Outerwear Picks from Backpacker Magazine

"Whether you're hiking, snowshoeing, sledding cross-country, or downhill skiing -- or just walking the dog -- staying warm in winter is all about layering," says Kristin Hostetter, gear editor at Backpacker magazine.

Optimize your outdoor activities this season -- or those of a lucky gift recipient -- by layering smarter with Kristin's top tips and apparel picks.

Base and Middle Layers
Avoid cotton, which doesn't dry easily and saps body heat from your skin. Instead, try a base layer that's light, stretchy, and snug, such as a light wool or synthetic. For your middle layer, wear a high-performance fleece.

Recommended Base Layer: I/O Bio Contact long-sleeve crib (More Info | Buy)
Recommended Middle Layer: Patagonia Better Sweater quarter zip (More Info | Buy)

"Many down jackets make you look like the Michelin man," Kristin says. To keep you insulated -- not to mention stylish and comfortable -- try a more a contoured fit that will allow warm air to stay trapped near your body.

Recommended Insulators: GoLite Demaree Canyon 800 down jacket (More Info | Buy), Marmot variant jacket (More Info | Buy)

A breathable, waterproof shell is essential for harsh, snowy conditions. Shells are a necessity for skiing and winter hiking, especially under high winds.

Recommended Shells: First Ascent Frontpoint and Mountain Guide jackets

Look for nylon or other stretchy material, in a roomy enough fit to layer underneath. Kristin recommends pants with a brushed interior for coziness.

Recommended Pants: Mountain Hardwear Winter Wander pant (More Info | Buy)

At the very least, your boots and socks should keep your feet dry and toasty warm, with solid insulation and grippy soles. For extra warmth, try a pair with a built-in thermal system, which provides three to eight hours of battery-powered heat.

Recommended Boots: Columbia Sportswear Bugathermo boot (More Info | Buy)
Recommended Socks: Darn Tough Vermont mountaineering socks (More Info | Buy)

Look for gloves that strike a good balance between warmth and finger articulation, which allows for greater dexterity. For day-to-day tasks, consider gloves with fingertips that are optimized for touch-screen smartphones. For head and neck warmth, nothing beats a Buff, says Kristin. It's a multi-use fleece garment that can function as a hat, neck gaiter, scarf, and/or face mask.

Recommended Gloves: Arc'teryx Alpha SV glove, The North Face E-Tip glove
Recommended Hat: Polar Buff (More Info | Buy)

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