The 3 Ws
A great way to remember the key things to bring in cold weather camping are to protect from the 3 Ws. From the inside out they are Wicking, Warmth, and Wind.
When venturing out for a hiking or backpacking trip, proper clothing can mean the difference between a fun and enjoyable excursion and a cold and unpleasant time in the woods. (And this isn’t limited to hiking, the same is true for watching a football game or sailing on the open seas.)
Dressing properly for cooler weather provides you with the flexibility to adapt to the weather and activity. The key is layers. The best dressed person venturing into the outdoors will have the three layers sometimes referred to as the Three W’s.
The inner most layer, the layer that is closest to your skin, should be made of a material that allows moisture (aka sweat) to be wicked away from your skin. Cotton and other such fabrics retain the moisture and keeps it next to you. During the daytime, this can be an annoyance; at night it can cause you to chill, or to become hypothermic, as the moisture evaporates and accelerates the loss of your body heat.
A good wicking or “high performance” undershirt will help draw the moisture away from your skin. This will also help keep you cooler during the hot summer days, yet will also help you to remain warmer during the cold winter nights. We recommend good a good wicking layer for all outings as the foundational garment.
The middle layer of the three w’s of layering is for warmth. There are lots of good options for this layer. New blended fabrics can be lightweight yet provide incredible warmth. Fleeces can be a good option as well.
One traditional fabric, wool, can be an excellent choice for this middle layer. Although it’s not as light as some of the newer man-made alternatives, wool has one characteristic that sets it apart and makes it a great option for the warmth layer: wool retains 80% of its insulating value when it’s soaking wet. That means when wet, wool can still keep you warm. Few, if any, other materials do that. Wool also can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water and still feel dry. It’s also durable and flame resistant.
You dont have to spend a lot of money but be smart about your warmth layer. It should be large enough to fit on over a wicking layer and easy to take on and off. As you hike or work in the outdoors your core temperature will rise and you will need to remove warm layers quickly. As the temperature drops you will need to add on warmth layers.
Remember that warmth layers maybe more than one garment. Don’t forget about your feet, hands, head, and face when thinking about warmth layers. It is not just about a sweater.
The outer most layer in your cold weather clothing system should provide protection from the wind. You don’t have to understand the specifics behind what the weatherman calls Wind-Chill or Feels-Like temperature to understand the a breeze can make it feel colder than it really is.
This is due to convective heat loss. The air blowing by your skin, even through clothing, makes it easier for the water molecules to evaporate and that cools you off. In the summertime, that works to our advantage. We sweat, the wind blows, water evaporates, and we cool off. In the winter, this process works against us.
Preventing wind from reaching your skin will help to keep you warm and doesn’t generally take up a lot of space. Always carrying a wind breaker of some sort is key to outdoor success.
Personal Scout Packing List (Class A Uniform will be worn during Travel)
Base (Wicking) Layer –
- 2 – Long underwear (polypropylene, silk)
- 3 – Socks (wool or synthetic)
- 2 – Class B T-shirt or regular T-shirt (wicking material, no cotton)
Mid (Warmth) Layer –
- Long-sleeved shirt (wicking material, no cotton)
- Long Scout pants (no jeans, no shorts)
- Sweater or Sweatshirt (fleece or wool, no cotton)
Outer (Wind) Layer –
- Sturdy Hiking Boots
- Warm Parka or Jacket w/ Hood
- Beanie (Fleece or Wool)
- Water Resistant Mittens or Gloves
- Snow Pants or Shells
Additional Clothing –
- Rain Pancho
- Warm/Dry Sweats (to Sleep in)
Additional Gear –
- Ten Essentials
- Mess Kit
- Sleeping Bag
- Sleeping Bag Liner (Optional, but recommended)
- 2 – Sleeping Pads
- Large Heavy Duty Trash Bag (for wet Clothes)
- Small/Lightweight Daypack (Optional)
**Based on 72 Hour Activity