(XC skiing with winter lover Miska at TK Lawless in Vandalia, MI)
Northern Indiana winter can be grey, wet, cold & snowy - so how can you enjoy it?
Embrace the weather and get outside regardless!
but...how? what clothing could prepare you for this climate?
MY TYPICAL WINTER LAYERING SYSTEM
Skiing & Fatbiking - proper ski helmet
If it's really windy outside, I'll keep a Buff around my neck and use it to cover my face when necessary.
You can substitute a ski helmet for a bicycle helmet in a pinch. Most bicycle helmets, unless you buy a mountain bike style helmet, won't have as much protection in the rear of the head like a ski helmet.
Bicycle helmets tend to have more vents, so keeping your head warm is harder. Regardless, some type of helmet is better than nothing!
I typically use a three layer system for all winter activities with my upper body. Layers vary with temperature.
Depending on the exertion level of the activity, the third layer might not be necessary or would be removed & stored in a backpack once you warm up.
Base Layer - 1/4 zip merino wool long sleeve shirt for all activities
Mid Layer - full zip fleece or synthetic insulated jacket for all activities
mid layer fleece: Marmot Olden Polartec Full Zip
mid layer synthetic jacket: Cotopaxi Monte Hybrid Jacket
- soft shell for jogging & fatbiking
- hard shell (rain jacket) for skiing
- down jacket for hiking
soft shell: Black Diamond Cirque Shell Jacket
hard shell: Marmot Minimalist Goretex Jacket
down jacket: Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoodie
A good alternative to a merino wool base layer would be any long sleeve moisture wicking shirt. Definitely avoid a cotton shirt as a baselayer. The importance of avoiding cotton is elaborated on further down.
Name brand fleeces, down, synthetic, soft shells or rain jackets can be subsituted by what is found in local department stores.
For winter jogging, I will wear fleece winter tights.
For skiing, I like to use merino wool long underwear as my base layer and a hardshell pant as my outer bottom.
underwear: Terramar Pro Jersey II
Base Layer Bottoms- fleece tights or merino wool long underwear
base layer tights: Gore R5 Gore-Tex Infinium Running Tights
base layer long underwear: Smartwool Merino 150 Base Layer Bottom
Outer Bottoms - soft shell or hard shell pants
outer soft shell pants: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants
outer hardshell pants: Outdoor Research Skyward II Ascent Shell Pants
Fleece tights are easy to come by at local department stores. Soft shell pants are also becoming popular. Look for terms like DWR treated (durable water repellent). This is a treatment on fabric that helps it shed water. It is not the same as being Gore-Tex or being waterproof, but it helps.
Hardshell pants can be substituted by the traditional insulated snow pants. Traditional snow pants are heavier and bulkier than hardshell pants, but cost 1/2 of the price.
SOCKS & FOOTWEAR
If the terrain is really rocky or has wet snow, I'll wear a Gore-Tex hiking boot for hiking. If there isn't too much snow on the ground and the trail is relatively flat, I will wear a Gore-Tex trail running shoe.
For jogging, I will use the same Gore-Tex trail running shoe I would use for hiking.
Skiing & Fatbiking have specialized footwear that I won't dive into on this guide. If you do have a question on ski boots, snowboard boots, or fat bike boots, leave me a comment below or email me.
Socks - merino wool socks for all activities
For skiing I wear a knee high sock and for all other activities, I typically wear a mid-calf height.
Shoes / Boots - for hiking or jogging, Gore-Tex trail running shoes or hiking boots.
shoes: Salomon Speed Cross 5 Gore Tex
boots: Asolo Flame Gore-Tex Hiking Boot
In terms of socks, whatever you choose, make sure to not pick cotton socks - more on this below. Wool or acrylic is a better choice.
For footwear, obviously winter can be icy, so whatever you are considering look at the tread on the bottom of the shoe / boot.
Your footwear are like your tires, just like your vehicle, if you have bald tires, you won't have traction. Depending on the conditions, you might need traction crampons or snowshoes for your winter hike.
fleece liner: Burton Power Stretch Liner Gloves
For skiing, I wear a liner glove like described above and then a pair of mittens. My hands always tend to run cold so I use a two layer system.
mittens example: Marmot Expedition Mitts
For fatbiking, I use a leather work glove.
leather work glove: Outdoor Research Aksel Work Glove
(XC skiing at Brainard Lake in Ward, CO)
BRAND NAMES vs. BUDGET FRIENDLY ALTERNATIVES
It can seem quite financially daunting to acquire the "gear" you will see listed as examples above.
Outdoor brands like Smartwool, Outdoor Research, and Black Diamond can induce serious sticker shock.
Like anything, there are budget friendly alternatives to name brand products.
How much quality is sacrificed at different price points, what is the best bang for your buck, etc. will be debated by spirited gearheads over craft beer until the end of time.
Can the Costco Eddie Bauer down jacket compete with the Mountain Hardwear down jacket? You'll find arguments for either one depending on the situation.
Like any hobby or activity, how much you decide to invest in your clothing depends on many factors - how often you go, how extreme conditions are, etc.
Don't feel like you cannot get out and enjoy the outdoors without a huge budget. You probably already have most of what you need in your closet.
WINTER VS. COTTON CLOTHING
If you've done some prior research to winter layering you've probably discovered there isn't much love for denim blue jeans or cotton hoodies.
Cotton is hydrophilic, meaning it attracts water molecules. The goal with winter layering is to stay warm and dry. You want your clothing to wick your perspiration away, not attract it like cotton.
Unfortunately, you'll want to save your favorite blue jeans and cozy sweatshirt for your post-winter activity dinner date.
INRUGCO'S OUTDOOR DIRECTION
As we enter the new year, we here at InRugCo are working to include more outdoor offerings within our store. This includes outdoor apparel, equipment, guidebooks & more. (We currently are Darn Tough Socks, Marmot & Cotopaxi dealers.)
This is an exciting move for our family business, as we have always loved being outdoors! Owners Pam & Rex both used to work in the outdoor industry in their early careers, selling backpacking apparel & equipment along with canoes and kayaks.
I use to work in the outdoor industry in Boulder, CO and I spent many weekends in the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains. I've been very fortunate to have hiked, mountain biked, & skied all over the American West with my wife, family, or friends.
The guide I have written above is based on personal experiences and real adventures from Alaska & the Arctic to Northern Indiana.
When I moved back to the Midwest, one of my goals was to help people get outside and enjoy themselves. I've seen firsthand the positive effects of fresh air and adventure, so I am happy to pass along what I have learned.
I hope this guide serves you well so you'll join me in having some fun in the snow this winter!
(Stepping off the Snowcat atop the Continental Divide at Loveland Ski Resort with my wife & friends)
Questions or thoughts?
Have a question about a specific piece of apparel or activity?
Drop a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org