If you’re looking for all-weather outdoor layering advice, we’ve already got you covered.
But there are some conditions where some specific tips may be helpful, like if you’re heading out for a day of skiing in falling snow, or if you’re an Emperor penguin safeguarding your one precious egg while your partner forages at sea.
People and penguins need layers to protect themselves from the wet, the cold, and the overheating that can occur from protecting themselves from the wet and cold. Your layers
should work together to keep you warm and dry, while also wicking away moisture.
The roles each layer plays in serving these needs overlap, but a good way to remember the purposes for layering is to think in terms of three layers for the three basic functions:
For penguins, your base layer is thick sub-dermal fat and the wicking power of your marvelous
afterfeathers. If you’re a person, you will need an upper and lower base layer, plus socks. Look for wool or synthetic fabrics designed to wick moisture, and avoid cotton.
The base layer on your legs should end near the ankle so it doesn’t interfere with the fit of your socks or boots, and snug to your liking. Avoid a fit that restricts movement or prevents airflow. Thin wool socks work great for keeping your feet dry, which is the only way you will keep them warm.
If you’re a penguin, you have an insulating layer of lightweight down feathers to hold heat close to your body. If you’re a person, aim for a similar effect. Make sure this layer keeps your core warm but isn’t too heavy–the key is to retain heat but avoid trapping sweat or reducing
mobility. Fleece or thin Merino wool works great here.
Unless you have the ability to control your outer plumage with your muscles, flattening your coarse contour feathers to waterproof your skin and down, you will need to protect your inner layers from wet and wind with a shell, insulated waterproof gloves, and pants.
Your legs won’t need a mid-layer, but if you can’t retract them into a warm cocoon of plumage beneath your belly, getting some water-resistant pants to cover your base layer is a must. Salopettes are a sure bet for staying dry, and can make you feel like a firefighter.
Waterproof gloves. Your shell should be water-resistant, but it needs to breathe enough to allow moisture to evaporate. It should keep the wind from stripping all the heat off your inner layers, but not turn you into a sliding sauna.
Layering with a purpose means picking the right three layers for your conditions. What has the weather been like on the mountain, and what do forecasts say about today? Are you skiing on fresh powder or old, hard pack? How many other penguins are around?
For temperatures near or below freezing, beef up your base layer and/or mid layer. There are thermal leggings and long-sleeved undershirts designed for low temperatures, sometimes with a compression fit to increase blood flow. A down vest or fleece can make a cozy mid layer. Many jackets come with removable liners that can be incorporated into your layer scheme.
Consider additional insulation like a neck warmer or glove liners.
In fresh and falling powder, you want to keep every unique and beautiful snowflake out of your inner layers. A backup pair of socks and an adjustable mid-layer are good ideas in case water sneaks inside. Find that removable hood at the back of your closet and zip it back onto your shell!
If you can’t cool yourself by raising your flipper-like wings to increase the surface area of your body by 16%, consider looking for an outer layer with a removable hood or adjustable vents.
A lighter base layer is essential here, and a removable or adjustable mid-layer may come in clutch. Dress as though it’s 10-20 degrees warmer than it is to compensate for the heat your body will generate while you ski or snowboard or slide around on your belly. A lightweight pair of waterproof gloves can keep your hands warm and dry without overheating.
If the sun is out, be sure to protect your skin, and have removable layers and a place to store them.
We’ve already mentioned this, but this is a reminder because you really don’t want to have a shivering, soggy time on the mountain. Unless your species has social mechanisms for staying warm by huddling in a rotating mass, you will be hard pressed to convince other skiers to help you warm up by cuddling, so layer up by checking out our snowboarding and skiing collections!