Any die-hard New Englander knows that the key to enjoying outdoor winter sports is your outfit: wearing the right boots and jacket takes the day from good to great. We don’t claim to be experts, but we have spent most of our lives braving the elements, so that’s gotta count for something, right? Here’s our guide to showing Ma Nature who’s the boss this winter:
Step 1: Base Camp.
Moisture-wicking is the name of this game. Wool socks are warm, anti-microbial, and pull sweat away from your feet (and come in cool colors and patterns for the fashionistas among us—express yo’self). Glove liners also wick moisture and now come in styles that are compatible with touch screens… say whaaat!?! Synthetic long underwear, top and bottom, will make a huge difference in keeping you warm and dry. 10 points if your tops and bottoms match. 20 points if they’re Superhero-themed.
Step 2: Let the Layering Begin.
Here’s where it gets real: did you know that you can put clothes on over clothes?!? On a chilly day, we recommend wearing another pair of pants over your bottom base layer—something stretchy that will fit under your snow pants—and another shirt, sweater, or sweatshirt over your long underwear up top. On warmer days, wear looser base layers. On cooler days, wear things that hug the skin and trap warm air close to the body. Try to stick with wool, silk, or a synthetic material like polyester to keep that moisture wicking thing going and make sure that you don’t get too bulky. We still have a lot of layers to go.
Step 3: Get InVested.
Our personal favorite article of clothing is the vest. Warm, with pockets, and allowing for a wide range of motion and under-arm ventilation, vests are basically perfect for all types of weather. Down vests are warm and light; fleece vests won’t block the wind at all but are great for warmer days.
Step 4: The Very Thin Jacket.
This is a phenomenon we’ve noticed in our time spent outdoors: People really love their very thin jackets. Sometimes fleece, sometimes a low-fill down, sometimes poly-filled, these jackets aren’t too warm but offer one more layer between you and the big, bad world without taking up a lot of space. They’re great for stripping down to as temps rise throughout the day, and you can leave them on when you come inside to warm up without overheating.
Step 5: Get Down Wit’ It.
Down: nature’s little miracle. It’s breathable, it’s light, it’s super warm, and it comes in many fill options so you can match your jacket to the conditions. Down jackets are a must in New England, and they’ve evolved from stinky, unfashionable, packed-out things to anti-microbial, sometimes water resistant, perfectly quilted masterpieces over the last 10 years or so. Make sure the down stays dry (it’ll lose its insulatory properties if it gets wet) or go with a synthetic down that’s a little bulkier and not quite as warm but can get a little damp. Pay attention to fill powers for down jackets–the higher the number (600, 700, etc.) the more “fluffy” the down feathers are, which loosely impacts how well the jacket will insulate. Fluffier = warmer.
Step 6: Waterproof Yo’self.
Moisture, man. It’s a problem. A big problem. Cold temps are manageable until you get wet, but become very dangerous with the slightest amount of moisture thrown into the mix. Making sure your exterior layer is waterproof is, in our eyes, essential. Gore-Tex is the king of waterproof, breathable fabric, so we recommend springing for Gore-Tex snow pants and jackets even though they can get a little pricey. You’ll thank us later.
Step 7: Accessorize.
Face masks, helmets, goggles, hats, mittens or gloves, a wind-proof jacket, and boots should all be worn depending on the activity you’ll be doing that day. Make sure they’re quick-drying, fit correctly, and are appropriate to the task at hand (this especially applies to footwear). Pay special attention to the area where one article of clothing meets another, like wrists, ankles, and waist when accessorizing to avoid chafing or uncomfortable bulkiness.
Step 8: Pockets.
This is crucially important: make sure you have enough internal and external pockets to stow keys, wallets, phones, passes, and other essentials while you’re out enjoying nature. Bonus points if you have an internal pocket to prolong the life of your phone battery by keeping it close to your body, asbatteries tend to die faster in cooler temperatures.
And there you have it! Winters in New England can be intense, but with the right layers, you can stay dry, warm, and comfortable on and off the slopes.