Tuesday, February 10

What to Wear for Dog Sledding and other Winter Activities

I like to say there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. There's nothing like a brisk winter day to prove this adage true. If you dress to stay warm and dry, you can have a great time outdoors in just about any weather.

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
For the lower body, a good combination of layers is:
  • 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)
For your feet:
  • 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!)
For your head and hands:
  • hat
  • scarf or neck warmer
  • warm gloves; bring mittens to wear over your gloves when you're sitting in the sled
Other stuff you may want with you out on the trail:
  • 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!
One of my favourite stores in Toronto for outdoor gear is Mountain Equipment Co-op. They have a great selection of silk and synthetic long underwear and long-sleeve undershirts, fleece garments and specialized footwear. You can also find plenty of choices at department stores, Canadian Tire, Mark's Work Wearhouse, and any outfitter stores, especially those in and around Huntsville. For boots, if you don't want to get too high-end just yet, you can usually find good value at our local Canadian Tire store.

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!

1 comment:

Randy M. - Algonquin Outfitters said...

Great Post Jackie, it's always good to dress for the weather and activity you will be undertaking and a lot of people strugle with proper layering in winter. Looks like you've done a really good job at covering all layers. I'm a huge fan of wool and try to include wool as a warm, wicking and comfortable layer when ever possible. And as the saying goes Cotton Kills so keep it away from your skin.

Couple of things your clients should know, at Algonquin Outfitters we have a 30% off winter outerwear sale on, and we carry some of the best base layers in the industry Smart Wool, Patagonia, Icebreaker, to name a few.

We also are hosting our Winter Fun Day at our Oxtongue Lake store on Sat. Feb. 21st, there will be snowshoeing, nordic skiing, winter camping demos, winter games, a store wide sale and some free prizes, all free just for showing up. There's also dog sled rides and a outdoor BBQ.

Have fun and enjoy winter.