A Conversation for How to Survive Extreme Weather

Dressing for Cold Weather

Post 1


The part of the entry that addresses cold weather has some good basic tips on what to wear, but there is so much more to cold weather garment choice. The layering system is key--I agree totally with that--but I fear that someone following the advice above would not be fully prepared for, say, an average January day in Chicago (where I live--very cold, snowy and windy).

Here is one tried and true layering method:

First Layer--Moisturizer, and lots of it.
Winter weather does dry one out and such drying affects more than one's lips. Find a good all-over lotion or cream with ingredients like shea butter or aloe. Olive oil also works well. Take care to keep hair and nails moisturized as well or they will get quite brittle.

Second Layer--Whatever under-things you like.
Who am I to judge?

Third Layer--Thermal underwear, preferably silk.
Silk knit thermals are absolutely miraculous. They somehow manage to keep you warm and dry when out in the elements, but do not feel oppressive once you get inside a heated building. They are also a good deal less itchy and restricting than flannel.

Fourth layer--pants, shirt, blouse, long skirt
Again, go with what you like. However, whatever these things may be, make sure they are not tight. Looser clothing allows warm air to circulate between your skin and clothes and that helps keep the cold air out.

Fifth Layer--light sweater/jumper--one or more.
Cashmere is especially nice, if you can afford it. Like silk thermals, cashmere has high warmth to bulk ratio-- you don't have to wear a great, heavy swath of it to be warm. If cashmere is too rich for your blood, go with soft, thin wool, knitted cotton or knitted silk garments. There are tons of synthetic materials on the market that also provide a lot of warmth without adding much bulk. They range in price from quite cheap to downright larcenous. The rule of thumb here is that you're better off with many thin layers than with one great big thick one. You get more inter-clothing air-trapping, which is good, and you'll be able to adapt more easily once you get out of the cold and into someplace heated.

Sixth layer--Shoes and socks.
You can either go with lined winter shoes that have all of the protective layers already built in or opt for shoes that are more of a protective shell and wear layers of warm socks inside them. Either way is fine. However, be absolutely sure that you have full blood circulation to your feet. Tight shoes will NOT keep you warm and they will get exceptionally painful when you have to stand in the snow. In snowy weather, boots are best because they do a better job at keeping the snow out. One more thing--if it is icy out, do not wear leather-soled shoes. First, you will slip on the ice and hurt yourself. Second, leather absorbs moisture, thus making the soles of your shoes into little plates of ice. This is really uncomfortable. If you must wear such shoes for work, carry them with you in a bag and change into them once you get to your office.

Seventh layer--Scarves and scarf-like items.
Before putting on your coat, do your scarves. There's a great little item called a neck gaiter--you can get one at any ski store. It's a sort of tube shaped scarf that you pull over your head to fit around your neck. They're just brilliant. So, get one of those and put it on. You'll also want to wrap something over your ears. You can go with earmuffs, or a scarf, or--best of all--a thick headband. You can find them in ski shops--I can't remember what they're called but they're like--well, they're like really wide wooly headbands. For really cold, windy days, put another standard scarf over everything else, making sure to cover the bottom half of your face.

Eighth Layer--Coat.
Ski jackets are warm, but often they only cover your top half and unless you want to put on ski pants as well, your legs will be awfully cold. Your best bet is a long wool (or fur, if you must) coat. Try to wear one that reaches well down your calves, buttons down at least past your upper leg and --again--actually fits you. Unless you are trying to atone for some nameless sin, you do not want a tight coat. In the pockets of your coat keep lip balm and a hanky/tissues (winter wind makes eyes water and noses run).

Ninth Layer--A sensible hat, gloves, and eye-wear
Your hat should be something warm that will not get blown off by the wind. Gloves should be lined with fleece, wool, or fur--again, not too tight, but not too loose either. Mittens are warmer than gloves, so you could go with those as well. You might also want to wear sunglasses, even if it's not all that sunny. They protect your eyes from wind and wind-driven snow. Snow in your eyes is really blinding and can be painful as well. On really nasty days, wear ski goggles.

Finally, get out of the house quickly or you will pass out from heat.

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Dressing for Cold Weather

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