We have a friend who spends the New Years holiday backpacking.  I have been jealous of this for a number of years and suggested to my family that we go for it.  Then I saw the forecast.  With lows in the single digits I quickly scraped that idea.  I mean, my husband and I have great sleeping bags, gear, and are generally fool-hardy, but the kiddo didn’t have a “single digit worthy” sleeping bag.  I am perhaps a horrible parent, but I don’t want to spend $300 on a sleeping bag for the kiddo until I’m sure she loves it (hiking…not the sleeping bag).  So, despite my “weanie’ing” out on New Years I’m going to give advice on staying warm.  Your body burns calories to stay at a constant temperature (hooray for being endothermic!).  On days that are colder than your body temperature, you lose heat to the environment.  On days that are warmer than your body temperature, you gain heat from the environment and must fight that by sweating (evaporative cooling).  In winter, the trick is to keep your body heat from escaping.  Insulative layers are the way to go because they trap your body heat in and keep you snuggly.  This gets harder if there is wind.  The wind whips away your body heat making you colder.  The solution is to add a wind barrier to protect your body heat when the winds are whipping.  Here are a few things I have discovered:

Wool generally keeps warm even when wet.  This makes it a good base layer (worn against the skin) because it sucks up your sweat and still stays warm.  It also makes a good middle layer. 

Fleece can be a good warm layer too.  The thicker the fleece, the warmer.

Down is warm, but I have found that it doesn’t always protect you from the wind.  Throw on a good rain coat/wind breaker and you should be good.

Raincoat/wind breaker is my preferred outer layer on windy winter days because it “breaks the wind”; keeping it from stealing my body heat.  This becomes a problem IF you are being active and producing enough body heat to become sweaty.  Which can happen!  In the summer I rarely wear a raincoat on rainy days because I’ll get just as wet from sweat if I wear it (Sorry to disappoint.  I’m supposed to glisten, but I really sweat).  Some raincoats have pit zippers and that helps.

Super-secret, dirty warm trick… wear a thermacare wrap around your back.  It will help keep you surprisingly toasty.  Since it isn’t visible to everyone else, they will presume you are a totally awesome, winter hardy adventurer!