Middle layer(s) – These are the layer(s) between jacket and vest that keep you warm. Simply add or remove the number of layers as required. During strenuous activity, an undershirt helps to wick sweat away. Breathable fibres are best at retaining warmth. Fleece for example both wicks sweat away and keeps you warm. Wool is another good material with excellent thermal properties, and doesn’t get smelly during a hard workout. From an ethical point of view, choosing materials can be problematic: polyester fleece releases microplastics into the environment when washed. Even wool isn’t problem-free, as most of the wool sold in Finland comes from abroad. It can be hard to learn more about sheep farming and shearing methods. Check at least if Merino wool products have a ‘Mulesing free’ label. This shows that wool-bearing skin has not been cut away from the sheep’s buttocks, which used to be a common and extremely painful practice.
Scarf – Neck warmers are a good choice in winter. You can easily pull them up over your head to protect your ears and face from the cold wind. Several different materials are available, such as wool and fleece.
Jacket – Unfortunately there’s no such thing as a perfect jacket. You can only compromise based on your own use and how hard you exert yourself. A summer jacket may also be practical in winter – as long as enough mid layers will fit underneath it. The jacket is just there to protect you. Cotton or blended cotton-polyester fabrics are very practical all year round – they are breathable, provide wind protection and are hard-wearing. On the other hand, cotton does not dry out quickly and is a relatively heavy material. Softshell is a good choice for winter, and its light and resilient polyester is pleasing to wear. It wicks away moisture, but is still windproof. Its downside is that man-made fibres quickly start to smell during a hard workout. A layered shell jacket will keep the wind and damp at bay, but does not breath. It is best suited to excursions in the fells, where the winds can reach gale force.
Spare jacket – Take one with you on every trip. A good spare jacket is large enough to fit over your jacket. Air trapped in between provides insulation from the cold. Down jackets are the lightest choice and can be packed into small spaces. There are other practical alternatives, such as Primaloft and other synthetic fibres.
Phone pouch – Keep your mobile phone in its own protective pouch and close to your skin for warmth, such as around your neck or waist. An inside pocket will also do. Only this way can you stop the battery discharging in the cold. Jacket and trouser pockets are often too cold.
Base layer – One of the best materials for long-sleeved vests and “Long Johns” (pants) is Merino wool. It keeps you warm and doesn’t irritate your skin, even when slightly damp. Man-made fibres wick away moisture from your skin, but feel very cold when damp. Cotton feels nice, but not when you’re sweaty. A damp vest cools you down rather too effectively and soon you are shivering with the cold.
Socks – Socks should always fit closely on your feet and wick away moisture from the skin. This will stop your toes from freezing. The ‘two sock’ technique will also prevent blisters. Wool is still one of the best materials for keeping your feet warm and stop your feet from smelling. Cotton collects moisture but won’t keep them warm. Sport socks made of synthetic fibres fit well, but soon start to smell. Although bamboo socks keep your feet dry and don’t smell, they will not keep them warm like wool can.
Shoes – Choose winter shoes that are one size larger than summer shoes. Air should be trapped within your shoes to act as insulation – your toes will freeze rapidly in tight-fitting shoes. The sole needs to be thick, as the cold rises from the ground upwards. They should also have enough room for a thick woolen sock. Good winter shoes have a removable insole that is easy to dry. Ski boots are another matter, as they need to fit exactly for precise control. That is why your feet freeze more quickly in them.
Liner gloves – Thin liner gloves under your gloves help to keep your hands warm. They are also useful when using a camera.
Gloves – The peripheral blood circulatory system can vary greatly between different people - some people’s fingers even freeze indoors at home. Mittens are usually warmer than gloves. Woolen mittens are not windproof and snow easily makes them wet. Leather offers better protection from the elements and withstands campfire sparks, which easily burn holes in man-made materials.
Trousers – Good winter hiking trousers are waterproof, windproof and preferably stretch. They have fixed snow gaiters or similar trouser legs, which can be drawn tight around your shoes or boots. If you only wear one mid layer, your trousers may be warmer than the jacket. Softshell clothing is a good choice: it is pleasant to wear, keeps you warm and protects you from the wind and dampness. Shell trousers are also practical, they retain warmth and let you play around in the snow. In winter, shell trousers might not be enough and an extra layer is needed. Padded trousers are not overkill in a hard frost, as many people suffer from a cold backside. Padded skirts and shorts are also available and provide extra warmth on top of trousers, yet without restricting movement.