How To Dress For Cold Weather (Winter)
What a difference the right clothing can make. The weather may be cold, windy and wet, but you’re warm and dry because you’re wearing authentic winter apparel. Whether you’re skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing or just running errands, versatile winter apparel is worth the investment.
Shopping for winter clothing can seem a bit overwhelming.
New fabrics and insulations are constantly making apparel warmer, more breathable and more waterproof. Fashions seem to change by the season. But don’t worry. This guide is designed to give you some basic information about dressing for winter and will make your next shopping trip a lot easier.
Layer Up: Proper winter dressing means three layers # wicking, insulating and protection. Find out what kind of clothing is best for each.
Accessorize: What to wear on your head, eyes, hands and feet
Fashion Tips: How to get the best clothing fit, and what not to wear in the snow
The best way to dress for winter is to wear layers. This gives you flexibility to add or remove layers, depending on the weather and your activity. In general,the three main layers are wicking, insulating and weather protection.
Wicking layer: This is the layer worn next to your skin, usually consisting of long underwear.
Look for thermal underwear made of a synthetic # usually polyester # fiber that has “wicking” power. This means the fibers will wick (move) moisture away from your skin and pass it through the fabric so it will evaporate. This keeps you warm, dry and comfortable. Silk is also a good, natural fabric that has wicking abilities.
Even though it’s cold, you will sweat # especially if you are cross country skiing or snowshoeing.
Insulating layer: This middle layer includes sweaters, sweatshirts, vests and pullovers. The purpose of this layer is to keep heat in and cold out, which is accomplished by trapping air between the fibers. Popular insulation materials include:
Fleece, a synthetic material which maintains its insulating ability even when wet and spreads the moisture out so it dries quickly.
Wool, which naturally wicks away moisture.
Protection layer: The exterior layer, generally a shell and pants, serves as your guard against the elements of winter. It should repel water from snow,sleet or rain and block the wind, while also letting perspiration evaporate.
Most genuine winter shells and pants are made waterproof and breathable to some extent by using tightly woven fabrics teamed with a coating or laminate. This keeps moisture on the outside but allows perspiration to escape, keeping you dry and comfortable.
Depending on the weather and type of winter activity you will be doing, you may be interested in uninsulated pants and jackets/shells, or garments with increasing amounts of insulation.
One-piece suits, which combine a jacket and pants, are popular with many alpine skiers, especially on cold days and days where there is a lot of fresh powder snow.
Look for functional hoods, cuffs, pockets and zippers # details that truly make garments comfortable in a snowstorm.
Although less baggy than in previous years, most snowboard clothing is still designed to fit looser than alpine skiwear, giving snowboarders freedom of movement. In addition, many snowboard pants are reinforced in the seat and knees for extra protection when kneeling or sitting on the snow.
Head-wear: Up to 60 percent of your body’s heat can escape from an uncovered head, so wearing a hat, headband or helmet is essential when it’s cold. (Tip: If you wear a hat, you may be able to wear one less layer on your body.) There are thousands of styles of hats and headbands, usually made from fleece or wool. Many have non-itch liners. Helmets are becoming very popular. Not only do they protect your head from bumps, but they also keep your head warm. A fleece neck gaiter (like a collar) or face mask is a must on cold days.
Sunglasses and goggles: Sunglasses do much more than make you look cool. They also protect your eyes from damaging solar radiation. Snow, or any other reflective surface, makes ultraviolet (UV) rays stronger, while increased altitude also magnifies the danger. On flat-light days or when it’s snowing, goggles are vital. They protect your eyes and special lens colors increase the contrast so you can properly discern terrain features.
Gloves and mittens: Look for gloves and mittens that use waterproof, breathable fabrics. Mittens, in general, are warmer than gloves, but offer you less dexterity. Consider the type of activity you’ll be doing. Snowboarding gloves and mittens often have a reinforced palm because of extra wear from adjusting bindings and balancing on the snow. Some snowboarding gloves and mittens also have built-in wrist guards, which are excellent for novice snowboarders. Cross country skiing gloves tend to be lighter-weight for extra movement and because you perspire more.
Socks: One pair of light-weight or medium-weight socks works best for skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing. Socks are made from a variety of materials, including polyester, silk, wool and nylon. Some socks have wicking properties similar to long underwear, meaning your feet will stay dry and comfortable.
The wicking layer should fit snugly (not tight) next to the skin in order to effectively wick moisture. Comfort is key for the insulating layer. It should be loose enough to trap air between layers, but not so bulky that it restricts movement. Whether you are a skier, snowshoer or snowboarder, your protection layer should fit comfortably, offering you maximum range of motion.
Look for 100 percent UV protection in sunglasses. Make sure the glasses fit snugly behind your ears and rest gently on the bridge of your nose.
Goggles should form an uninterrupted seal on your face, extending above your eyebrows and below your cheekbones. Watch for gaps, especially around your nose.
Don’t buy gloves or mittens that are too tight. There should be a little air space at the tips of your fingers, which acts as additional insulation.
Don’t wear jeans or street pants. Denim is not waterproof, so water will soak through and you’ll end up cold, wet and miserable.
Cotton is a no-no. Cotton is great for towels, because cotton soaks up and retains moisture. That’s precisely why cotton is all wrong for on-slope apparel. It absorbs moisture (sweat and snow), and retains it. When the wind blows, you will get very, very cold. Don’t wear cotton athletic socks, cotton jeans, cotton sweatshirts, or cotton T-shirts.
Resist the temptation of putting on too many pairs of socks. You’ll restrict circulation and actually cause your feet to get colder.