A proper winter layering system is important to have in the snow season. While the temperatures may be below freezing, our bodies will still sweat and create moisture. Follow our guideline bellow as we explain the winter layering system from baselayers, midlayers, outerlayers and more. This is helpful for Norikura Snowshoe Tours and Kamikochi Snowshoe Tours.
Next to Skin: Baselayers
Baselayers are the first piece of clothing in the layering system. This is the clothing that will touch your skin. As we hike, snowboard, ski, and enjoy our time in the snow our body will sweat and naturally produce moisture. The role of the baselayer is to absorb the mositure and move it towards the outside of our body. For this reason our baselayer must be breathable material that dries quickly.
ο Wear wool or polyester material. Make sure to have both top layer (shirt) and bottom layer (tights/leggings). These materials are highly breathable and moisture-wicking and so they will push your sweat away from your body.
× Do not wear cotton as it absorbs sweat and will make you colder.
Top: Finetrack DryLayer Shirt (100% Polyester)
Bottom: Patagonia Capilene Leggings (100% Polyester)
Socks: Darn Tough Hiker Midweight Socks (Merino Wool)
Keep Warm: Mid-layers
Mid-Layers are the next layer of clothing. Their purpose is to keep you warm and trap your heat. This can be a combination of 2-3 layers depending on what you have and the weather. If you bring a few layers, you can always remove layers when you get hot and add layers when cold. If you bring a large down jacket, you cannot adjust your temperature as much.
ο Wear fleece, wool, light down, or other sythetic longsleeves or jackets. These are also breathable and will keep you warm.
× Do not wear cotton sweatshirts or long sleeves as they will trap the moisture from your body and become cold.
Top: Mountain Hardwear Polartec Power Grid Hoodie (Polyester)
Bottom (optional): Finetrack Storm Gorge Pants (Polyester)
Top: Columbia Fleece Jacket (Polyester)
Top: Mountain Hardwear Stretch down Jacket (Nylon/ Down) *To keep in backpack
Don’t wear cotton jeans under your waterproof layers.
Protection for Wind and Snow: Outer Layer
The outer layer is the final layer that works to protect you from the harsh environnment such as rain, snow, and wind. It should be waterproof with some wind-resistance. Even if it is not raining or snowing, this layer can also help you stay warm and trap your body heat. This jacket should be able to fit over all your layers and must have a hood.
ο Wear nylon fabrics that are waterproof and breathable. You must wear both Jacket and Pants. Gore-tex, H2No, Pertex Shield, eVent, OutDry, and more are popular for breathable and waterproof jackets.
× Do not wear plastic rain poncho. Plastic rain ponchos are waterproof but are not breathable and can easily tear. They will also not keep you warm in windy condtions.
× Do not wear jeans. Jeans are cotton material so please do not wear them even under waterproof pants.
Jacket: Patagonia Triolet Gore-Tex 3 Layer Jacket
Bottom: Outdoor Research Foray Gore-Tex Rain Pants
Hands and Head: Winter Accessories
Gloves should also follow the layering system with 2 different layers. The first layer should be a light glove to wear on the inside. The second layer should be a waterproof and insulation gloved to protect against the wet and cold. Combining the 2 layers will help you adapt to different weather conditions.
ο Wear fleece, wool, or synthetic liner gloves combined with a warm and waterproof outerglove.
× Do not wear cotton gloves or gloves that are not waterproof.
Hats are essential for winter hiking. A lot of heat is stored in your head so it is very important to have a winter cap/beanie. This should cover your head and ears from the elements. An extra neck warmer or balaclava in your backpack can also be helpful for the bad conditions.
ο Wear fleece, wool, or synthetic winter hat that covers your ears and head.
× Do not wear baseball caps or visors that will be too cold.
Eyewear can keep the wind and sun off of your eyes. We recommend sunglasses instead of goggles. Goggles tend to fog up while you are hiking. Sunglasses don’t fog up but still protect your eyes. Any kind of sunglasses will work for snowshoe hiking.
ο Wear casual or sport sunglasses.
× It is ok to bring goggles but they may not work for snowshoe hiking.
Thin synthetic liner glove + thick waterproof warm snow gloves
Warm hat + Sunglasses + lightweight Neck Warmer
Don’t bring a large scarf or goggles. This will be too hot when you are walking!
Warm Toes: Footwear
Snow boots are the layer of protection between the cold snow and your feet. Winter boots should be waterproof and have a thick sole for insulation and optimal warmth. They should also have a high cuff (high-top) for deep snow. Wear a gaiter if the cuff is not long enough. Both of these should be combined with thick wool socks to keep your toes warm.
ο Wear waterproof, high-top hiking/snow boots combines with thick wool socks.
ο Wear waterproof hiking boots + leg gaiter combined with thick wool socks.
× Do not wear sneakers or thin shoes as they get cold and wet.
Salomon Snow Boots
Don’t wear hiking sneakers that are not waterproof.
Extra Tips and Tricks:
Handwarmers can be a great companion on the cold days. Even if you don’t use them it is good to bring them for the later parts of the tour where you start to get cold. They are light and small and can easily be carried in pockets or your backpack.
Thermos with a hot beverage: Having a warm beverage to drink can also make the hike a pleasant experience. You can bring warm water, tea, coffee, or other drink to keep in your thermos as you hike.
Sunscreen: Even though it is winter, the sun is still strong when it reflects off of the snow. Wear sunscreen on your face and lips to keep from getting a sunburn.
Backpack: Bring a backpack for all of these things that we mentioned above. We recommend a small backpack of 15-30 Liters. If it gets hot you can remove your jacket and keep it in your bag. If it gets cold you can put on another layer. You can carry snacks and treats to enjoy on the hike. You can also carry your camera in your backpack to capture your memories. Make sure a couple people in your group have a backpack with the essential items.
Food: It is always best to bring some kind of food or snack. In cold weather our bodies will burn more caloris then usuall. This means we will need more energy to keep warm. Bring an energy bar, snack, or your favorite dessert to enjoy on the hike.
Headlamp (optional): If you are going on the Kamikochi Tour a headlamp will help you see while walking through the tunnels. If you don’t have a headlamp the guide will provide lighting for the trip.