Ski touring can be particularly difficult. The hike up will usually demand highly breathable products with good flexibility and venting options that will transport moisture and dry quickly. Time spent on the top will often call for warm and insulating pieces and the ride down could be both cold and warm and you’ll need great flexibility and movement. To simplify, we recommend our 4-layer system for optimal comfort in all kinds of conditions during the winter.
The base layer is you next-to-skin products. The purpose of this layer is often misconstrued. Its primary function is to keep you dry, moving moisture from the skin through to the mid-layer.
A base layer made of Merino wool or polyester is what we recommend for the base layer. Both of these fibers are able to trap air even when they get wet, which is what keeps you warm. Polyester fibers dry quicker and hold less moisture than merino wool but can feel a little colder in the process. We recommend polyester underwear for higher intensity levels. Cotton shirts are a no-go for this layer. Cotton collapses when it gets wet, so you won’t get that layer of air you need to stay warm, and it also dries very slowly. We like the narvik tech+ shirt as the base for our own ski adventures.
The mid-layer is your layer between the base layer and outer layer – the purpose of this layer is to keep you warm. You adjust the layer depending on temperature, weather and activity level.
Fleece products made of polyester or wool shirts are recommended as mid-layers. With this layer you select a thickness of the product depending on how cold it is outside. It’s important not to put on a jacket that is too warm, as this will make you sweat early on in your activity. You should start out a little colder than you would like to be as you’ll warm up when you get going. The mid-layer should be knitted so it traps as much air as possible. This can be measured on the weight of the product vs. the thickness. Products with good warmth-to-weight-ratio will transport moisture better.
The outer layer is you protection from the elements and the layer that will ventilate the moisture and heat out from your body.
Normally users don’t have a lot of different outer layers so you choose one that fits best to match all kinds of conditions. This means that a lot of consumers end up with an outer layer that’s both wind and waterproof, like you’ll find in our Gore-Tex® and dri products. These products have a membrane that will protect you from wind, rain, snow and sleet on the outside, but are still highly breathable and let the sweat and moisture that builds up inside easily be ventilated out. This type of outer layer won’t provide insulation by itself, but since they are 100% windproof the mid-layer will give enough warmth during activities. It’s important with different kinds of ventilation in your outer layer; this makes the product more flexible and it will work better as a year-round jacket. The technical features of the outer layer are also highly important for optimal use. It should have a well-constructed fit, a weather protective hood that will fit over a helmet as well as good ventilation options. For ski touring we recommend the lyngen dri flex3 Jacket and Pants.
The final layer we recommend is an insulation layer that can be worn either inside or outside your outer layer. The purpose of this layer is to protect you against cold peaks during your activities, like when it’s extra chilly on the peak of a mountain, during breaks or when riding a long chair lift on your way to the top.
With an insulation layer you can use a thinner mid-layer and thereby sweat less during your activities. We recommend a light down jacket, a PrimaLoft jacket or a jacket with the Polartec Alpha insulation. All of these insulations are very packable and provide good insulation yet weigh very little leaving no excuse not to include one in your pack. The advantage of down is that it is the most packable and provides the best warmth-to-weight insulation. The advantage of PrimaLoft is that it also provides good insulation even when it’s wet and is close to down in its warmth-to-weight-ratio. The advantage of the Polartec Alpha is that it provides warmth when wet and is highly breathable, so it works better than the others if you use it on the inside of the outer layer and during a higher intensity activity level like ski touring.
As for accessories, these are important too. Hands, feet and your head are important areas for your comfort and are potentially exposed areas for freezing. If you dress smart you will be less exposed.
For your head, we recommend you use a 100% merino wool beanie (not an acrylic mixture). It will provide much needed protection even if you get wet, and always bring an extra beanie in your pack. Choose the thickness based on the temperature.
For your hands, gloves or mittens should be chosen according to temperature and your personal preference. Also the fit of a pair of gloves or mittens should allow your hand to be easily closed. Allowing this extra space for air will make your hands feel warmer. You also need gloves or mittens that breathe well, and you should consider a pair with a membrane if you need them to be waterproof.
On your feet, we recommend socks only and in layers like as with the rest of your body. Use a very thin and soft polyester sock directly on your skin. This sock will move moisture away from your feet and protect against blisters. On top you should wear a Merino wool mixed sock, which you can adjust for the temperature.
Layering is all about versatility and efficiency, and will prepare you for the ever-changing weather of the mountains as well as activity levels. Hopefully this how to dress guide will leave you with more time in the mountains and less time in front of your closet pondering what to wear.