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Winter Layering for Mountain Adventures

One of the things I get asked on a daily basis is ‘what is the warmest product?’

We could go on for days looking up specs on a line of product or brand, but when it comes down to it, layering is the best policy. Now to clarify, I don’t mean rummage through your closet and load everything that fits over each other to give yourself the marshmallow effect in a crazy way to stay warm. Dressing like a marshmallow may leave you feeling overwhelmed and trapped within your supposed cozy bubble of heat. Furthermore, once you hit the slopes, charge that cross-country trail, or stroll down that glistening mountain route, you will find yourself overheating, and in turn becoming cold! There is a reason for this…your body will naturally work harder to keep warmer in the cooler elevations. The more layers of miss-matched fabrics you put on, the less breath-ability your body has to release the sweat you are producing. So now that you know the marshmallow effect is the wrong way to layer, let’s look at it the right way.

Start yourself off with a snug-fitting, moisture-wicking base layer. Avoid cotton! Cotton is warm, which will get you sweating, which is going to get you wet and stay wet against your skin all day since cotton does not dry quickly and is not meant to wick moisture. When you sweat, your body is robbed of its heat and that is not going to help you stay warm in the long term! Here at Kananaskis Outfitters, we believe in merino wool, as the choice base layering product. The sheep that produce merino wool live in the mountains and their wool insulates, wicks moisture, and is anti-microbial. This wool will keep you cool when it’s warm and keep you warm when it is cold. Bonus: Merino wool is not itchy. This fabric is incredibly breathable and resists odor naturally! So that ‘bottom of the gym bag’ smell your polyester gear acquires after chasing winter’s bliss all season, stays in your gym bag!

Next, pick out a fleece or thick wool mid-layer. This will help keep in the warm air but still allow your skin to breathe through the sweat caused underneath your shell or outer layer. I like to go with a Patagonia pullover made with Polartec Thermal Pro fleece or the luxurious Kuhl Flight Jacket which features a zip-in hidden hood, Italian fleece, and thumb loops to keep my sleeves from riding up as I am out exploring the Rocky Mountain wilderness. Also, this jacket is by far the most lavish and soft material, leaving me feeling as if I am wrapped in a warm pillow!

Finally, it’s time to think about a shell: your outer shell jacket will resemble a rain jacket, but jacked up (pun intended 😉 )! Primarily, these are built of materials offering breath-ability, water resistance, and wind protection in even the most unfavorable conditions. There are many options available to you, and they may get a bit confusing as to what all of them are intended for, and what jacket is going to be best for your activities. Well, let me help a bit. Here are the basics: Softshell, Hard Shell, and Insulated Jacket. Softshell jackets are made of a breathable, flexible material that may be water-resistant, but not waterproof. Some may be windproof, but generally they are more breathable. A hard shell is waterproof and windproof, but not as breathable and usually not as stretchy. An insulated jacket will combine a thick insulation layer with a hard shell making a beautifully balanced warm and waterproof piece to complete your winter adventure outfit. All of the options above are also available for your bottom half. I prefer softshell pants like Kuhl’s Frost pants, to keep my range of movement maxed while enjoying adventures in the snow.

Remember, the ability to remove layers and add layers as needed is important for the outcome of your mountain adventure. With the right setup, you can heighten your experience and elevate yourself in any conditions Mother Nature may throw your way.           

 Written By: Kora the Explora

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  • Phone:

    +1-403-591-7000

  • Address:

    1-279 Mt. Sparrowhawk Crescent,
    Kananaskis, AB, T0L 2H0

  • Current hours of operation :

    9:00AM to 7:00PM DAILY

In the spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge that we live, work and play on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is your cancellation policy?

Cancellations or changes made to bookings more than 72 hours away: We will fully refund your purchase, less a $10 admin fee, onto the card that was used for payment. You can cancel your booking by calling 403-591-7000 or emailing info[at]kananaskisoutfitters.com . Please allow 3-5 business days for the refund to process.

Cancellations made 71- 12 hours of start time: No refunds will be provided, but we will provide a 50% credit to use towards a future booking. You can cancel your booking by calling 403-591-7000 or emailing info@kananaskisoutfitters.com

No shows: A booking is considered a no-show if we aren't notified about a booking cancellation at least 12 hours prior to the start of the booking. Arrive on time, as departures will be leaving on schedule. No refunds or credit will be given for no shows or late arrivals.

Should I tip my guide?

If you enjoyed your experience and would like to show your appreciation, our guides will be grateful.

Do I need a reservation?
While reservations are not necessary all the time, we do advise making them as we frequently book all of our gear out in a day. With a reservation, you will know that your gear is here waiting for you. Payment is taken in full when the reservation is made.
How do I rent gear?
Come into the shop and fill out waiver; we will then take a credit card imprint (Visa and Mastercard accepted) as a damage deposit until you return with the gear, at which point we will check it over and then you may pay for your rental with credit, debit or cash.
Do I need bear spray?
If you are going to be hiking, walking, biking, running, camping, or pretty much anything else outside in Kananaskis, you should definitely carry bear spray. We do. It's more effective than a gun, and doesn’t require a special permit to carry.
What kind of tours do you offer?
We offer hiking, mountain biking, stargazing, snowshoeing, canoeing (and voyageur canoeing) tours as well as XC ski and stand up paddleboard lessons.
Can I book a private tour?
Any of our activities can be booked for a private group. Click here for more information.
What if I have a big group?
We regularly host large corporate or family groups; we can book individual activities for you or we can plan out a full day or multi-day adventure. Click here for more information, or give us a call: +1-403-591-7000.
Are there trails near you?
On foot, you can access mountain biking, hiking, XC skiing and snowshoe trails from our shop (season dependant). If you want to drive, then the options in Kananaskis are endless.
How do I rent a canoe/kayak/SUP?
During peak Summer season, we offer lakeside rentals at Barrier Lake. Hourly rates are in effect when a staff memer is present. During this time boats can not be reserved they are rented on a first come first served basis.

During quieter times, the boats will still be located at Barrier Lake, however you will need to come to the shop to fill out waivers and pick up the safety gear. Gear will also need to be returned to the shop when you are finished. For self serve boat rentals, full day rental rates apply and reservations are possible.

Paddles, PFDs and safety kit are included in the rental rate. Should you need to transport a boat, tie down kits are also available.
Do you rent downhill or touring equipment?
No, sorry we just rent XC skis.

Nakiska is a great place to rent downhill ski stuff. Go to Gear Up in Canmore or MEC in Calgary for touring gear.
Can we take the gear that we rent somewhere else?
Yes, you may transport the gear elsewhere as long as you can do so safely. We have tie down kits available for boats. Ask about our multi-day prices.
When do you sell off your used rental gear?
At the end of every season, we sell off select gear. So in the Fall, we sell off bicycles, in the Spring we sell off fat bikes, XC skis, and snowshoes, etc. Want to know all the details and get notified when the sale is happening? Join our email list. Sign up on our home page.
Where can I buy groceries, firewood, propane, etc.?
Some groceries and camping supplies can be bought at the Mt. Kidd Campers Centre, or at Fortress Gas Station. Hours are seasonal, call before you go.
Where is the closest gas station/liquor?
Fortress Gas Station (20 km south on Highway 40) is the closest place for gas and liquor/beer, although offsale beer is also available at Woody’s Pub at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis.
Are there lakes near you?
Yes; Barrier Lake is about a 15 minute drive north on Hwy 40 and is where we keep our boats for summer rental. There is also Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lake a 40 minute drive South on Highway 40 in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
Can I bring my dog?
Dogs must be on a leash at all times in Kananaskis; dogs are allowed on all trails except groomed cross country ski trails. If you are confident paddling with your dog you are welcome to do so at your own risk.

Dogs can be brought on tours only it all of the other participants on the tour are agreeable. We can not determine this until right before the tour departs.
What is the meaning of life?
We’re still trying to figure that out, but Kananaskis is a great place to look for it. No wait…it's 42.