run upwards of $100 each for top and pants. Cheaper, but workable options include Under Armor’s Cold Gear, Nike Dri Fit, REI branded, and Hot Chillys all of which are closer to the $30-40 price point.  In addition to keeping your core toasty and dry, most of the same players the industry has made huge strides in socks and gloves that also keep your hands and feet comfortable and warm.  Unfortunately, we have not been able to locate a rental option for these.  Since these are focused on transferring sweat, we would recommend that you pass on that option even if you find a place!

The material that you are selecting absolutely must be moisture wicking which means pulls your sweat away from your skin so it can evaporate on the outer layer.  This action comes from either a silica treatment to polyester, a combination of materials in the garment with a natural ability to pull moisture from your skin and out to a layer that can evaporate on the outside, or a natural product like Marino wool.  A product that is notoriously bad at wicking is untreated cotton.  There have been some strides to treat cotton, but there is still a lot of perception that “Cotton Kills.”  We believe in and live by this motto!

As for fit, make sure you get the size that is skin tight.  While it may be less comfortable and less fashionable than the clothes you might wear on the streets, the benefits of wicking are completely defeated if there is air between the article and your skin.  To take closeness of materials even further, the newest products are using compression to ensure this tight fit and improve your blood flow and performance.  Some products have pushed their compression to medical grade based on sports science research. However, the price to the benefit of these are probably more than the novice to intermediate skier will need. However, if your circulation is usually low, you might find it worth this added expense. My wife sure does!

Once you have a good base layer figured out and in hand, you are much closer to getting on the slopes than you might think. If you can get these bought, you probably have enough clothes on hand or can likely locate all other gear from friends, family, even your thrift store.  If all else fails, we will direct you to resources we have found to help you rent clothes.  While we will get into more and gear to buy in our next sessions, don’t let our these cause you a mental block from getting out there and trying the sport.  We skied in far less and survived… you can too!   If you do, please please heed the warning signs hypothermia, always ski with a buddy, and be safe!

Meanwhile, keep a lookout for our next session soon.  Pray for Snow and Celebrate when Ullr Provides!

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