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How To Layer For The Backcountry

Backcountry skiing requires a constantly evolving layering and delayering process. Whether you’re climbing up or skiing pow down, we’ve got suggestions for how to layer properly.

You’re going for a tour in the backcountry, which means your temperature will be constantly fluctuating. You’ll start cold at the trailhead, then you’ll warm up 10 minutes into the hike. When the wind picks up toward the top of the climb, you’ll get chilled again. And at the summit, as you stop moving, that freezing feeling will really set in. On the way down, hopefully skiing effortless powder, you’ll heat back up again. And repeat. Here’s how to layer for all of those situations.

Start with a quick-drying base layer made from a natural fiber, like merino wool, which is designed to wick moisture from your skin and dry quickly if it gets wet. Breathable, quick-drying merino wool always makes a great next-to-skin layer, no matter what you’re up to. The Craigeburn base layer bottoms and Hanmer wool base layer top for men or the women's Hutt base layer bottoms and Temple wool base layer top make for great starting points.

That single layer up top might be enough to skin in, if you run warm, but if you need one more layer for the uphill, add a breathable fleece or a light wind shell.  Our Davis Jacket or Pierogi Hoodie for men and Katinka or Sondra Fleece for women are good options. On the bottom, bibs also add a layer of protection on your torso, and give ample pocket space, so those can be a nice option for the backcountry.  The Baker Perm or Smythe for men or the always popular Siren or Foxy Bibs for women will have you covered. Or, if you’re not down with a bib, base layer bottoms and a mid-pant like the Compound for men or the versatile Nina Pant for women will do the trick. 

At the top, you’re going to want to add a warm layer or two—and quickly, before your body temperature plummets. Look for a sturdy down insulation or a micropuff insulator. The Crowe Jacket and Bear Jacket for men and Mia or Lynx Jacket for women were made to fit well under an outerlayer. Follow it up with a shell that’s super breathable and cuts the wind and precip. We’d go with the Kane for men and the Domino for women.  That way, if you sit around at the summit eating a PB&J and enjoying the view, you won’t freeze in your sweat.

Pro Tips

-Always pack an extra pair of gloves in the backcountry, like a beefy pair of mittens you’ll probably not need but will be good to have if you do. If you get cold hands, hike or skin with a pair of gloves stuffed in the waistband of your pants or inside your bibs. Then you have a nice toasty pair when you get to the top.

-Same goes for an emergency down layer, stuffed into the bottom of your pack. This can make a huge difference in an emergency situation, or it can just be your summit puffy for sandwich breaks. 

-The saying goes “Be Bold. Start Out Cold.” That means when you’re at the trailhead, go light on your layers so you’re a wee bit chilly when you get started. You’ll heat up within minutes, and you don’t want to be that person who’s shedding layers two minutes up the skintrack and slowing the whole train down. 

-Stash a windbreaker layer (like the Davis Jacket) in a pant pocket or at the top of your pack, so it’s easy to access on the climb up. Sometime, when you’re nearing the top, the wind will pick up and you need a little extra coverage, but you don’t want to have to go digging into the bottom of your pack to find it. 

-Leave a warm, dry layer in the car. That way, when you get back to the trailhead at the end of the day, you can swap out your sweaty shirt or throw on a comfy hoody for the drive home. 

- Hiking or skinning with a ball cap is a good choice for air flow and sun protection.  Pack a warm beanie in case you need it.


Men's Kit

Kane Jacket

A lightweight touring shell with ample stretch and air permeability.
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Smythe Bib

Our lightest weight bib pant, the Smythe is built for bagging peaks without overheating.
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Crowe Jacket

The Crowe Jacket is an active midlayer, an insulating piece you can move in without overheating.
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General's Down Jacket

This 800-fill goose down jacket is a super packable, year-round staple.
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Women's Kit

Domino Jacket

A durable, air-permeable women’s ski jacket made for high-output backcountry pursuits.
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Siren Bib

A lightweight women’s bib pant made with Flylow’s proprietary Intuitive™ Perm fabric for utmost air permeability on alpine ascents and descents.
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Mia Jacket

An insulating, hooded midlayer that you can wear under a shell or on its own.
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Betty Down Jacket

This insulating 800-fill down jacket packs small and light.
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