Winter spreads its icy fingers across the landscape and a world of stunning beauty opens up for hikers. However, cold-weather hiking also comes with its unique set of challenges. In the extreme cold, the body loses heat faster than it can generate it. This rapid heat loss can result in not only shivering and energy loss, but in the worst case, hypothermia.
Direct exposure to freezing temperatures can also cause frostbite which can result in numbness and damage to the skin and underlying tissues, affecting a hiker’s safety and health. On top of this, physical exertion, even in cold environments, causes the body to sweat. In cold weather or high altitudes, this sweat cools the body even quicker, sapping its warmth and energy reserves, and increasing the risk of hypothermia developing. To avoid these dangerous situations, cold-weather hikers employ a careful system of clothing layers to insulate themselves, retain body heat, manage moisture and shield themselves from freezing temperatures.
What is Layering for Winter Hiking?
Layering in winter hiking refers to the practice of wearing multiple clothing layers to manage heat loss in cold environments. A hiker’s body temperature can be managed effectively by adding or removing layers as conditions change. Individually, these layers have different features and functions such as:
Moisture management - With enough physical exertion, sweating is inevitable even in cold temperatures. To avoid losing body heat unnecessarily, hikers use sweat-wicking layers that pull and diffuse moisture away from their skin, keeping themselves dry and warm.
Insulation - clothes made of insulating materials such as wool or down are used to retain valuable body heat in frosty temperatures to avoid excessive heat loss and hypothermia.
Protection from the elements - water- and wind-proof layers protect hikers against rain, icy snow and harsh winds that can significantly lower the body temperature.
When combined, these layers work together to protect the wearer against the cold while providing the flexibility to handle fickle weather conditions.
Cold-Weather Layering Strategies
At a minimum, cold-weather layering involves 3 layers; the base layer, the insulating layer and a protective layer called the outer shell. While this system can be effective in many moderate and cold weather conditions, it can fall short in the following ways:
Inefficient Temperature Regulation: The 3-layer system may not provide the precision required for fine-tuning your body temperature in rapidly changing conditions. Hikers often have to carry extra layers to change into if their insulation layer gets wet or if extra insulation is needed.
Inefficient Insulation: Some insulating materials such as down jackets are able to retain heat efficiently, but when they get wet from sweat, can take a long time to dry and significantly lose their insulating abilities during this time. In extremely cold environments, a 3-layer system may not be able to keep you adequately warm in the long run.
Low Adaptability: The 3-layer system may not have the flexibility needed to adapt to fluctuating weather conditions. Using just 3 layers for cold weather excursions means there is only a small margin of error to work with when ventilation is needed to regulate your body temperature.
Limited Protection: For severe conditions, such as extreme cold, heavy snow, or high winds, the 3-layer system may not offer adequate levels of protection, leaving you vulnerable to the elements in extreme environments.
To solve these problems and create a layering system that is truly flexible and effective, Finetrack developed the unique, tech-enhanced 5 LAYERING® system.
A Synergistic 5 LAYERING® System
For us at Finetrack, a love for outdoor sports is deeply integrated into our everyday lives. That is why every product we offer is carefully developed, tested and fine-tuned with safety, comfort and functionality in mind. This has led to the creation of our synergistic 5 LAYERING® system that allows you to maximize and elevate your experience in the outdoors:
L1 Elemental Layer® - a comfortable, water-repellent garment that is designed to propel sweat from your skin through to the moisture-wicking, quick-drying base layer. The Elemental Layer® works as a new next-to-skin layer, acting as a shield to protect your skin from touching the wet base layer, and keeping you dry and warm as the base layer does its job of absorbing and diffusing sweat away.
L2 Base Layer - Finetrack's base layers use a hybrid of natural and synthetic fibers for superior comfort with high functionality. These layers efficiently wick and diffuse moisture away to keep you dry and warm.
L3 Mid Layer - This enhanced insulation layer offers superior heat retention while providing the ventilation needed to quickly diffuse excess heat and perspiration away from the internal environment of your clothing system. The layer’s high breathability means hikers can keep their insulation layers on even when they are on the move.
L4 Mid Shell® - Finetrack's Mid Shell® is a light, flexible, windproof, and breathable coat. When worn together with the Outer Shell, it acts as a secondary shield against water penetration from the outside and traps air between the two layers. This trapped air acts as added insulation against the cold, but can also be released through the garment’s built-in ventilation ability, providing versatility in managing internal temperatures while on the move.
L5 Outer Shell - While most outer shells are uncomfortably bulky and stiff, Finetrack’s Outer Shells are made with their patented Everbreath® fabric, a waterproof yet breathable membrane with excellent stretchability. This allows for unrestricted movement and added protection in extremely harsh and cold weather conditions.
Each layer of Finetrack’s design is made for optimum efficiency, flexibility and safety. Against the alternatives, a 5-layer system for cold weather offers the advantages of more precise temperature control, enhanced insulation, adaptability and superior protection against outside elements. On top of this, all 5 of Finetrack’s layers are designed to work perfectly with each other. That is why the biggest advantage of Finetrack’s 5 LAYERING® system is the synergistic effect of the entire collection.
Without the usual bulkiness that compromises your range of movement, hikers can comfortably wear all 5 of Finetrack’s layers without having to add or remove clothes out in the field. Instead, they can keep moving with the same setup while the breathable 5 LAYERING® system efficiently regulates body temperature and manages moisture even as weather conditions fluctuate. This means comfort and safety is maintained without the hassle of adding or removing layers - an indispensable feature during cold-weather hikes.
So, whether you are an experienced hiker or you are just starting to discover nature’s most challenging terrains, Finetrack has got you covered. With our dedication to developing timeless, functional pieces to the highest standards, you can depend on Finetrack’s quality and safely immerse yourself and maximize your experience in the outdoors.