Layering Up to Meet the Polar Vortex Head-On

Winter is a time to get outside and enjoy the frozen landscape. There are many benefits to winter outdoor activities. The only problem is it is cold! Your winter hikes need some special preparations with one of the most important being proper layering.

The Polar Vortex has hit the Northeast. We are seeing temperatures in the low single digits and below with windchills between -15°F and -30°F. Only a crazy person would go for a hike in this weather.

I am that crazy person. I just returned for a few mile hike in the woods by my house. The temperature was 5° F with -15°F windchill. And I was warm! I have climbed some Adirondack High Peaks when the ambient temperature at the trailhead was -21°F, you can imagine the temps on the summit. The secret is layering.

I try to balance quality and price. With outdoor gear, many times you get what you pay for. Here is a list of my winter gear:



Avalanche Fleece and Singbring Pants

I usually will wear the inside of my Columbia jacket (see outer layer), a Columbia softshell or my favorite Avalanche fleece. Today’s choice:

*These pants are remarkably nice for a Chinese knockoff. They are very comfortable and warm.

Outer Layer

I picked up this Columbia jacket on for $45. It has a zip in liner jacket that I consider a midlayer and an outer waterproof/windproof shell. Absolutely love this jacket.


I am very conservative with my hands. I have Raynaud’s Syndrome and really need to keep my hands warm. The Gordini Gloves with liners have done the job.


Like my hands, I am always concerned with keeping my feet warm due to poor circulation. I will be experimenting with a Vapor Barrier Liner on my next Adirondack trip per the ADK Winter Mountaineering Student Handbook. More to come!


Winter cap with Buff as Babushka

The Buff inside a Balaclava is for extreme conditions. A simple winter cap, headband or Buff are the “go to’s” under most conditions. I have also used a Buff babushka/winter cap combo.

  • Cabela’s Balaclava
  • Buff – worn like a Babushka under the Balaclava.
  • Ski Goggles – I am experimenting with an inexpensive pair from Amazon.
Heavy duty with outer shell, Buff and Balaclava

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