Head-to-toe layering ideas for staying warm while exploring the Pacific Northwest this winter.

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Looking to enjoy more outdoor activities in the snowy mountains? Dressing right can make a frosty day a lot more fun.

Steve Schreader of Midwest Mountaineering, an outdoor gear store in Minneapolis, offers his advice for winter wear. Done right, he says, your winter wear should create “a nice, warm, cozy feeling,” no matter how cold it gets.


Layering is the key to cold-weather dressing, and it works for “any part of the body whether the head, feet and hands, or the main core of your body,” Schreader says.

For your upper torso, begin with a long-sleeved base layer — either a merino wool or polyester shirt. The fabric should breathe and be relatively light so you don’t overheat. Schreader recommends staying away from cotton or cotton blends.

Next, put on a mid-layer, like a fleece pullover or hoodie. The mid-layer is “going to be your first line of insulation,” Schreader says, preventing body heat from evaporating.

The top layer should be a shell that serves as a windbreaker. If the temperatures are extremely cold, you’ll want a “big puffy jacket.” That insulating layer keeps your body heat in and serves as a barrier between you and the elements, he says.

He recommends that both the mid-layer and the outer shell have hoods.

For the bottom half of your body, layer long underwear beneath canvas pants. Beware of jeans or 100 percent cotton pants, which don’t protect well against the cold and don’t dry fast if they get wet.


Start with a light pair of wool hiking socks. Then add a layer of “thick, almost fluffy” wool socks designed for hiking, trekking or mountaineering, Schreader says.

From left: Danner Vertigo 917, $220 at danner.com; Filson Double Mackinaw Wool Hat, $95
From left: Danner Vertigo 917, $220 at danner.com; Filson Double Mackinaw Wool Hat, $95

Boots like Merrell Moabs or those from the Sorel brand will keep the feet dry and warm, he says.

“Your feet are probably the one thing that if they’re not comfortable, the rest of you is not going to be comfortable,” he says. But you also “don’t want to overdress your feet,” because if they sweat, “you’re going to get clammy.”


“Most of the extremities that get frostbitten first are on my head — my nose, my ears, my cheeks,” Schreader says.

Use the hood from your mid-layer, and add a beanie or stocking cap. A neck gaiter can add a layer across your face.

Another headgear option: “Full fur, with the full flaps. You’ll look the kids from ‘A Christmas Story,’ ” he says.


Start with a lightweight liner glove. Look for the touchscreen finger-pad design so you can use your phone without exposing skin.

Add mittens that have liners as well as outer shells. Schreader recommends mittens because “having your fingers closer together, not isolated, is going to create a better heat pocket in your hands.”