By Gill Stewart at
As the winter chill descends, it is tempting to venture out in a big thick winter coat but this can cause problems as you become more active and if it is not ‘breathable’ you will become very damp underneath it as you sweat.
So how do you stay warm, yet dry? It’s all a matter of adding layers that each have a specific purpose and are ideally technical enough to keep you comfortable.
Here we run through them layer by layer with an explanation of what to look for and why.
The aim of a base layer is to wick the moisture away into the next layer of clothing and then to allow it to evaporate. This is why it is important to always select breathable garments for each layer if possible. This process will keep your skin area dry which in turn ensures you feel comfortable and do not get chilled. When searching for technical synthetic base layers always remember to check for anti-bacterial properties too or the garment will soon smell unbearable!
The best fabrics to wear close to the skin are merino wool, bamboo or synthetic technical fibres like microfiber, CoolTech and polyesters which will wick away moisture rather than absorb it.
Base layers come as long or short sleeved styles and are ideal for use in all weathers.
Most outdoor stores will stock natural bamboo or merino base layers and if you want top of the range technical clothing you can not get better than the XBionic range which actually harnesses sweat and uses it to keep your temperature constant.
See XBionic range HERE.
This is the layer that provides insulation and these can comprise of anything from a fleece to a gilet. In short, anything that can provide warmth without being too bulky. This layer needs to be breathable too and can be made from merino wool or ‘Fleece’ fabrics which are lightweight and can come in different grades of insulation. The more technical ones are made by brands such as Polartec or Thinsulate with the former having a graded range based on how much insulation you require. Look out for items that are not bulky so they will fit under top layers when required
Some will even include wind proofing and ideally zips which can be used to vent the garments if needed. It is also a good idea to check whether the item is packable because this is the layer you tend to add or remove according to how warm you are. Look for items that squash up small like this great little Microfleece which also comes with the NWUK logo – it packs away to nothing but is incredibly warm when required without feeling bulky or too hot. Some Gilets are made from Goose down which is also incredibly lightweight and does squash down very small for packing BUT…if it gets wet, you will know about it!
SHELL OR TOP LAYER
This is the most important of all the layers because it is the one that keeps the wind and rain out and ideally lets your body breathe! If you are following the layering principles, this outer jacket can literally be a ‘shell’ that is waterproof and windproof. This will also make it light and easy to pack away when not required. However, top layer jackets do come with additional levels of insulation too.
You will also come across ‘soft shell’ items (see below) that are generally water resistant, windproof, lightweight and breathable. These are great for everyday wear but are less likely to keep you totally dry in foul weather unless you invest in the latest highly technical ranges. These are really comfortable to wear on chilly days where maybe only a light shower is forecast. For really wet days, I will wear a hard shell with layers beneath.
The key features to look out for in hard shell jackets are, sealed zips (including on pockets), 100% waterproof (not shower proof) and breathability. You do also need the fit to be loose enough to allow you to add lowers beneath when required.
The difference between the two is reflected in the price – the more technical jacket is £150 and the softshell is £89
TIP – Waterproof breathable fabrics like Goretex do come in a range of grades for different protection levels. Where possible seek advice from outdoor store professionals who really understand the technology. As with most things, the price is generally a good guide to the level of protection the fabric will provide!
The final outer shell that we recommend you carry in case of in inclement weather is a pair of fully waterproof over trousers. These are designed to pop over your usual trousers and the best ones have an elasticated waistband plus poppers or studs up the sides of the legs so you can get them on quickly if the heavens open. An alternative way to protect the lower legs when walking in longer grass or through bracken is to wear a pair of waterproof gaiters which clip under your shoes or boots and zip up at the sides. These also prevent water from entering the top of your footwear so are great in snow too.
In cold weather, a thermal fleece or softshell hat which covers the ears is recommended and one of the most functional is the Sealskinz beanie which is totally waterproof too. As for gloves, go for thin, flexible but warm and ideally waterproof. Once again Sealskinz are a good buy but these Gabel experts gloves are padded where straps may rub and are surprisingly warm yet lightweight.
For more advice about any Nordic Walking equipment from shoes and poles to gloves and socks, call our Expert team on 0333 123 450. They all Nordic Walk and are passionate about helping to get the right kit for you! To visit our on line store to view all of the items outlined above click here.