Spring in Alberta can mean t-shirt weather, snow squalls, or rain - sometimes all in the same day - so keeping warm is a challenge. How do you keep warm when the weather can't decide what it's doing? You've got to have the right clothes, activity level, and input (food and water).
Disclosure: I am a Brand Ambassador for Keen Canada, Terramar Sports, and Stormy Kromer, but all opinions and words are my own.
1. Clothing and Footwear
Keeping wind and moisture out will ensure heat stays in. It is also important to wear breathable layers that wick moisture when you get warm so you don't get a chill from damp, sweaty clothes. We dress our girls in a long sleeved shirt (quick dry shirt or long underwear), fleece hoody, rain jacket/soft shell, and down vest.
Base / Mid layers
- Base layers made of technical fabrics or merino wool are best to wick moisture and retain warmth. I like Terramar Sports base layers, Patagonia Capilene 3 and Helly Hansen Warm Freeze, and MEC long underwear.
- A mid layer of fleece or wool may be necessary. Look for tops with a half or full zipper for temperature regulation and easy layer removal.
- In warmer weather, convertible pants that zip off to make shorts are great for managing temperature. Another option would be to wear cycling leg warmers with shorts but they are not as abrasion resistant as convertible hiking pants, so don't take them scrambling!
- In mild weather, my favorite trick is to wear a quick dry t-shirt with cycling arm warmers!
- Stash a down sweater or vest in your pack for light, compressible warmth. It comes in handy year-round in the mountains!
|Terramar Sports Base Layers, MEC Fleece Hoodies, Stormy Kromer Caps|
|Stormy Kromer Woolover &|
Terramar Sports Cloud Nine Full Zip Top
Outer LayersFor hikes in the Rockies, you should always pack a windproof and waterproof shell.
- My first choice is a Goretex hard shell. My second choice would be a hybrid soft shell jacket.
- A good shell should have a hood with a laminated brim to keep rain out of your face, a fully adjustable helmet-compatible hood (so you can use the jacket for skiing, cycling or climbing), wrist gaiters, pit zips for ventilation, taped seams, storm flaps, and drawcord on waist to keep cold air out.
- Although Goretex shells are pricey, they are light, waterproof, and breathable.
- When buying a jacket, try it on with a base layer and midlayer to ensure you get the right size.
- Some soft shell fabrics will have waterproof ratings; look for ratings greater than 6,000 mm. The higher the rating, the better the garment will resist water under pressure. Maximum rating is 20,000 mm.
|Outdoor Research Alibi Hybrid Soft Shell Jacket|
- More affordable options include Hydrofoil rain gear, nylon rain gear, and rain ponchos.
- MEC Hydrofoil (Jacket $149, Pants $99) is light and rolls up small, but it does not breathe as well as Goretex; be sure to use the vents so sweat does not build up inside. It is not extremely durable either, so carry a patch kit (duct tape works but isn't as pretty).
- Nylon rain gear with DWR finish and polyurethane coating is affordable and effective, but not very breathable. It is good for keeping you dry at camp or when you are not moving fast.
- A poncho will cover your backpack and provide your legs with some protection also. For emergency one-time use, keep an emergency rain poncho ($1-3) in your pack. For longer use, get a PVC ($5) or nylon ($25) poncho that will not rip as easily.
- Money Saving Tip: If you are 5'4" and under, consider buying Kids' size 14 or 16 rain gear to save money.
|MEC Hydrofoil Rain Gear (on me)|
- Good kids' options for rain gear include the following:
- We love the MEC Reflective Rain Jacket ($59) and MEC Rain Bib Pants ($33). Bib pants provide more coverage than regular rain pants so your munchkins won't get wet backsides when they're leaning over playing boats in the stream. Buy bib pants in the next size (one size too big) and you can use them for 2 years! Very good value for the price!
- Two piece vs one piece? We have also used the MEC Newt Rain Suit ($66), a great one piece rain suit, but only used it a few times as potty breaks are inconvenient in a one piece. If it's pouring rain and your child has to pee on the side of the trail, it's preferable if she can keep her jacket on while she squats!
- Other high quality makes of rain gear include: Ducksday USA and Oakiwear.
|MEC Reflective Rain Jacket and Hatley All Weather Boots|
- Waterproof hiking boots are a must. I love my Keen Durand Mid WP boots! I have also had good luck with the Vasque Breeze and Salomon Elios GTX boots.
- If you don't have waterproof hiking boots, bring plastic bags and extra socks. When your socks get wet, change them and line each boot with a thin plastic bag. Keeping your feet dry keeps them comfortable, warm and less prone to blisters.
- For short walks on a wet day, rubber boots have the best puddle power. Rubber boots with neoprene uppers such as Bogs, Hatley All Weather Boots, or Oakiwear are warm as well as waterproof, and more comfortable than typical rubber boots.
- Wear Goretex gaiters to keep mud, rocks, snow, and debris out of your boots. Get Goretex gaiters for comfort and year-round use (the non-Goretex ones gave me heat rash in the summer as they don't breath).
- Keep extra footwear and socks in the car so you have dry footwear after the hike.
- If trails are icy, bring ice cleats or microspikes. I recommend Kahtoola MICROspikes.
|KEEN Durand Mid WP Boots|
Hats and Gloves/Mitts
Keep a hat and gloves/mitts in your backpack just in case the weather turns. Technical fabrics or wool are breathable and warm. While synthetic materials are easier to care for (wash and wear), wool does not get smelly as quickly, so there are tradeoffs. If you take photos with your phone, like me, look for gloves that are compatible with touch screens.
PACKING TIPS: Bring extra clothes for the kids in case they get wet. Last but not least, carry an emergency rain poncho if you do not have a waterproof jacket.
2. Activity LevelIf it's cooler than you would like, keep moving or increase your pace. Ways to keep the kids moving include scavenger hunts, geocaching, and "walking worms", or a combination of all three. "After we find the next geocache, you can have a gummy worm." More tips on fun hiking can be found here.
As you warm up, be sure to remove layers before you get sweaty or you'll catch a chill. Add layers when you stop for a break or begin the descent.
|Dinosaur Geocache - Treasure Inside!|
3. InputTo keep your furnaces burning hot, make sure everyone is well hydrated and fed. Keep grab and go snacks handy; ideally finger foods that don't require stopping to eat if it it's chilly. Bonus points if you can eat the snacks with gloves on!
It's always important to stay hydrated, but dehydration can make you feel colder, so make it a habit to sip water regularly. We often mistake hunger for thirst, or we do not want to drink something cold because it's cold out. To deal with the latter issue, pack a hot drink in a thermos!
|The Best Trail Mix (recipe in link below)|
Food and Drink Tips:
- Pack a thermos of hot chocolate, apple cider, herbal tea, or warm water. Bring a small bag of mini marshmallows for perfect hot chocolate!
- Soup always hits the spot and replenishes electrolytes lost during high output activity.
- Trail snacks: homemade fruit & nut bars, oatmeal cookies, trail mix, chocolate, apple slices, cheese strings, snap peas, beef jerky. More quick and healthy snack ideas are in this post.
- If there's still snow, you can save water weight by bringing a backpacking camp stove, fuel, small pot, and matches so you can make cuppa soup or a hot drink on the go. Don't forget cups for everyone! For big trips in cold weather, I highly recommend packing a stove in case of emergency.