The Gear You Need: Winter Travel to Yellowstone National Park
|Cross-country skiing near Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park (Erika Lloyd)|
Vacationing in Yellowstone National Park during the winterwhen temperatures average in the single digits Fahrenheit (and often go below zero degrees with windchill)can seem a bit irrational. Especially when your friends are throwing bikinis, flip flops, shorts, and tank tops into their luggage for their annual south-of-the-border beach trip. While visiting the United States' most popular national park during the winter does mean you'll likely lug a lot more gear than your warm-weather-bound compatriots, it also means you'll have Yellowstone's 3,500 square miles of lakes, canyons, rivers, and mountains all to yourself and a few other hardy, like-minded travelers.
So the only decision you really have to make, then, is what to pack.
At first, the sheer variety and volume of "essential must-have's" can seem daunting, especially given the quickly accumulating cost of these high-tech items. But follow my lead, and you'll acquire goods that won't break the bank, that offer multiple uses, that look good, andmost importantlywill keep you warm while stomping, snowshoeing, skiing, and snowmobiling through that Rocky Mountain snow.
Base and Mid Layers
My toes are my coldest body part, so let's start there. Heavy-duty socks are a requirement. Wool socks are the best, especially those with a mix of fibers such as Thermolite, Hollofil, or CoolMax, which wick away moisture, keeping the feet dry and warmand if your feet do get wet, wool will still keep you warm. I opted for the Activa Women's Sock ($14.49) from Fox River, perfect for all sorts of winter excursions, from skiing to snowshoeing to sledding, and they come in various levels of insulation to suit your destination and activity. And because my feet typically get cold to the point of numbness, I also wore a pair of Silk One Liner Socks ($7.95) from REI. These babies both protect you from blisters and provide an essential second layer of warmth that belies your expectations when you first touch its thin silk fabric.
A variety of outfitters have quality base layers, from Marmot to The North Face, Icebreaker to Patagoniaso it's easy to get overwhelmed when making your choice. Just remember: a base layer should dry quickly and keep you warm. The other big call: synthetic or merino wool. The latter is all-natural, performs admirably, and also doesn't retain any body odors, so you can get multi-day use without washing. But merino wool is also almost twice as expensive as synthetic. So, I opted for a few synthetic layers and swapped them out as needed. The XTC Midweight 1/4 Zip ($50) from The North Face wicks away moisture, stays warm, and features a zipper at the neck that allowed me to easily regulate my temperature. I'm also a fan of Patagonia's base layersthe Capiline 3 top and bottom ($44 each) regulate temperature and stay dry.
Ski stalwart Salomon makes one of the best mid-layers out there. The Boulder Mutation Jacket ($150) is constructed of a blended wool with fleece panels and actiTHERM insulation. Plus the sporty style looks great on its own should you get warm or head indoors. The clean cut and nifty collection of pockets also make it a perfect fall hiking jacket.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication