The challenge for many visitors to the near north is knowing what kind of clothing will do the job. The good news is it's not very complicated.
Dog sledding and other winter activities often have you exerting yourself in fluctuating levels of intensity. For instance, when it's your turn to sit in the sled, you can get cold since you're not moving, but when it's your turn to 'mush' you can work up a sweat. Likewise with snowshoeing, tobogganing and winter hiking, you heat up on the uphills but cool down quickly on level ground or when you stop to take photos. For these reasons, try to wear layers that you can easily take off to cool down and put back on to warm up.
If possible, avoid 100% cotton clothes, especially for the layers next to your skin. Because cotton is very absorbent, it will hold moisture when you perspire, making you feel damp, clammy and susceptible to cold. Better choices are wool, silk and synthetic materials designed to wick moisture away from your body.
For the upper body, a good combination of layers is:
- long sleeve shirt (of two if light)
- fleece or wool sweater (one that zips up is best so you can unzip it to cool down a bit without taking the whole thing off, but a pull-over will work)
- winter coat with a water-resistant outer fabric
- longjohns or tights made of silk or a wicking synthetic material
- snow pants (if you don't have snow pants, wear a combination of fleece or warm pants with a top shell that is water- and wind-resistant)
- wool socks are highly recommended; don't wear 100% cotton socks as your feet will/may sweat which will lead to them getting cold very quickly
- warm winter boots, ideally ones that go up past your ankle and have an insulation liner inside (go for warmth and functionality over fashion!)
- scarf or neck warmer
- warm gloves; bring mittens to wear over your gloves when you're sitting in the sled
- for dog sledding, you may wish to bring a blanket or an old sleeping bag to sit on or under when riding in the sled
- a bottle of water or a thermos of tea, light snacks
- kleenex/tissue (there are no indoor facilities on the trails)
- sunglasses to cut the snow glare, lint-free cloth
- don't forget your camera!
Don't let my list intimidate you. If all you have is cotton, wear cotton. But if you plan to do some shopping to build up your outdoor-adventure wardrobe, then try to stick with the alternative fabrics I mentioned. And you don't have to rush out and buy everything at once. You can always add a new piece or two every year. Quality gear will last you for years. You can haul out your winter adventure wardrobe when the snow starts flying and enjoy getting outdoors and active no matter what mother nature throws your way!