Utah is an amazing place to photograph in the winter, with frozen rivers and snow covered forests wintertime in Utah truly can be a winter wonderland.
I love how a blanket of snow can change a scene so completely. Winter in Utah is one of my favorite times of year. The cold air, the icicles, the snow covered mountains and forests all make for amazing scenery and photographs.
Many people find the cold and snow intimating and miserable. But I say there is no bad weather only bad gear. Learning how to dress for the cold is key to enjoying cold weather. Once you find yourself warm and comfortable you will truly be able to enjoy the winter wonderland of a snow-covered wilderness.
Dressing For The Cold
The first step is learn to dress in layers. Great big heavy winter coats do have their purpose but in most cases you do not need one to stay warm. In fact getting too warm and sweating is the biggest reason people get cold in the winter. Wearing layers can prevent over heating because as you start to warm up you can take off a layer to regulate your body temperature so you don't sweat. Do not wear cotton clothing in the wintertime. Cotton retains moister and will not keep you warm once wet. Wear a base layer of polyester or a polyester merino wool blend, this will wick moister away from your skin keeping you dry and warm. Next wear a thicker layer of polyester or wool as a mid-layer. This layer should be heavy enough to keep you warm when you are active but light enough to let you cool down when you are resting. Last you will want a heavier layer that will keep you warm when you are not being active. The best insulation for the heavy layer is down or synthetic down that stays warm when wet. My typical winter wear setup is the following:
1. Polyester or Merino Wool/poly blend long underwear tops and bottoms.
2. Wool pants or fleece-lined softshell pants. Another less expense pant layer is polyester long underwear, polyester flannel pajama bottoms and polyester cargo style pants.
3. Lightweight Polyester long sleeve shirt covered with a light weight merino wool blend hoody such as the Dragon Wool Hoody by Outdoor Vitals.
4. Upper body layer of lightweight puffy coat. I prefer the Outdoor Vitals Lofttek jacket as it breaths well and still insulates when wet.
5. Waterproof outer shell of a good quality rain jacket.
This setup keeps me warm and dry except for in the most extreme conditions. If needed I will add a layer of another puffy coat over the Lofttek jacket such as the Outdoor Vitals down regulator jacket. For subzero temperatures I will remove the rain jacket and add snowboard/ski pants and a good quality ski parka on top.
Footwear is a very important part of staying warm in the cold. For temperatures around freezing I have found the Xero Alpine shoes hold up really well for hiking, though they do take a little getting use to because of the design of the sole. If you want a very solid extreme cold weather boot I love my Cabela's Inferno with Boa laces. Any boot needs to be broken in for the most comfort and the Inferno boots are very stiff at first and feel like a snowboard boot. I found just flexing and bending the boots while I sat and watched television really helped break in the boots.
Most people forget the importance of good socks. No matter what time of year you are hiking, having good socks will make all the difference in the world. Spend the money and buy good quality merino wool blend socks. I have thin socks for three seasons and heavier socks for winter. If needed I will wear two pairs a thin and a thick. Your feet are the most important thing when you are hiking or walking long distances and keeping your feet warm and dry is key to success and enjoyment of the outdoors. If you want high quality socks you are going to spend some money. I love Darn Tough Socks, they are made in the USA and worth every penny. My favorite cheap socks are these from Amazon. A six pack is only $24 and are my daily wear socks. These last me about nine months and at that price I don't mind buying a new set that often. I also really like the Realtree merino wool socks from Wal-Mart which are warm, tuff and last me for 2-3 seasons.
Gloves are another very important part of staying warm in the cold. I love gloves and mittens and have been collecting various types for different functions. I may have an obsession with gloves but the older I get the quicker the cold affects my hands. I found these ice-fishing gloves pretty decent though I did modify the thumb to fit better so I could wear those with some fingerless wool gloves. I also have a pair of Vallerret gloves that are pretty nice though I don't find them very warm, they are great for temperatures above freezing. My favorite every day gloves are ones from The Buffalo Wool Company. I wear these all the time inside other gloves as needed. My newest finding of amazing mittens are from Love Wollies. These mittens are made from repurposed wool sweaters and lined with fleece.
A good hat is a must. I love a simple Thinsulate beanie and then if needed wear the hood on my jacket over it. If I'm wearing a hoody I will wear that hood, the beanie and then the jacket hood. I also have a pretty big collection of hats and depending on the conditions will wear what I think is best. Loves Wollies also makes hats from repurposed wool sweaters which I love. I have found a good balaclava is worth every penny. My favorite is one by Under Armor and I will wear it under my beanie or other hat. It helps keep the cold and snow off my neck but most of all it wicks up the sweat and keeps me dry.
The last piece of winter gear that most people don't know about are gaiters. Gaiters are waterproof leg protectors that attach to the boot and extend to just below the knee and keep snow out of your boots. Depending on your pants, you may not need gaiters. I love wearing gaiters in extreme conditions and deep snow. The extra layer of protection keeps my feet and legs warm and dry. I buy my gaiters from Colleen Linscomb at Fabric Stitched Together and are handmade by Colleen!
Keeping warm in the winter is all about being prepared and not overheating. Remember don't sweat, if you start getting hot take off a layer. Keeping dry will keep you warm.
If you would like to see one of my adventures in the snow and cold check out this video!