This experience brought to you by gear bought on sale.
Just because we are currently experiencing the warmest winter in 8 decades doesn't mean I would bet the farm that we aren’t going to have another cold winter. While I have enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather this winter season I still am planning ahead for when the snow flies again next October or November.
This is the best time to pick up new gear for next winter as stores look to liquidate their inventory to make room for spring merchandise. If you act now you can take advantage of some fantastic deals on gear.
You will be happy when it gets cold again that you listened to me and saved 50% or more on that new jacket!
Here are some pieces of gear I suggest you should buy now for next winter to make hiking and other activities a bit more enjoyable.
A buff for those who are not in the loop is essentially a more versatile neck warmer. They have elasticitiy to them which is I why I love using them. They stay in place much better than the traditional neck warmer. Plus, they are less thick so I don’t feel like a weak child is trying to strangle me all day.
These little guys are pretty handy beyond just being a neckwarmer. My girlfriend uses her's as a hairtie when she goes running and I also used mine on hot days to cool down. You can wet it and put it around your neck while you are out on a hot hike. Which means you can get 12 months of usage from it!
As a personal shout out to a local company. Get yours from Prairie Proud where a portion of every product sold goes to a Saskatchewan based charity.
The awesome people over at Prairie Proud are even offering 20% off all buff purchases until March 18th, 2016! All you need to do is use the checkout code #saskhiker if you order online!
Note: SaskHiker recieves no monetary gain from orders.
Winter Jacket Layering System
The school of thought for many years, which still permeates in Saskatchewan, was to buy a giant parka that weighs as much as a small child to keep you warm in winter.
If you are going on any Antarctic expeditions in the future than I would recommend getting one of those $1,000 Canada Goose jackets. However for less than the half price of one jacket you can build yourself a layering system that will keep your buns toasty all the way down to -30C and colder. This type of system is more versatile in warmer weather as well!
The trick is to build yourself a layering system that allows you to warm up and cool off as you need to. I have been hiking in -30C and still have opened up my jacket to release heat. Most of the time when it comes to hiking in the winter it is not about managing the cold it is about managing the heat. A layering system allows you to do that.
The other advantage of building a layer system is that you can adapt your clothing based on the weather without having to own more than one winter jacket. That way you are ready to go outside and enjoy yourself whether it's a warm and sunny winter day or a lung freezing, nostril closing winter day.
Here is the layering system I have built over the last couples years. Everything was purchased during end of season deals and cost me less than $400.
The first thing touching your skin should be something that can manage sweat and is not made from cotton. I prefer to use a lightweight running shirt as my first layer. The enemy when outside all day is sweat. Even when it's -30C you can still get hot and perspire. Having this against my skin allows me to dry out more quickly and keeps the cold off my chest.
My next layer is a thick wool sweater. This adds an immediate layer of warmth and also is another great way to wick sweat off of you. Wool will pull sweat from your skin and will allow it to evaporate more easily.
My third layer is an optional layer depending on how cold it is. This is a fleece running sweater that I will put on to add that extra layer of warmth should I need it. Get something with a half zipper so you can regulate heat better. Sometimes all you need to do is let heat escape from your chest to allow you to cool off.
A down filled jacket doesn't need to break the bank. I got this one for less than $180 dollars on sale. I recommend getting something that has at least an 800 fill rating. This layer is what protects you from the wind and other elements. Make sure it has a hood, as that makes a significant difference in its warming capabilities.
If you can, get something that has the armpit vents like this one so you can better regulate heat.
The trick with a winter layering system is to have something that you can easily dress up and down depending on the elements. Experiment with a few different layering options and you will find something that works well for you.
I don’t know how many people I know in Saskatchewan who have told me that they don’t own a good pair of winter boots. Don’t let cold feet be the reason you get cold feet about going outside! (That is a pun and a metaphor in one I think?)
Good winter boots are the difference between spending all day outside and running back home. For Saskatchewan winter hiking I recommend getting a pair of boots with a thick and sturdy sole that are rated to -30C.
Get a pair of boots that lace up from the toe to the top. This allows you to tighten the boot securely to your feet and not have it move about. A loose fitting boot will create blisters. Make sure they are comfortable to walk in and that your toes have some space. If your toes are jamming against the front of the boot that is the best way to get a new set of toenails.
Do not get a boot that goes too high up on the calf as these are uncomfortable while hiking. Keep them somewhat low profile. I have worn these boots all day in -40C and have yet to have a problem with frozen toes.
Also, a bonus tip – never, ever and I mean ever wear cotton socks with winter boots. Cotton once wet from sweat zaps heat from your toes. Wear only wool socks – I often wear a pair of ski/snowboard socks doubled up with another pair of wool socks. You’re feet will be as toasty as s’mores.
If you don’t own a pair of wool long-johns than you are missing out. The term long-johns isn’t what the fancy people who market these things call them any more. They are now called a “base layering system” but they are the same thing.
Getting a pair of nice fitting long-johns will keep your legs and bum from freezing underneath your skipants. The fat in your buttocks does a poor job of retaining heat so adding another layer down there will keep things nice and toasty.
Bonus usage for long-johns is wearing them around the house. They have replaced sweat pants in my household. Benefits also include not slowly slipping off to the point where you are naked on your couch like I find sweatpants do!
However, wearing your long-johns every night might create some friction between you and your spouse as you accept comfort over looking fashionable, so make sure to get approval before venturing that far.
These are just a few of the things I recommend you upgrade now while the deals are hot! Check out your local shops and start planning for next year's adventures!
What are some of the best deals you've got on a piece of winter gear that you love? Let me know in the comments.