Austin from Paddy Pallin’s digital team steps away from her keyboard to take us along on an overseas adventure to Japan on the back end of their winter season. With a pack full of Paddy Pallin gear, she walks us through some key aspects of layering up for winter thanks to some of her favourite “can’t-go-without” products. Her and her adventure crew were met with some unfavourable weather conditions that prevented them from ski touring Mt. Yotei, but had an awesome 10 days in the snow in Niseko on the winter wonderland island of Hakkaido.

When out adventuring, whether you are climbing mountains, skiing down them or trekking through valleys, we are very exposed and vulnerable to the elements. On both Australian soil and on an overseas adventure, being prepared will allow you to enjoy the outdoors rather than endure it. Weather conditions can change in an instant and unfortunately the forecast isn’t always accurate. Therefore, it is important that when we set out, we are equipped with the correct gear to keep you safe and comfortable.

We urge you to not only prepare for the forecasted conditions, but for any unforeseen circumstances that may come your way. A twisted ankle, snow covered trail markers causing you to get lost, a storm rolling in, or whatever it may be – you should always be prepared with the “just in case” supplies to get you out of a bind.

Some safety basics can include first aid kits, emergency blankets, multi tools, extra food reserves, and head torches.

Changing weather conditions on the slopes in Niseko.

Next up is considering how you dress yourself, not only for comfort, but also for your safety. Coming from Canada, this is something that Search and Rescue teams cannot stress enough. Year in, year out, we are astonished by the amount of rescue missions (successful or not) are sparked by people being uninformed, unaware, or unprepared in the outdoors. This same thing happens in cold climates the world over, including the internationally renowned “sunny nation” that is Australia.

Layering can be key in staying warm in cold conditions. There are four main categories of layering garments you will want to have for winter adventures: Base layer, mid layer, insulation layer and waterproof layer.


Base Layer

A base layer, like the name suggests, comes first and is the layer closest to your skin. In cold weather adventures, this will most likely be a thermal garment or a fabric with heat retention properties. Moisture wicking fabric is a must to ensure your core stays warm and dry.

This means, no cotton!

Cotton is a very absorbent fabric and is very slow to dry. This means that if you are climbing a mountain, working hard and sweating on the way up, by the time you reach the summit your clothing will likely be damp. You are now at the top, entirely exposed to the elements and are rapidly cooling down as the wind is hitting the wet fabric and your body isn’t working as hard to produce heat. Hypothermia will quickly become a concern unless you can stay warm. It’s not just sweat that can contribute to the dampness but humid conditions, snow and rain, too. This is why more technical fabrics which continuously wick moisture away from our bodies to evaporate quickly without becoming overly dam are ideal such as merino and synthetics. In cold weather, fabric that can retain heat when wet, such as wool, is so important, especially for base layers as they are right against your skin. Icebreaker are experts in developing merino base layers that are designed for keeping you warm and dry while out hiking and camping.

It is Important base layer is thin enough to allow mobility underneath your other layers. Too thick can cause chafing and inhibit your ease of movement. But thick enough to ensure durability and longevity, guaranteeing seasons of use on the mountains!

A great base layer combo for snow-based activities is Icebreaker’s new 260 Zone Leggings Women’s and the 260 Zone Long Sleeve Half Zip Women’s.

Icebreaker Zone base layers available at Paddy Pallin

Being heavyweight base layers, I was initially skeptical about their performance in high exertion activities such as ski touring and hiking. Nothing worse than sweating it out underneath all your layers! However, with Icebreaker’s carefully placed zone body mapping technology for optimal thermal regulation combined with merino mesh for ventilation, I found this base layer combo to be very breathable. They have placed heat dumping zones under the arms and on the back in high sweat areas, to again, help regulate temperature when earning your turns, pushing to the summit, sending it, or tackling your outdoor pursuit of choice.

The Long Sleeve top boasts a long half zip making it ideal for temperature regulation, especially on those bluebird days. The garments both had great warmth to weight ratios, did not feel bulky, and moved well with me thanks to its LYCRA® content.

Above all, this combo was extremely comfortable. For the majority of my time in Japan, they were what I was wearing almost every day from the time I woke up until I threw my pajamas on. I didn’t experience any chafing, which I have in previous base layers I have owned, and the natural materials left me without any itch or discomfort, feeling smooth against my skin!

Icebreaker Zone base layers paired with the Hyperia jacket on a snow hike in Japan.

Fit: true to size

Pro tip: Merino and certain synthetics will minimise stink when you reach the top as they are odour resistant.

I wore these base layers for the whole 10 days of hard skiing and hiking, day in day out, to put Icebreaker’s odour resistant claim to the test. Despite the looks of disgust I received from some ski mates at the apres ski beers when I told them about this, they were also keen to see if the merino based garment held up to the anti odor test. Well, folks, you heard it here first! The baselayer did not “stink”. Did it smell nice enough to wear on a first date? Absolutely not. However, by day 9, it was still totally passable for another day on the hills and ramen and beers afterwards.

Don’t forget that when you are looking for your next trekking outfit, be mindful of your undies! Being the closest layer to you skin, it is one of the most important. Merino or technical fabric underwear is made by some of the biggest brands including Icebreaker and ExOfficio. It is designed differently to suit both men’s and women’s needs.


Mid Layer

A mid layer is normally made of fleece or a knit of some kind. It is breathable and will allow for heat to escape, although provides some insulation and keeps you warm. If you are continuing to layer with more insulation on top, don’t go for anything too thick for you mid layer, as it won’t efficiently let the heat into these outer layers, causing them to become cold from the surrounding air and reducing their effectiveness. A mid layer is ultimately there to provide light insulation and breathability.


Insulation Layer

Designed to keep you warm in very cold conditions, an insulation layer is made up of a lofted material with large pockets that draw on both insulation and captured air. These pockets trap your heat close to your body and allow you to stay warm. As they can heat up, it is important to wear a thinner base layer with an insulation later.

On the slopes of Niseko, I was proudly rockin’ some unreal Arc’teryx gear designed and headquartered in my hometown of Vancouver. Believe it or not, the Arc’teryx headquarters is right up the street from where I grew up, and my favourite local beer even has the Arc’teryx logo on the can! Growing up in North Vancouver, you almost “have” to like Arc’teryx products. They’re ingrained in not only the adventure scene, but also the local fashion scene. All jokes aside, Arc’teryx’ unmatched quality and innovative design is what really sets them apart in the industry and is the foundation of their global popularity.

The Atom LT Hoody Women’s was one of two insulating layers I rotated between. Weighing in at only 330g, I was blown away by the warmth to weight ratio of this synthetic garment. It kept me incredibly warm while stationary, and was breathable when I was exerting myself. This is attributed to the Coreloft in the torso, arms, and hood.

Another small feature that I find incredibly helpful in freezing temperatures were the internal pockets, allowing me to keep electronics, and more importantly, snacks as close to my body as possible to avoid them shutting down or freezing. My iPhone 6s, Clif Bars, and chocolate brownies did very well in this pocket.

The cinching elastics in the waist were so beneficial for snow based activities, keeping moisture, cold air, and of course, snow out of where I didn’t want it.

The fact that this jacket could pack down so well to also played a role in its versatility as a cold weather garment. Not only could I wear it when suiting up for a day of adventure, but it became one of my “go-to” items to throw in my bag when we would head out the door. Packing down smaller than a Nalegene, I had no excuse not to bring it.

Photo by Lachlan Gardiner

Fit: runs small, I am typically a medium and I ended up going with a large. I found it a little narrow in the shoulders and as an insulation layer I wanted to ensure I would have room to fit a base layer and a mid layer underneath it comfortably for colder conditions.


The Icebreaker Women’s Hyperia Lite Jacket was the first Icebreaker insulation piece I have owned. I have previously pulled my tried and trusted Icebreaker base layers from the brand’s range, and absolutely love whenever I can incorporate natural materials into my adventure kit. Icebreaker has designed the “low-bulk, machine washable evolution of the down jacket and the natural alternative to synthetic down” with the help of MerinoLOFT.

It was one of my go-to pieces to layer up for adventure, but I was pleased with how much versatility I got with it. Its sleek look, compactness, and thoughtful design made it my #1 travel companion, and go to when trying to look a little more schmick at dinners or out on the town. The narrow side panel quilting for contour body fit made this jacket quite flattering, especially in comparison to my puffy down jackets I usually sport.  I found the Pertex® Quantum Air shell with DWR finish to hold up well against the breezy cold air on bluebird days when I was too hot for a shell. Traversing between ski resorts or hiking in the snow meant I needed one level of heat to start the day and get me out of the house and another when my legs were tired and breath was fast. I was pleased to report I did not feel the wind cutting through as much as I have with other insulating layers. Although I didn’t test this on my trip to Japan, the MerinoLOFT retains warmth when wet, giving me more peace of mind having garments that could keep me warm even in wet conditions. Weighing in at 400 grams, this was not an ultralight pick, but in terms of my ability to use it for so many different activities, it will definitely not be one to miss on future packing lists.

Being machine washable made it all the more ideal for an overseas trip. It allowed me to freely remain “on the go” without worrying about finding ways to properly care for the garment, which trust me, is the last thing you want to be worrying about when you’re on an adventure holiday.

Fit: true to size


Waterproof Layer

The waterproof layer is there to block the rain, snow and wind from the other layers. Breathable waterproof fabrics and will still allow excess amounts of heat and moisture to escape to prevent overheating.

The Arc’teryx Beta AR Gore-Tex Jacket Women’s is a durable, all-mountain hard shell that doesn’t owe me a cent after skiing, hiking, camping, and snowshoeing in it!

The jacket feels thick and durable to the touch, despite weighing only 380g. I found the jacket to be very packable, so much so that I brought it in my carry on for when landed and got out of the airport in Sapporo. The durability was a highlight when skiing through the trees and hiking in the bush. I haven’t had any damage to the jacket, despite looking down at my jacket many times after a swift branch slice and thinking “oh shoot!”. This outer layer effectively keeps out moisture, and blocks out the wind entirely. Being from Canada, I am used to a lot more tree cover when on skis, and was chilled by the biting gusts coming through the open runs in Niseko. The top layer of powder would envelop you, but my Beta GORE-TEX shell kept me warm, dry, and comfortable. This jacket’s wind and waterproofness was put to the test on long open chairlifts on the mountain.

The articulated patterning in the elbows and no-lift gusseted underarms with the e3D patterning meant non-restricted mobility, which was a big plus compared to bulky ski jackets I have worn in the past. I find this jacket to be unmatched value, as it is now my ski jacket, cold weather hiking jacket, paddling jacket – ultimately I am ready to take on any adventure. Gone are the days of needing an expensive jacket for varying outdoor pursuits.

The jacket boasts adjustable features making it fit to different bodies, I found this particularly helpful around the wrists and waist.

Fully taped armpit zips were frequently used for temperature regulation. On warmer, windy days, I needed my shell for wind protection but also needed to dump heat as I motored down the slopes.

Another feature that made me say “wow!” was the large-brimmed DropHood that is helmet compatible. This hood did not negatively impact my peripheral vision, a typical deterrent for me when using hoods. Again, the adjustability of the hood made it extremely user friendly and this feature of the jacket was used on the daily for protection from the wind.

Fit: True to size

Socks and Accessories

When layering to keep warm in the winter chills, don’t forget to include your accessories. So much heat can be lost through your head, neck, hands and feet if not properly insulated.

Firstly a good beanie is essential in cold weather conditions, look for one which is fleece lined for extra insulation. If you are wearing a helmet, you might want to go for something thinner such as the Icebreaker Chase beanie.

A balaclava is also a good option for winter adventures especially when snow is involved. They are a great barrier against wind and sunburn and you will definitely be thanking us if it’s a windy and snowy day – the pelting of the ice onto your frozen skin is not a fun experience.

Icebreaker Ski+ Medium Over The Calf Sock Women’s also passed the 10 day stink test, and were a key player in my comfort in the cold weather. I would advise to try these on in shoes before rather than selecting your typical size, as I did find these bunching a little bit in my ski boot. The socks were warm, breathable, and provided a comfortable amount of padding in the right places to keep me on my feet all day long.

Where are you off to next?

It’s important to do your research and find out the historical conditions you will need to prepare for! Here are a few average temperature ranges of the top cold-weather adventure destinations:

Snowy Mountains Australia : -5 to 5°C Keep in mind it can be very windy as the terrain is quite open due to our wide and flatter styled mountains. This means that it can often feel a lot colder than it is, especially when you are on a chair lift.

Christchurch (NZ): 1 to 12°C But it will be colder when up in the mountains

Whistler (Canada): -5 to 1°C

Banff (Canada): -14 to -4°C

Hakuba (Japan): -7 to 1°C

Niseko (Japan): -11 to -3°C

Everest Basecamp (During peak climbing season of Autumn): -15 to 4°C

Colorado Rocky Mountains (USA): -9 to 4°C

Swiss Alps: -12 to -5°C

Temperature on a bluebird day in Niseko!

Feeling ready to start planning your next cold-weather adventure? Will it be the snowy mountains, European Alps, New Zealand mountain ranges or North American peaks? Wherever it may be, we want to follow along! Use the hashtags #PaddyPallin and #ExperienceIsEverything and tag us @paddy_pallin on Instagram to share your winter adventure stories!

ExperienceIsEverything | #PaddyPallin


About The Author

Austin Studer

Austin is a seasoned adventurer who has made her way across the globe from the West Coast of Canada. Born and raised on the North Shore Mountains Austin loves skiing, hiking, winter and summer camping, snowshoeing, and paddling. She heard that it is "always sunny in Queensland" so she jumped on a flight and has settled in Australia hoping to improve her surfing, spearfishing and climbing in the great weather. Austin has been working on Paddy Pallin's Digital Team for nearly 2 years, and feels inspired, pushed, and supported by her adventurous colleagues at Paddy's. Working out of our Fortitude Valley store, feel free to drop in and say "eh!".

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