When the cold wind picks up, the rain begins to approach you from a diagonal, and you’re still a fair distance from home, you’ll be glad you brought the right gear. Knowing how to dress for snow can be the difference between not feeling cold during your time in the powder and very uncomfortable outcomes like frostbite.
Luckily, the improvements in gear and materials mean that you have more warm clothing options today than you could possibly need. The challenge now becomes determining which gear you actually need for your time in the snow and whether you want the premium gear.
Our breakdown of what to wear in the snow from head to toe aims to have you covered and warm in no time.
- The Benefit of Snow Clothes
- What Shoes to Wear in the Snow
- What Pants to Wear in Snowy Conditions
- Shirts and Jackets for Your Snow Day Outfit
- How to Keep Your Head Warm
- Snow Outfit for Men
- Women’s Snow Outfits
- How to Dress Kids for Snow
- What Not to Wear in Snow
- Snow Clothing is All About Layers
The Benefit of Snow Clothes
While we all know winter means adding layers on to stay warm, cold-weather clothing is specifically designed with your warmth in mind. When temperatures drop below 31°F (-0.55°C), and snow begins to fall, it is important you keep your body’s core temperature up.
Frostbite and hypothermia can occur following long periods exposed to very cold temperatures. The best way to combat these conditions is to ensure your body is producing more heat than it is losing to the elements.
Snow-specific clothing is your best defense against the cold. By choosing a trusted outdoor brand, you can rest assured that the gear will stand up to the temperatures displayed on the tags. The important items to consider are your shoes, pants, jacket, headgear, and winter gloves.
What Shoes to Wear in the Snow
Waterproof and warm shoes will make the world of difference when you spend the day in the snow. Even if you are simply playing in the snow you will still need to consider taking two pairs of shoes with you.
Frostbite can cause permanent damage and is your main concern, making it important that your shoes fit comfortably (not too tight) and that they are dry on the inside.
If your feet feel at all damp, it is important to remove and replace your wet shoes and socks with a dry pair once you are out of the snow. Consider wearing a waterproof boot with a high ankle to keep the cold at bay.
Are Socks That Important?
Often overlooked, a pair of thermal socks can make a huge impact on how comfortable you feel. For a small sum of money, this is a great way to improve your snow outfit.
Consider a sock with thermal insulating properties. Natural materials such as merino wool, hemp, bamboo, and cotton are suitable. However, synthetic materials such as nylon stay warmer than natural materials when wet.
Since socks are a great gift and are the most affordable item in this article, consider picking up an extra pair.
What Pants to Wear in Snowy Conditions
A pair of thick pants such as jeans may be suitable for a short excursion in the freshly fallen snow. However, If you intend to spend more than half an hour in the cold, it is advisable to either add a thermal layer beneath your pants or to wear a pair of waterproof snowboarding or ski pants.
Choosing a pair of technical snow pants is a safe bet for any winter hiking. You will notice ski pants are tighter-fitting while snowboarding pants are baggier to allow for more movement. Choose your preference and consider bringing your jeans along to wear once you reach your destination.
Shirts and Jackets for Your Snow Day Outfit
As mentioned above, layers are the key to keeping warm in ice-cold conditions. Choosing a thermal shirt and a waterproof jacket is a good start. If you are expecting frigid conditions, adding a long-sleeve or jersey may be necessary.
Thermal clothing is typically constructed from two layers of insulating fabric, helping to trap the body’s heat inside. Base layers do a good job of keeping the heat in and contain blends of wool, nylon, or polyester fleece.
When temperatures drop below zero, clothing with natural insulation like down or synthetic insulation like polyester fiberfill becomes necessary.
A ski jacket is waterproof and has thermal insulating properties making it an obvious choice for time spent outdoors in winter. However, a waterproof shell over a fleece or woolen jersey will keep you dry and warm for a brief snow day exploring near home.
How to Keep Your Head Warm
The age-old adage that you lose 45% of your body heat through your head simply isn’t true. It likely accounts for much less but it is the most exposed part of your body alongside your hands.
Now, here comes the fun part. Choose from beanies, earmuffs, scarves, balaclavas, and ski masks to match your style while keeping your face and head warm.
A merino woolen beanie is super soft and is your best bet for natural headwear with thermal insulating properties.
Your ears have very little fat or muscle to help insulate them from the cold, making it important to keep them covered up. Exposing your ears to cold conditions for a prolonged period can lead to exostosis, commonly called ‘surfers ear’, which can impact your hearing. Earmuffs cover your ears and may suit you if you wish to wear your long hair in a ponytail.
Snow Outfit for Men
As they say, a boy becomes a man at the age of 18, but the boyish behavior of putting clothing through a tough time often remains. Manufacturers of men’s clothing seem to keep this in mind and produce winter gear with a focus on durability.
To ensure your outfit will last, choose items from reputable brands who list ‘long-lasting’ as a property. The materials used in an item of clothing can be a good indication of whether it will stand up to the test. Items with Gore-tex and 3M’s insulation tend to be worth the higher price.
If you tend to get cold easily, consider spending a little more on a heated winter jacket.
Women’s Snow Outfits
While fashionable snow outfits are not limited to either gender, you’ll notice women’s snow gear is more colorful and typically has more intricate patterns. To look your best on a snow day, consider how your entire outfit works together.
Choosing reliable snow gear can give you confidence to follow in the footsteps of athletes like Sarah Höfflin who ski’s flawlessly on the slopestyle.
Consider a bright color to help your family and friends pick you out from a crowd. Choosing the color of your snow gear to match a monochromatic theme is an easy way to tie your outfit together.
Alternatively, choose all of your gear from a brand whose ethos matches your own. A company like Patagonia uses recycled materials and supports a vision of sustainable clothing. You’ll look good in your snow gear and can feel good knowing you are contributing to a more sustainable future for the planet.
How to Dress Kids for Snow
An easy rule of thumb is to add one more layer of clothing for your child than you feel comfortable wearing. Your kids might balk at the idea of being bundled up while playing in the snow, but it is important to keep them warm and dry.
While hypothermia and frostbite are still a concern, it is important to allow your children to experience the cold weather and revel in the snowy conditions. Even if they say they do not feel cold, make sure your child changes into dry and warm clothes once back indoors.
What Not to Wear in Snow
Staying warm and dry is your goal for a day spent in the snow. While quite obvious, you’ll want to avoid wearing clothing that leaves parts of your body exposed to the elements. Items of clothing such as short sleeve shirts or shorts do not help insulate the body and are best avoided.
Clothing items made from cotton tend to absorb moisture. A trait that is much more appealing on a hot summer’s day. Once wet, these items quickly wick warmth away from your body. Wool is a suitable material for snow outfits and can keep you warm even when it is damp. However, it is worth fitting the item on first as wool can feel scratchy to some people.
When it comes to footwear for snowy conditions, heels and shoes with very smooth platforms are to be avoided. You’ll want a pair of comfortable shoes for the snow with lots of grip to help you stay sturdy.
If your footwear is tight-fitting it can reduce the much-needed circulation of warm blood to your feet. To best avoid frostbite in your toes, ensure your shoes fit comfortably and pair them with a thick pair of socks.
Leave your suede shoes at home, these are not to be worn in snow. Suede is a porous and delicate material that absorbs moisture easily. Alongside ruining the shoe, your feet will quickly become wet and cold.
Snow Clothing is All About Layers
Ready, set, snow! Now that you have a firm understanding of what to avoid and what to wear in the snow, you can head outdoors with confidence. Whether you are simply enjoying a snow day near to home or heading out with essential gear on a winter hike, it is important to layer up.
In cold weather, the risk of frostbite, surfers’ ear, and hypothermia are worth keeping in mind. However, these risks are easily avoidable and should not prevent you and your family from experiencing the joy of building a snow person or forming a snow angel.
Share your dream snow outfit in the comments below!