How to Layer Up for the Snow

Learning to layer is incredibly important when you’re braving the mountains in winter. It’s even more important if you’re skiing or snowboarding down said mountain, since you’ll be trying to stay warm ('cause it's cold) and cool ('cause you'll be sweating) all at the same time. It’s the ultimate paradox! So how do you know what to wear? The short answer: it depends. We’ve put together this guide so you can figure out exactly what snow apparel you should rent before you take your trip.

The Main Factors

Of course, the weather is the most important factor, but look beyond temperatures and snow forecasts. Strong winds on high ridges means that it’ll feel a lot colder than the temperature might actually be. Wetter conditions mean you’ll want to focus on Gore-Tex level waterproof gear.

You should also consider your own default body temperature. Do you run hot or cold? While most people tend to get warmer once they start skiing or sledding, you might find you need more or less while you’re in the snow. Do you heat up quickly and want to leave a trail of layers on your way down the mountain? Or are you bundled up to the max at the first sight of snow and still getting chills? Understanding how much heat you need to keep enjoying the day will help you pick the right types of apparel to rent for your trip.

Layer 1: The Baselayers

Baselayers are the most important pieces for retaining warmth and wicking away sweat. Merino wool is a classic for a lot of skiers and snowboarders but modern blends from brands like Helly Hansen and Hot Chilly’s are some of the most popular baselayer options today. Our Helly Hansen baselayer rentals are made with their proprietary Lifa Stay Dry tech meaning you keep the warmth, not the sweat. Whether you run hot or cold, starting with a warm base will give you more flexibility with your other layers.

When to bring them: If it’s early to mid-winter at the destination you’re headed to these are non-negotiable. Make sure to rent your baselayers if it’s going to storm or snow. 

When to skip them: If spring skiing is a keyword in your trip planning (say you’re headed to Lake Tahoe in April) then you won’t need to worry about staying warm. You’ll heat up while you’re skiing since temperatures will be higher, it’ll be sunnier, and you’ll probably be super active.

Layer 2: The Mid-layers

Mid-layers can range from warm puffies to fleece pullovers to wool sweaters. These layers help keep your body heat trapped in. You can generally pull these out of your everyday wear closet (although we discourage any cotton materials!). If you run hot you may find that less is more or, if it’s warm enough, you might skip a mid layer altogether. If you run cold, you can layer on more pieces but remember that more layers means more bulk. We recommend trying out an insulated jacket without a mid-layer before adding on a mid-layer so you’ll still be warm without feeling like the Michelin Man. 

When to bring them: If you run very cold definitely pack them. You should also pack them if your destination is in mid-winter with forecasts of stormy or windy conditions.

When to skip them: If you run hot we recommend skipping this layer - opt for an insulated jacket instead.

Layer 3: The Outer Layers

And now for the final layer: the ski jacket & pant. Your shells' main mission are to keep moisture from getting in. While all ski jackets & pants will be waterproof, many of them will vary in insulation. Our insulated jackets and pants from The North Face and Columbia all have enough insulation that most people in most climates can skip a mid layer. Hard shell jackets and pants like our Arc’teryx Shell Jacket rentals are made with Gore-Tex, so they’ll be incredibly waterproof and windproof but won’t provide much warmth. However, these are perfect for wet conditions or for people who have specific mid layers they want to wear.

When to bring an insulated jacket: Early to mid-winter or forecasts of stormy and/or windy conditions. 

When to bring a shell: If you run hot, if you’ll be spring skiing, or if conditions are very wet, we recommend opting for our Arc’teryx rental apparel jacket and pants. You always have the option of adding in a mid-layer if you need more warmth.

The Odds and Ends

Once you’ve got your outfit down, these extra accessories will help make sure that the rest of your day is as comfortable as possible:

If you’re skiing, your helmet is going to have some insulation so you’ll probably be able to skip wearing a beanie while it’s on. If you’re walking around or playing in the snow you might want to leave one on since most people lose a lot of heat from their heads.
Neck warmer:
Leave the long scarf at the lodge! A neck gaiter like our Bula fleece neck warmer will keep your neck warm and snow-free without dealing with scarf tails.
Another non-negotiable item! Gloves like our The North Face rental gloves will keep your hands warm and dry whether you’re on the slopes or on a sled. The little ones don’t need as much dexterity quite yet so they’ll keep warmer in our fleece-lined Columbia rental mittens.
Whether you’re skiing or sledding, leave the thick & fuzzy socks for afterwards when you’re curled up by the fire. Smartwool ski socks are warm and moisture wicking so you’ll stay warm and dry whether you’re in snow boots or ski boots. 

Only need a few things for your trip? You can rent your gear “a la carte” so you only get what your snowy wardrobe is missing. Also, browse our Outerwear rental packages or First Layer rental packages to fill in some of the gaps in your luggage. Need it all? Our Deluxe Package rentals can get you ready with everything from socks to beanies. Rent your gear today so you don’t have to worry about buying and storing more gear, just enjoy making memories and living more!