The Best Winter Clothes To Bring With You To the Cabin
From relaxed cabin outfits to technical winter clothing, here's what you need to stay cozy and comfortable.
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How To Dress Warm for a Cabin Vacation
The two biggest rules when it comes to cabin outfits and winter wear are to dress in layers and to avoid cotton.
“It’s important to be able to add or remove layers in order to regulate your temperature,” says Stephanie Wilson, director of marketing at Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. “You want to avoid sweating at all costs, because once you sweat and then cool off, you’re going to have troubles. And when you sweat in cotton, it just traps it there.”
Start off with a thin inner layer made of a fabric like polypropylene that both wicks away moisture and is stretchy enough to allow freedom of movement. And then, depending on how cold it is, and what physical activities you’ll be doing to warm yourself up, add one or two other layers, like a second thin top and a fleece layer or a sweater. Top off your ensemble with a windproof, waterproof parka.
Also, keep in mind the activity you’ll be doing. Motor-assisted sports, like snowmobiling and downhill skiing (you sit on cold chair lifts), require more clothing than human-powered ones, like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
“If you’re a rookie to snow, know it’s never too cold if you’re dressed right,” says Wilson, who regularly hosts guests who are new to snow. “It’s so beautiful to watch people experience it for the first time. Adults act like kids and kids act like puppies, they just launch themselves into snowbanks and roll around in it. Most people are actually surprised it wasn’t as cold as they thought it would be, because they’re going out and doing stuff.”
When it comes to coats, puffy down or synthetic-down jackets are practically the uniform for winter outdoor enthusiasts. Some are thinner and good for mobility with layering. Others, like this Marmot Montreal Coat, are not really meant for action sports, but are super warm and nice for walking around on cold days.
On both your top and bottom, your inner layer should be comfortable, stretchy, form-fitting but not tight, and made of soft merino wool or a synthetic fabric, like Patagonia’s Capilene collection (which comes in several thicknesses in both men’s and women’s). Many people attribute the concept of modern layering to Patagonia, when they developed Capilene baselayers in the 1980s. Their styles have continued to evolve over the years, and are still some of the best baselayers around today.
“Layers, layers, layers, that is the key out here,” says Wilson. “What is comfortable at 10 a.m. might be too much clothing at noon. Just make sure that the base layer is not cotton.”
A sweater or fleece shirt adds insulation and warmth between your baselayer and your waterproof jacket. Whether you’re dog-sledding or hanging out in the cabin, soft fluffy fleece always feels luxurious. Pick a fleece like this one from Mountain Hardwear, that isn’t too bulky and also has a little tailoring, otherwise it will be uncomfortable and hard to move around in once you put a parka on top. Zipper pockets are a nice addition, to keep your wallet and keys secure. Or, you can consider a work-friendly fleece vest to add your wardrobe, too.
What pants to bring depends on what you’re going to be doing out in the snow. If you’re snowboarding, snowmobiling, sledding or exploring in a snowstorm, you’ll want a pair of waterproof-breathable shell or insulated pants for your outer layer. They come with various options, like bibs (overalls) and side zippers (so you can add ventilation and take them off without removing your boots). These snow pants from Outdoor Research are particularly versatile because they are a bit stretchier and more breathable than most (they come in both men’s and women’s). If you’re just kickin’ it at the cabin, you can probably get away with skipping the technical pants, but you will still want to bring pants that are loose enough to fit a baselayer underneath, for the cold.
When it comes to boots, it’s nice to have something that’s not only warm and sturdy, but that doesn’t take forever to unlace and lace back up.
“I’m a fan of Sorels,” says Wilson, “but there are plenty of other options out there.”
Look around any lodge, and you’re bound to see a few seasoned snow-lovers wearing Sorel’s Caribou boots (which come in both men’s and women’s). Sorels are practical, rated to -40 F, waterproof and grip well on snow and ice. If you want something with little more pizzazz, Sorel makes a full line of more fashionable options, too.
Definitely purchase a few pairs of non-cotton socks. Technical socks made for outdoor adventures will make or break your feet being warm and comfortable. Wool-blend socks, like these from Darn Tough, wick moisture, add cushioning and contour to your foot, so they don’t bunch up, even after a long day of snow romping (they come in both men’s and women’s). Darn Tough actually makes a lot of other companies’ socks for them, out of their factory in Vermont, so they’ve got it down. The ones featured here are good for hiking, but they also make socks specific to skiing and snowboarding.
Mittens, Gloves and Hats
Mittens are warmer and faster to take on and off. Gloves obviously provide more dexterity. Either way, you might want two pairs: a waterproof one for sports and snowball making and softer and lighter one, to wear while hanging out. For those particularly prone to icy digits, try Black Diamond’s Mercury Mitt, which is rated for mountaineering expeditions. And don’t forget a soft-on-the-inside hat to cover your ears.
If you are going to be skiing, snowmobiling or otherwise playing in inclement weather, a waterproof performance parka is the outer piece of your layering puzzle. Look for one that has zippered vents in the armpits, ample zippered pockets and a breathable component such as GoreTex. Some are lined with flannel or fleece, which makes them comfortable even when you’re wearing fewer layers. The North Face makes a versatile 3-in-1 jacket, meaning it has a removable zip-out insulated mid-layer, which can save you money on all of your layering purchases (it comes in both men’s and women’s sizes).
“Waterproof is a must if you spend a lot of time getting personal with the snow, or falling down,” says Wilson. “You’ll be thanking that outer layer for keeping you dry and warm.”
Psst! Can’t decide between Patagonia and North Face? Check out the perks and differences here.
Sweatpants and Tights
After a day of playing outside, it’s time to get cozy and comfortable. Any old sweatpants will do, but loose-fitting fleece pants make for power relaxing. For something more stylish and feminine, try Title 9’s Crash 2.0 insulated tights. They are great for the cabin, but also double as a stand-alone pant for warm-making activities like cross-country skiing, since they have a tightly woven outer layer to block the wind.
Cabin floors can be a bit chilly, even with socks on. A pair of slippers will better insulate your feet and keep those toes warm. Pretty much any slipper that’s comfortable will do, as they don’t need to be high-tech, but for something particularly cool, try OluKai’s Kui slipper, lined with fuzzy sherpa fleece.
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Yes, you definitely want a bathing suit in winter. Many cold-weather retreats have hot tubs, and there is nothing quite like sitting in one, under the stars. Or, even better, sitting in one as the snow is falling all around.
Sunlight reflecting off of snow is unbearable without sunglasses. If you can swing it, invest in a pair with good optics and polarization. A quality lens makes a difference when it comes to being kind to your eyes. Some of the best optics come from Costa’s, which makes some of their glasses, like these women’s Calderas, from recycled fishing nets.
“It seems like a lot of stuff, but all of this gear will make your winter vacation so much more enjoyable,” says Wilson.