Technology has infiltrated almost everything we do these days. Even hitting the Trails and enjoying a Winter outdoor experience. When I was a Punk, we had leather Hi-top boots, which we coated with a substance called “Bear Greece”, for waterproofing. We used Wool socks and a Wool shirt. Pants where the most difficult item for cold conditions. We all know the rule that one NEVER wears a pair of Jeans for any outdoor adventure. The cotton base absorbs moisture, and the insulating value is ZERO!
So……with all this itchy Wool stuff, from Hats to socks, we took our primitive cloths out for a spin in the middle of winter. I have many remembrances of just plain freezing my butt off while snow shoeing or even strolling down a Trail in the snow. My Jeans would literally freeze solid on my legs. GREAT FUN!
All that has change over the last 40 years, especially more recently in the last 3-5 years now. The Synthetics have taken over. Now my boots are “GORTEX” lined, and insulated. I wear a multi-layer sock set-up, starting with a breathable pair of “POLYPROPYLENE” liner socks, topped by a combo synthetic/wool based otter sock. Warm feet is one of the Big 4 for Winter warmth.
Next is the head gear. No more solid wool hats. again, a combo of a breathable synthetic material, mixed with a wool based or POLYPROPYLENE/GORTEX material, allows one to vent your head if to hot, or cover up completely when the winter winds are blowing. This is number 2 of the Big 4, for winter Trail warmth and enjoyment.
Keeping your hands warm while out on the Trails in wintertime is another key ingredient for a full warmth set-up in the winter. We bleed away alot of heat through our hands, and if not properly warmed or heaven forbid they get wet, it could very well start the “Hypothermia”process. That is our biggest concern in the outdoors in the Wintertime. We will get back to that shortly.
The final ingredient in the Big 4 mix for keeping warm, safe and enjoying your outdoor winter experience is controlling your core body temperature. Once we loose that core body warmth while out on the winter Trails, it is hard to regain it. And that usually becomes the final stage before we start the deadly Hypothermia process.
For many years, the layering system was the best way to go out on the winter Trails. A Polypropylene first layer, followed by a wool shirt, a fleece vest and a possible fleece lined/GORTEX outer layer jacket. The GORTEX allowed for blocking the wind and wet snow, as well as letting and perspiration to wick away from our bodies. We can also vent ourselves by unzipping certain layers, or removing them all together. This is still one of my personal favorites for Winter wear.
But recently, technology has taken some huge strides for winter cloths. I am a gear nut, so I buy most of what comes out. Some things are useful and become a regular part of my outdoor wear, and other items just take up space in my closet. about 2 years ago, “COLUMBIA” came out with something called the “OMNI-HEAT & REPELLENTCY” system. This very thin material is used to line winter jackets, fleeces and almost anything these days.
On a very cold winter day, I now might just put on a single layer of POLYPROPYLENE or GORTEX combo, and slip on an OMNI-HEAT lightweight jacket. This leaves me with the maximum level of movement, with the ultimate level of warmth, wind and water protection. It is an amazing material. Once mixed with various GORTEX and POLYPROPYLENE layers, an entire winter outfit, from head-wear, to foot wear, can be put together and weigh almost nothing, and have the warmth value of 20 pounds of layered cloths.
Like Polypropylene and GORTEX, OMNI-HEAT comes in different thicknesses depending on what level of heat and protection you might be looking for, compared to what weight level of cloths you want to put on and drag along the Trails with you.
To some of you, this all may sound a bit more like Gear-head stuff, then actual Outdoor equipment selections. But once you realize how lightweight you can actually dress and still be toasty out on the Trails in winter, these high tech cloths are just wonderful! The ultimate protection from frost-bite and the killer Hypothermia, without being a “Rolly-Polly” of layered cloths, can make a big difference in how warm you are and safe you can be out in the winter snows of Michigan. Download our HIKING WINTER TIPS pdf file here.
Hypothermia is something that can KILL. and it can come on very quickly. Sometimes without much notice, until it is to late and your miles from home base or fire or something that can save your life. It is well worth investigating these new synthetic materials for winter use. The wind and wet protection and the easy, lightweight warmth derived from these new materials, changes everything for winter fun.
The 10 ESSENTIALS for Fun and Safety out on the Trails. These 10 items was first created by a Seattle based Mountaineering group, back in the 1930s, and still stand tall to this very day. These common sense things that may seem like nothing, but are so easy to have with you, may very well be the difference between surviving and perishing out on the Trails. Always having water with you goes without saying.