5 tips for keeping dry this winter

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This post is intended for the beginner or average winter enthusiast. If you’re looking to summit Rainier or Everest, you may want to reference something more technical.

1. Look for gear made with waterproof/breathable fabrics.

Most modern winter gear is made with some form of waterproof/breathable fabric, and for good reason. Firstly, WPB fabrics manage two related tasks – repelling precipitation and providing escape for precipitation vapor. They not only work to keep you dry on the outside, more importantly, they let sweat vapor escape from the inside. Another important feature is that in comparison, WPB fabrics are usually lighter in weight than non-WPB fabrics. This is great for packing, wearing or generally just not taking up much space in your closet. To learn more about how waterproof breathable garments work, see our guide on how waterproof breathable fabrics work.

2. Keep your gear clean.

Seriously people! No matter how much money you spend on the leading waterproof fabric, if the face fabric is dirty it will not work as intended. Virtually all WPB fabrics are coated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish, which is intended to shed water, prevent saturation and keep water from latching onto your gear. Dirt, oils, abrasions and repeated laundering will significantly diminish the performance in your DWR finish - ultimately having a major effect on you staying dry this winter. Aside from keeping your gear clean, I recommend a fresh DWR wash from time to time. I would suggest using NIKWAX DWR waterproofing treatments (or similar) as they have a variety of DWR treatments for an assortment of fabric types.

3. Understand layering.

The typical 3-layer system is as follows:

Wicking layer > Insulating layer > Protection Layer

Wicking layer:

Worn next to the skin, with an intention of “wicking” moisture away from the skin. Look for thin materials using polyester, polypropylene, wool or silk. Try avoiding cotton layers, such as sweatshirts or sweatpants next to the skin as these will only absorb moisture.

Insulating layer:

This layer focuses on keeping you warm, but it still needs to be breathable. Look for middle layers that are made with materials like goose down, wool or fleece. This layer is intended to trap air close to your body and still allow moisture to transfer outward.

Protection layer:

This layer’s main function is to protect you from wind, water, snow, rain and sleet, while remaining breathable. As mentioned above, look for ski jackets and pants using waterproof/breathable fabrics. Naturally you’ll gain warmth and insulation from this layer, but do try to get the majority of your insulation from your mid/insulating layer.

For a detailed explanation into layering, see our simple guide on how to layer for skiing & snowboarding.

4. Give bibs a shot.

Haven’t ran a pair of ski bibs before? I highly recommend it. Those of you that do rock bibs know what I’m talking about – “once you go bibs, you never go back.” A good bib combined with a jacket is the ideal winter protection setup.

5. Get comfortable paying for technical features, they’re worth it.

The difference between a good and great day on the hill sometimes comes down to a few minor features you wish your winter gear had. Here are some of my favorite extra features I appreciate in my winter gear:

  • - An extra high collar with soft fleece that you can hide away in on those windy days
  • - Pit/leg vents for when I’m hiking or skiing on a warmer spring day
  • - Wrist gaiters for keeping snow out of your arms + keeping your hands warm
  • - A hood that fits over your helmet. Sounds basic, but you’d be surprised how few jackets do this

Living here in the Northwest and staying dry is no easy task. Hopefully these 5 tips sparked some inspiration for staying dry this winter. Have any tips or suggestions that you find work well for staying dry? I’d love to hear - leave them in the comments below and let’s discuss! Make sure to follow me on Twitter: @Nickmarvik @NWT3K

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