Winter isn't over yet, folks! And if you are a family who likes to spend time outdoors all year round, then it's important to know how to properly bundle the kids so that they stay warm and dry. This is about so much more than just a thick, warm coat. "The idea is that layers don't make you warm, it's your own body heat that keeps you warm. The layers trap body heat and help insulate you from the cold. The flip side of that is you can remove layers to let heat escape to prevent overheating. Sweating in the winter can be a problem since it is our body's mechanism for cooling off," says Nancy Ritger, one of Appalachian Mountain Club's senior interpretive naturalists. "Being able to regulate your body heat so that you are comfortable and not sweating can be an art of creative layering. You can better regulate your body heat with several options of light and medium layers than you can with just a heavy winter jacket."
When layering for cold temperatures, you can't simply grab a few items from the drawer and put them on. On the contrary, the fabrics you choose are really important since some can benefit and others can actually make the cold worse.
According to BikeHike Adventures Inc. spokeswoman Anny Chih, natural fibers aren't a good choice for a first layer. "The first layer should be a synthetic fabric, like polypropylene next to your skin. This wicks the moisture away from your body. Avoid cotton as the first layer next to the skin. If there is any moisture, it will hold it in the cotton and will keep you cold," says Chih. BikeHike Adventures is a multi-sport adventure travel company that specializes in small group outdoor adventures.
Ritger agrees. "There are lots of fabrics out there now, such as Coolmax, Stay Dri, Climacool or wool. They all basically do the same thing -- wick moisture away from your body. In the case of wool, it is known to retain the ability to insulate even when wet. This is the big problem with cotton, which absorbs water and loses its ability to keep you warm when it's wet," says Ritger.
Looking for a good base layer for your kids? Check out Agoo's Mountain Tees for boys ($41) and Paloma top for girls ($41). Made of a "wick-away fabric," the stretchy shirts keep moisture away from the body while being comfortable and movable.
While the first layer keeps your body's moisture at bay, the second layer's purpose is to keep your body's natural heat in. Much like a house, you need a fiber that will keep the cold out and the warmth in. "Next is the insulating layer, which is for warmth, this is either a fleece or synthetic layer. Light weight down jackets can go in place of a fleece as well," says Chih.
Ritger also suggests choosing layers appropriate to the activity you will be doing. "If you are cross-country skiing, you will not want a thick layer next because you will be generating a lot of body heat, but if you are bird watching you will want to trap whatever body heat you can, so a thicker layer would be more appropriate. Thin or medium fleece usually works," says Ritger.
Looking for a good insulating layer for your kids? Check out the kid's line from The North Face. Fleece shirts and jackets start at $35.
The top layer has a different function. It acts like a shield, reflecting the elements away from the body. "The outer layer is the shell and protects from wind and rain," says Chih.
Looking for a good shielding layer? Check out the boy's Mogel Jumper Jacket from L.L. Bean. Another option? Check out the kid's L.L. Bean Wildcat 3-in-1 Parka, which combines the insulating layer and the shielding layer in one convenient coat.
Your mom probably told you to keep your hat on so you don't get cold. She wasn't kidding around. Children and adults can lose a lot of body heat by not properly covering their feet, hands and head. "Of course keeping your extremities warm is crucial - about 10% of heat loss is from the head. Be sure to have a good hat, mitts and waterproof boots," says Chih.
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