A Man’s Guide to Cold Weather Dressing

by Antonio on December 21, 2011 · 66 comments

in Dress & Grooming

To pay my way through college, I worked as a tower hand for a tower services company in Cedar Rapids. For three years I spent my weekends climbing thousands of feet into the air to fix antennas, replace cables, and change light bulbs.

And that was the easy part–what I hated was the cold!

You see we did this year round–to include those Iowa winters where the temperature was freezing on the ground and even colder in the air, where winds would create wind chills easily below -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Climbing those towers covered with ice I learned very quickly how to dress for extreme cold weather. We had clothing needs similar to that of an outdoor athlete, as the climb up and the work was physically taxing and would cause sweating, while at other times we needed extra insulation as we would be sitting still for hours performing delicate tuning work.


In order to add to the lessons I learned in the field on how to stay warm in freezing conditions, I spoke with the cold weather dressing experts at Carol Davis Sportswear and Northern Outfitters. And today I’ll be sharing the advice I gleaned from those conversations with you.

Understanding Layering

The key to cold weather dressing is layering.

Let me repeat that: The key to cold weather dressing is layering.

Layering basically means just what it sounds like: wearing multiple layers of garments, one on top of the next.  Several lighter layers will keep you warmer than one very thick one–air is trapped between each layer and warmed by your body, surrounding you with a self-generated heat shield that insulates you from the cold.

Of course, some types of clothing do a better job than others.  Layering regular street clothing until it will keep you warm in sub-zero temperatures will leave you so bulky that you might as well roll to wherever you’re going.  That’s not our goal.

If you can't put your arms down, you know your attempt at layering has gone terribly wrong.

Instead, seek out the right clothing for each layer and then use it accordingly for optimum cold weather insulation protection.

Experts break layering into three sections:

1) the base layer
2) the insulating layer
3) the outer protection layer

Let’s cover each layer in detail.

1.  Base Layer

Your cold weather base layer lies against your skin and is primarily meant to provide the first layer of insulation and most importantly deal with moisture removal.  Staying warm and active means occasionally sweating, and sweating is bad if your clothing doesn’t allow it to move out and away from your skin.  Water on the skin in cold weather can turn deadly as it can lead to rapid heat loss, so ensure you use an inner layer that pulls sweat away from the body.

Old fashioned solutions mostly relied on garments made from loose wool strings, which absorbed the moisture and had enough thickness for it to soak toward the outside of the clothing.  More modern solutions use synthetic fibers in much the same way.

The process of drawing moisture away from the body is often referred to as “wicking.”  Athletic and specialty cold weather garments are the best balance between moisture wicking properties and thin, lightweight construction.  They add almost no bulk and if properly fitted allow extreme flexibility.

Your hands and feet need layers as well, and liner socks are key to any kind of warm weather outfit.  Camping stores sell these quite inexpensively so don’t skip on this purchase; wear them under thicker socks to keep your feet dry.  Fingerless liner gloves or very thin wool gloves make a useful base layer for the hands, where sweat is less of a concern but an extra layer still adds warmth by trapping air.

2.  Insulating Layer

The job of your main insulating layer is to trap in heat.

Natural fibers like goose down and wool have excellent insulating properties.  They provide a lot of heat for reasonably light weight, which is a concern for more active cold weather situations like skiing or hiking.  Wool can absorb 30% of its weight and not feel wet and even continues to provide some insulation when soaked, while down loses its effectiveness when wet (but is lighter overall and has better insulating properties that wool).

Wool (to include cashmere and angora) sweaters are some of the dressiest options available that still provide serious winter warmth.  A good wool sweater paired with a regular cotton dress shirt makes for a functional insulating layer for around the town needs on seriously cold days.

“Performance fleece”–actually a trademarked term, but widely used these days to describe any artificial fleece garment–is lightweight and a proven insulator.  Its best property is that it continues to insulate when wet, but it offers little protection from the wind unless layered with a tightly woven, wind resistant fabric.  These are often among the least expensive and most widely available options for insulating layers.

Thick wool or fleece trousers make the best insulating layer for your legs.  Over a base layer they’re extremely warm.  Jeans can serve as light protective wear, but they offer little if any insulating properties.  Men that live and work in cold weather areas stay away from jeans unless they’ve been lined with an inner insulating layer.

3.  Protective Layer

Your outer layer is the shell that keeps all the inner layers protected from the elements.  It’s usually (though not always) a single layer, and doesn’t necessarily have to have any insulation.

The most important consideration for your protective layer is that it traps air and stops wind.  It should also be breathable enough to allow moisture out–you don’t want your sweat trapped under your shell with you.  That means that most outer layers are water-resistant but not fully water-proofed.

Most serious cold-weather shells are designed as outdoor gear.  They don’t tend to have a lot of fashionable styling.  If you’re primarily interested in dress or business clothing that can provide warmth as well, there are treated wool overcoats that have a windproofed layer or treatment with GOR-TEX and similar materials.  Alternatively, buy your parka or shell in the plainest, darkest design you can find and don’t worry about it too much–once the temperature drops below zero people start making allowances for more functional-looking styles.

The outer layer also includes protection for your extremities.  A layer of weather-proofed gloves or mittens and a wool stocking cap are the bare minimum of protection.  An insulated headband, a scarf, and good winter boots also help.  Waterproof hiking boots work up to a point, but in really cold weather the best winter boots are soft-sided, natural fiber-lined pieces with built-in insulation and thick, flexible soles.

I would like to note many cultures still make use of “skins” as natural outer protective layers.  Any American visiting Ukraine during the winter will notice 1) that no one de-ices the sidewalks and 2) that everyone seems to own a large fur coat and ushanka.

Your Unique Situational Needs

Not all cold weather gear serves the same function.  Someone who’s going dog sledding for a week needs a very different set-up from someone who wants to keep walking to work once the temperature drops below zero.

Cold Weather Active — Running, Cross-Country Skiing, Etc.

Winter sports enthusiasts need gear that’s lightweight as well as insulating and weatherproof.  Dedicated joggers may even wind up skipping the outer shell layer entirely since their body temperature will stay high, they’ll be out for a limited amount of time, and breathability is key to comfort.  Obviously, this only works for men who can step outside, do their activity, and step immediately back into a warm shelter.  Anyone without that luxury will need the outer layer.

High-performance outdoor gear makes the best active cold weather gear.  Synthetic fibers can provide much lighter-weight comfort than heavy wool and down.  Two to three thin layers of warm jackets and leggings are ideal, topped off with an insulated headband and some weather-proofed gloves.

An outer/shell layer with its own insulation may be ideal for cold weather active situations since it can be worn during idle time, set-up of equipment, walking or other transportation, etc., and then removed when the intense activity starts.

Cold Weather Non-Active — Snowmobiling, Hunting, Etc.

Men who are going to be sitting still for long periods need gear that’s more focused on trapping warmth and less on letting moisture and air breathe out.

Serious cold weather gear for people who are out all day (and not exercising hard) relies on thick insulating layers and a weatherproofed shell.  If water isn’t a concern, a down layer paired with thinner wool layers and an artificial-fiber shell is perfect.

More layers are also needed, including on the feet and hands.  A couple different thicknesses of socks, with a moisture-wicking liner sock, and a thick, insulated boot keeps the feet warm.  Thin gloves should go under a thicker pair, which can in turn go into an insulated (and cuffed) pair of mittens that stay on until manual dexterity is needed.

Cold Weather Business Dress

Most office jobs don’t require a man to spend too much time outside in the winter.  But if you happen to need to look a little sharp and it’s twenty below, what do you do?

Image from The Silentist

Layering, as usual, is key.  Wear your usual dress shirt and tie over a long-sleeved, moisture-wicking underlayer — cotton traps moisture well enough that you don’t want it against your body.  A thin sweater on top of that (cashmere gives excellent warmth while remaining lightweight and compact) can go under a heavy worsted wool jacket.  Wool trousers can be matched as a suit or odd trousers, and should go over good, thick long johns.

Wear the longest and heaviest wool overcoat you can find on top of it all, and if things get extreme, consider getting it treated with a DWR (durable water repellant), GOR-TEX, or similar coating.  Thin dress socks in wool/synthetic blends are available at most camping stores these days, in conservative colors, and can be worn over a liner sock with your dress shoes.  An insulated headband under a dress hat of the same color is usually presentable, or just wear a plain, dark stocking cap.

The Importance of Fit

Fit is important in winter wear as your layering clothes still have to allow freedom of movement–one poor fitting garment can restrict your ability to ski or work freely.

Your base layer should always be as closely fitted as possible.  It’s there to absorb moisture from your skin, and it needs to be touching your body to do that effectively.  Most good Under Armor-style garments have elastic or other stretchable material in them to allow a skintight fit.

Insulating layers should be stacked from the thinnest and tightest to the thickest and loosest.  A light wool sweater doesn’t provide effective insulation if it’s stretched out over a puffy down vest.  Wear multiple layers when you go to buy heavy winter jackets and other insulating garments to make sure they fit over all the layers you’ll be wearing in serious cold weather situations.

Shells should have a little looseness between them and the insulating layers.  This helps with airflow and also with wetness–a water-resistant (but not fully waterproofed) surface is most likely to leak through when it presses against the clothes beneath it.

Cold Weather Gear – Piece by Piece

Hats:  Insulated headbands for active exercise and warmer/sunnier days.  Stocking caps for colder weather and stationary or light exercise.  Balaclavas/ski masks for the coldest and windiest days–bring a couple, since they get wet and lose their effectiveness over time from your breath.

Goggles:  Important protection from wind, which can make eyes tear up and lashes freeze.  Dark lenses may also be needed if there’s lots of snow and sun.

Scarves:  Vital wind protection.  Always have one tucked under the shell layer.

Parkas:  Big, insulated outer layers that reach down to the knees or lower.  The most intense of outer layers.  Bulky but very effective.  Almost always include a hood for extra warmth.

Ski Jackets:  Waist-length insulated jackets with a waterproofed or water-resistant exterior.  Thinner and lighter than parkas, making them a little more versatile.

Weatherproof Shells:  Soft garments made of treated fabric that stop wind and water but have little or no insulation of their own.  Useful lightweight protection to pair with thick insulation layers.

Sweaters:  A standard insulation layer.  Wool is the best–thick, natural wool with the lanolin still in it is extremely durable and water-resistant, while lighter cashmere wool makes very lightweight garments that still provide good insulation.

Performance Fleece:  Excellent for cold weather exercise.  Very breathable, but not windproof at all, and tends to be bulky.

Snow Pants:  Big, insulated pants (usually overall-style) with a waterproof or water resistant outer layer.  Bulky but extremely warm.  Made to fit over regular trousers.

Wool Trousers:  Useful as both dress clothes and cold weather gear.  Thicker wools add more warmth and can handle more wetness.

Flannel-lined Pants:  Common in blue jeans and other work clothes.  Adds a layer of insulation to regular, functional pants.  Basically worthless when wet, however.

Snow Boots:  Soft-sided boots with flexible soles and insulation on the insides.  Usually waterproof.

Wool Socks:  Vital layer for the feet.  Can come quite thin in wool/synthetic blends, but the extra padding of thick wool socks helps trap more air for warmth.

Liner Socks:  Synthetic socks meant to be worn under warmer socks.  Useful for wicking moisture away from the feet.

Long Underwear:  Wool or synthetic (or a blend of both).  Makes a huge difference in keeping the legs warm.

Under Armor (and similiar type garments) Athletic-style moisture-wicking undershirts.  Vastly preferable to plain cotton undershirts, which trap moisture and stay clammy.

Wool Gloves:  Thin sock-style gloves used as an extra layer below thick gloves or mittens.

Ski Gloves:  Or basic winter gloves; fingered gloves with padded insulation and weatherproof exteriors.

Mittens:  Big, fingerless gloves.  Can be made from insulation and a synthetic liner similar to ski gloves, or from natural sheepskin with the wool still attached and the leather side out.

Cold Weather Dressing In Conclusion

Alright – you’ve read my lessons on cold weather dressing. What tips do you have to offer? I know there are a lot of readers in Canada, Alaska, and even Northern Europe. What did I miss? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Have Tony talk you through the tips:

Written by Antonio Centeno
Grab my Free 47 Page Ebook on Men’s Style 
Watch my 130+ Men’s Style Videos

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

1 unclesam December 21, 2011 at 6:46 pm

See, I only get cold around my face and around my hands. How do I keep my face warm without using a skimask and how do I keep my hands warm while still being able to use my iPhone and other things that need more precision?

2 james December 21, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Good to see an iowa conection!

3 ryan December 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Keep in mind that just because something is name brand and expensive doesn’t mean it’s going to be the warmest thing. I have an inexpensive mix of layers I wear for hunting, skiing, working and camping in cold weather and it works great. I was hunting with someone this year who was wearing nothing but Underarmor and he was freezing while I was toasty warm…

4 ryan December 21, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Has anyone tried the Omni-heat stuff from Columbia? I’m curious if it works or if it’s just cleaver marketing…

5 Warren December 21, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Unclesam, look into some gloves with conductive fingertips. Or go without playing with your iPhone for awhile. For the face I’d advise growing a beard.

6 Graham December 21, 2011 at 7:25 pm

As well as what you’re wearing, it’s also worth thinking about what you have in your bag. I always carry a spare pair of socks, and at least one other scarf to the one I’m wearing. When you’re on a draughty, unheated British train in the middle of winter, you can use the scarf as a blanket, and there’s nothing quite like the joy of changing into clean dry socks after half an hour of trudging through pavement slush.

7 Hristo D. December 21, 2011 at 7:27 pm

I have nearly perfected my cold weather gear, most of the stuff there is not a problem. However, I cannot seem to keep my hands warm for more than an hour, even when wearing really good ski gloves and a smaller pair of gloves underneath. Does anyone have any reccomendations for some super-warm gloves?

8 Tryclyde December 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm

…and for the love of God, don’t buy The North Face stuff just because everyone and their mother does. I have a fleece of theirs that I bought ages ago but I don’t wear it anymore because literally about 80% of the people wear one when the weather gets cold. There are much better brands out there anyway.

9 AK Engineer December 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Living in Alaska I know a few things about staying warm, and this article is pretty good. I frostbit my fingers years ago, so hand warmers are always in my bag of tricks, and I wear glove liners with heavy mitts. Another thing to consider (especially if you wear contacts) is a good set of goggles. If you want quality stuff to stay warm (and stylish), check out Filson clothing. Whatever you do, do not wear cotton!!

@ unclesam – use a neck gaiter or scarf that you can pull up over your face for a bit, and then down around your neck when your face is warmed.

@ warren – growing a beard is one of the worst things you can do in cold weather. Moisture from your breath freezes on the facial hair and leads to frostbite. Don’t just take it from me, ask Shakelton and Scott.

10 Ross December 21, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Grow a beard to keep your face warm in the winter. I work outside and have found next to nothing that works better.

11 Stuart Dobson December 21, 2011 at 8:19 pm

The Swedish have a phrase: “There is no bad weather, just a bad choice of clothes.”

12 Cgirl December 21, 2011 at 8:32 pm

@Hristo D.
I don’t know if this applies to guys as much, but a couple years ago I knit myself a pair of mittens out of yarn that was 50% wool and 50% angora (rabbit fur) Even though they’re rather thin, and not very windproof, they’re extremely warm. I often have to take them off while walking the dog.
Maybe check for gloves that have some cashmere, angora or alpaca content. But be warned, they will shed!

13 James December 21, 2011 at 10:55 pm

For extreme cold I have always favored the old Army Mickey Mouse Boots. They have fought off frostbite on my toes many times and have always won.

14 Caleb December 21, 2011 at 11:02 pm

The main thing I think you missed is something I only recently discovered. Icebreaker clothing is made from merino wool and was designed to be layered. Their website explains things a lot more thoroughly than I can explain here.
http://icebreaker.com/ is their homepage, and some of their reasoning can be found in http://icebreaker.com/Why-Icebreaker-Merino/what-is-icebreaker-merino,en,pg.html

15 Caleb December 21, 2011 at 11:04 pm

A note- I do not work for that company, nor will I benefit from that. I just recently got my first shirt and socks from them and I love them.

16 D John December 21, 2011 at 11:51 pm

I too suffer from the cold.I live in Calgary
where with windchill -60 is not unhreard of. I highy recomend silk long johns.They breath as thery are a natual fiber,they are light wieght, and aren’t bulky or overly warm under clothing. The last set I got as from Eddy Baure.

17 The guy who normally signs "Caleb" December 22, 2011 at 12:14 am

Growing up in Colorado and doing all sorts of snowsports, here are a few things i’ve found:

1 – Make sure to tuck your layers alternating. Long john shirt into bottoms; shirt into pants; jacket over pants, etc. this keeps snow out and more likely to stay covered.

2 – Make sure to buy big enough sizes for layers, depending on the item and where it goes.

3 – Gaiters. mid-calf to knee length. keeps snow out of boots. Then you can buy “regular” snowboots that you can also wear with jeans or khakis to the office and not look obsessed and scared of snow (we are casual here). they also work with most ski boots, help with summer hiking when it is wet, and can be useful for skree.

4 – army surplus wool pants are the best for all snow and cold weather stuff. way better for skiing than ski pants. With decent mid weight long johns, you are good from about 40-50F down to around -20F. I usually just adjust the upper body layer (sometimes down to t-shirt when doing x-country skiing) and dont bother with a “waterproof” layer. I have never been soaked through and gotten cold.

4 – I do the beard. normally trimmed, but let it go wild for a bit if i know i will be out a lot. never been frozen, but never been more than an inch long or been in the arctic.

5 – for upper body, i like a long john shirt, then a synthetic t-shirt (more flattering), then a flannel wool shirt, then fleece (jacket or vest), then outer layer. bottom is the long johns and wool pants, this gives a lot of options for changing weather and amount of exertion.

6 – even with light, loose, layers, it is nice to have a parka for being in camp or taking a break. you can get real cold real quick after sweating.

7 – multiple hat options. I like a beanie/watch cap and a ball cap for options. usually 2 of the former in case it gets wet. make sure it covers your ears. i also have longer hair and that helps too. a fleece scarf is a must.

8 – sun glasses/goggles and sunscreen. I have had more burns in the winter than summers. have a friend get sunburned eyeballs once. he will likely have sever eyesight problems later in like as a result. very likely skin cancer as well.

9 – ive never really had much success with layering gloves, but i generally have a couple heavy pairs and a couple lighter pairs. the liner ones just seem too thin to have a use and the shells to provide enough warmth. i just use fleece lined ski gloves.

10 – snowsuits and ski pants are basically useful for snowmobiling and sitting around a fire.

11 – for dress clothes here, no one cares as long as it works. even a job that requires a suit likely wouldn’t care if you wear something different to stay warm. We also have a lot of people who use their gear for its intended purpose and around town, rather than just as a fashion statement like in the midwest. we have the posers as well, but the brands change so much that i can’t keep up. not that i care anyway.

make sure to stay hydrated and eat a lot of calories! my first winter camping trip when i was 12 resulted in my dad and i both getting back burns. we took 1.5 times the amount of food as for a normal trip and still felt half starved at the end. Plan for 2-3 times as much, then through in a few more meals!

18 The guy who normally signs "Caleb" December 22, 2011 at 12:16 am

* i meant to say “getting back with sun burns” on the last one. I really should proof read.

19 Danny Zawacki December 22, 2011 at 12:44 am

While your information about Ukraine is certainly correct (I’m currently living in Ukraine as Peace Corps Volunteer), I want to point out that there is no ‘the’ before Ukraine. This was acceptable while it was a part of the Soviet Union, but today it’s not proper style. Ukraine is a country in its own right, not a part of a union.

Great article otherwise.

20 Kate McKay December 22, 2011 at 1:06 am

I added the “the” before Ukraine when editing the post. Tony knows his Ukraine!

21 Mike Haydon December 22, 2011 at 2:31 am

Or just move to Australia. It’s never gone below 32F in Perth. Though Christmas is usually around 100F, which would be trippy for you northerners :)

22 Gwen December 22, 2011 at 4:39 am

I live in Edinburgh, Scotland – our winters are pretty chilly, but mostly just very wet and windy. I find it’s really handy to have a spare pair of wool socks in my bag. Most of them I’ve knit myself, so they’re 100% wool, fit me perfectly and are just the length and thickness I want under my boots. Late afternoon, though, they’re slightly damp from sweat and puddles… feels so good and makes me so much warmer to put on a nice fresh, dry pair.

23 Dave Lewis December 22, 2011 at 7:02 am

I deer hunt in Uppper Michigan wearing light or heavy weight long johns, wool socks, German or Swedish army surplus wool pants (the old 1960′S vintage German pants are warmer, but lots heavier), LL Bean heavy flannel shirt, a good heavy weight wool sweater, and a surplus US parka shell. On warmer days I wear Wolverine insulated boots and break out the overboots with felt liners when it gets very cold. With an orange wool watch cap and light and heavy weight gloves (I carry both and trade off durning the day) I’m pretty comfortable even on days when I’m sitting on a log and the temp is below zero.

24 Brant December 22, 2011 at 9:15 am

This is a great article because it addresses a number of scenarios: active wear, business wear, and more passive activities. As a Minnesota native, I certainly appreciate the advice. One topic I’d like to elaborate on is hand warmth. I was taught (and found to be true) that the combination of a thin synthetic glove (Under-Armour type material) with a wind/water resistant outer shell mitten is a great combo for extreme cold or extended outdoor activity. The fingers share their warmth in the mitten while the liner wicks moisture. Obviously, if you need dexterity (or are in a business setting) this isn’t the best, but you can take your gloved hand out of the mitten for short periods of time. The same layering principles can (and should) apply to the hands, just as it does to your torso so additional insulating layers can be added as-needed.

As a side note, I don’t like to have anything up around my mouth and nose. I find that my breath makes whatever is there cold and clammy and can spoil an otherwise good outdoor experience.

25 J D Armstrong December 22, 2011 at 9:57 am

For the question about keeping your face or hands warm w/o adding more/thicker layers to such locations, my advice is to use the old saying “if your feet are cold, put on a hat.” Translating that to face and hands, the warmer you keep your core (head, neck, chest) the warmer the rest of your body will be. Put on a warmer hat (I got a heavy wool fedora this year and it works great!!) put on a scarf and put on a sweater and your hands, face and feet will stay warmer. Oh yes, facial hair is also good to keep your face warm. I only have a moustache, but it keeps my face warm down to about 0 degrees F with wind (below that nothing is better than a face mask).

26 Rick December 22, 2011 at 10:13 am

I spent many years in Alaska and thought this article did a great job. I can personally attest to the Under Armor heat gear. I wore that as a base layer while driving a dog sled team around interior Alaska (outside of Fairbanks) and slept in a snow cave a -30 (temp, not windchill) and thought I was going to pass out from heat exhaustion. It is all about layers with a wicking base layer, just as the article said. Those Canada Goose Antarctica parkas are awesome, but just not necessary. I’d rather have five layers than a parka that big.

27 TimD December 22, 2011 at 10:30 am


Can you give pointers on the proper way to wear a scarf in my cold-weather outfit (such as with a wool car coat)? Any way I manage to wrap it around my neck, it looks like a hot mess.


28 Antonio December 22, 2011 at 11:02 am

Appreciate all the solid additional information gentlemen (and ladies)!

@TimD – Subscribe to my YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/RealMenRealStyle as here very soon I’m going to be showing at least 5 different ways to tie a scarf!



29 RulingPart December 22, 2011 at 11:51 am

Pea coat and a watch cap!

30 Jared December 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I’ve been wondering recently about manly ways to wear a scarf. I feel a touch silly asking that, but being from the Southeast US there haven’t been many times that I needed or have worn a scarf. I recently relocated to a colder climate and have been a bit perplexed about what to do with it.

31 Rick December 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm

If you have to be out in VERY cold weather and are inactive. I have found nothing that beats neoprene for insulation. Having issues with head and feet? Go to your local dive shop and buy a hood and gloves. The hood will be tight, covering your chin and forehead. With a pair of goggles on, your only exposure is your nose and mouth. The hood also tucks in to your jacket well below the collar. This flange is designed to tuck under the wetsuit top, so it sits flat and just plain works. The heavier 3 finger gloves that put middle, ring and pinky fingers in the same pocket provide a great balance of insulation and dexterity. If your hands get a little clammy, it doesn’t really matter as neoprene obviously retains its insulation properties when wet. Also, Mustang http://www.mustangsurvival.com sells gear intended to help one survive if submerged in ocean water in the ocean. They have a line of gear for snowmobilers as well. I have had great success with a set of bibs and a “float coat” from Mustang. very warm

32 Jeff December 22, 2011 at 2:55 pm

“Alternatively, buy your parka or shell in the plainest, darkest design you can find and don’t worry about it too much–once the temperature drops below zero people start making allowances for more functional-looking styles.”

Spot on! The mile+ walk from the train station to my office in Chicago when it’s below zero demonstrates this perfectly. Beaver-pelt hats and garish parkas are the norm.

33 Sam December 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I live in Kentucky, where it’s not extremely cold, but I am outside for many hours a day, doing a mix of high and low physical activity. Thinsulate is your friend, especially in shoes. A good, solid pair of boots with at least 800 grams of Thinsulate, plus good socks, will keep your feet warm in most conditions. You do lose the style points with these boots, but do what most women do–wear sensible shoes outside, and put your stylish ones on at work.

For people working outside, I can’t recommend Carhartts enough. I have the lined overalls, and while yes, they’re somewhat bulky, they’re extremely warm. I can still ride a Thoroughbred while wearing them.

On the outer layer, make sure if it’s buttoned or zippered, it’s got an overlap. You wouldn’t believe how much wind a zipper lets in if it isn’t covered! This also lets you regulate temperature by opening your coat to let out some heat. Also, don’t wait until you’re cold before you button or zip back up! Open your coat just until you’re comfortable. It’s much harder to regain heat than it is to contain it.

34 Greggor December 22, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Wool is the only fiber (synthetic or natural) that retains almost all it’s heat retaining abilities while wet. Most materials lose the ability to trap heat when damp. Wool never seems to go out of style

35 Bushman December 22, 2011 at 7:58 pm

If your face is cold while outside buy a parka with a fur ruff on the hood. This works if u put the ruff slightly in front if your face so that it forms a pocket of warm air. While wolverine fur is the best, other furs do a passable job while synthetic is the least effective it does okay as well.

36 cameronthatsall December 22, 2011 at 10:52 pm

How about ex military jackets?

37 Mother of 4 December 23, 2011 at 9:25 am

Do you know any hand-knitters?

What you need is a thin pair of hand-knitted gloves made from a wool-alpaca blend yarn in an insulating stitch (a stranded, Fair Isle, Icelandic, or Nordic pattern or a slip-stitch rib would be my first choice), topped with a mitten or shooter’s glove (thumb and first finger separate with the last 3 fingers together), made from a heavy wool — Aran or Icelandic would be my pick.

If that doesn’t work there are exotic yarns such as quivut and dog fur that are even warmer than the alpaca and wool but they can be hard to obtain (can I still say that in the internet age?)

If you have no need of dexterity for the outdoors a 3-layer system with a thin, fingerless glove under a medium-weight glove, under a fulled-wool (knitted oversized then felted down), mitten would be a near-ultimate combination of insulation and wind-proofing.

If you go this route (and if you don’t know any hand-knitters a visit to a knitting shop could remedy that), be willing to PAY for it.

The yarns I suggest are pricey, the handwork is time-consuming, and the best fit will be obtained by having them custom-knitted to your exact measurements rather than just picking out a pattern in sm/med/large and that will require a knitter with a higher degree of skill.

When we lived in New England and, later, in the Appalachians I made gloves for my husband and boys from handspun wool. I have to replace my husband’s now, after 10 years, and twice a year when I get snow now I still wear the one I made for my then 10yo oldest son.

Good luck.

38 Brett December 23, 2011 at 1:19 pm
39 Steve M December 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Dear Antonio, It was the Carol Davis attribute that got me to read this post. You really should have given her products a shout. I have never worn as warm a product as her underbody suit and I spend hours sitting still in a treestand this time of year or icefishing and get cold easily being a skinny guy. For cold hands I have a couple recommendations the first being a muff like the quarterbacks wear. Secondly things like crystalized ginger or prickly ash bark can help you keep the blood flow up to the hands.

40 Ivan December 24, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Great article. However, I can’t seem to access your videos on youtube. It states they are ‘private’.

41 spider monkey December 24, 2011 at 11:07 pm

I always have a beard as I am too lazy to shave, I have found that if I don’t keep my face wiped dry in the winter I will ice my mouth shut via my whiskers, not a big deal as I don’t have much to say anyway. I knit hats out of the bulkiest yarn on my smallest needles, the result is a good lookin’ wool helmet.

42 Oskar December 25, 2011 at 6:52 am

First of all, a happy Christmas to all!
One thing I can not stress enough for cold weather is to pay attention to your headwear. A lot of heat “escapes” through a bare head. During winter training in the Swedish army I´m afraid American soldiers were put forward as a bad example on how to handle the elements in winter. State of the art coats and insulation trousers while on manouvers in Norwegian Lapland only to forget wearing a scarf and woolly hat, thus letting all the heat out while not engaging in physical activity. Not at all a try to “knock” the armed forces of the US, just a point that things come natural to people who are used to a certain cliamte.

43 Timothy December 27, 2011 at 10:34 am

Excellent article.
1. Wicking layer
2. Insulating layer
3. Wind/rain-proof layer

44 Rebekah Greiman December 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I write a column for This Land Press called Together in Tulsa. When I saw the back cover for this last issue, I just had to check you out. I have spent way too much time on your site. I love everything about it and have forwarded the link onto several manly men that I know. I love the vintage vibe, most of the topics- could have done without the Recto Roto-but I suppose a man’s gotta know… :). Just wanted to tell you that I’m glad to have found another quality blogger out there from good ol Oklahoma. I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with next.
Peace out.

45 Vaarok December 28, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I have to concur with other posters, the omission of a neck gaiter is pretty serious. You lose most of your heat through your head, and all that blood that could be keeping extremities warm is also traveling through your jugular and carotids- protect your neck!

46 Tim January 3, 2012 at 11:09 am

Two points of contention.

First, if in outdoor cold weather situations, NEVER WEAR COTTON. I’ve heard story after story from fellow search & rescue volunteers about people who died of exposure from wearing cotton. Unlike wool and synthetic fibers, cotton fiber collapses when wet, causing it to lose all insulation properties. Moisture from sweat is enough to cause this. I’ve found way too many lost, hypothermic hunters wearing blue jeans and cotton long johns. Avoid cotton at all costs!

Second, ultra-modern technical outdoor clothing is swinging from synthetic fabrics back to wool. Personally, I’m slowly transitioning all of my base layers and mid layers to wool. It’s spendier, but modern wool clothing lasts longer, weighs the same, and doesn’t hold odors like synthetic fabrics. It has the added benefit of generally looking good too, meaning you can wear it around town as well as up the mountain.

If you remember anything from this article, remember the one thing they left out: NEVER WEAR COTTON IN THE COLD OUTDOORS.

47 Menscience January 5, 2012 at 10:47 am

Very cool, er, I mean, very warm article! It’s very simple advice that’s not always practiced.

I’m very guilty of not layering for cold weather. Big reason why I always get sick when it gets cold.

I especially like the info about the base or moisture absorbing layer. It was a true revelation.

Also, don’t forget to use a moisturizer. Especially on skin areas such as your face and hands that may be exposed to elements.

48 Gasim January 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Overcoats are wonderful, I’ve had mine for a little over a year, and have never had a cold torso while wearing it. As far as headwear, I often wear a Pakol. The Pakol is a hat from the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s made from camel and goat hair, and is about the warmest hat imaginable (Besides a Russian Ushanka) and while looking unique, still looks gentlemanly, and proffesional.
Next time you want a warm hat, check out a Pakol, in adition to being warm and looking nice, they’re also very affordable. (Don’t pay more than 30 USD for one, anything more than that, you’re most likely overpaying)

49 Gasim January 5, 2012 at 7:10 pm

For headgear, I’ve always trusted my Pakol.
A Pakol is a hat made from camel/goat wool. It is from the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is about the warmest hat you can get, and in addition to its awesome warmth, it looks very manly, and can be worn to social event and nights out, in addition to work. Pair it with a wool overcoat of complimenting colour and you’ll knock the ladies dead.
You might think that such a warm hat that can be put to so many uses would be expensive, but in reality, you shouldn’t have to pay anymore than 30 USD for one.
With such a fine article of clothing for such a low price, what’s stopping you from getting one?

50 Jameson January 11, 2012 at 1:46 am

There is an intermediate leg protection you didn’t mention – wind pants. It’s the shell, without insulation, and usually just trousers, i.e., no bib. I bike to work in Massachusetts, and my problem comes from wind more than direct cold. Wind pants and a leather jacket over a thick Royal Navy sweater are perfect for it.

51 TheBeardedOne January 11, 2012 at 8:03 am

I used to work outdoors in all types of weather with heavy equipment that had no a/c or heat. My typical way to fight the cold was a thermal underwear base layer, jeans/flannel/denim shirt, and some insulated coveralls. For my feet, I’d wear ankle socks, crew socks and wool thermal socks. For my hands, cotton jersey gloves and insulated work gloves. For my head it was typically a trapper hat when not wearing hardhat, and with hardhat a helmet liner. For my face I didn’t have to worry because I’ve worn a full beard for a while now. I’ve only shaved it off twice in the last four years

52 Diego January 11, 2012 at 11:07 am

Nothing can beat an over coat and a nice sweater during the winter months in the NorthEastern U.S. combine a nice scarf with it, and perhaps some casmere lined leather gloves, and you are as warm as could be, while still looking like a million bucks. Yes I know that some of this stuff is a bit expensive, but it’s well worth it, and you’ll get a life time of service from it.

53 Shermdog October 5, 2012 at 9:07 am

For gentlemen that are looking for something to wear under dress clothes, I would recommend silk long underwear. Underneath a wool suit, and wool top coat with wool socks you will find yourself very comfortable. They are not bulky, shed some moisture and are like having a second skin. My grandfather, a dairy farmer wore them instead of the heavy duofold underwear because they were light enough to breathe and not bulky. Forget leather soled shoes in the winter, the salt eats them and water penetrates them, and cold goes through them. I wear a scarf and have good leather gloves. A good wool suit will be lined to the knees and have a full lining in the jacket. For really cold weather, a gray wool flannel suit is excellent, or try a herringbone tweed with wool flannel pants.

54 Daisy October 20, 2012 at 11:10 am

Is the picture of the runner Mike Gordon from Walla Walla? He’s my running coach!

55 Sweaty Peter January 30, 2013 at 5:51 am

This is an interesting contribution from the Canadian Army, but I can’t really work out their conclusions ? !

56 Agent Broyles February 24, 2013 at 4:06 pm

I choose a cotton sleeveless shirt under a wool sweater and parka to deal with central Iowa winters. Any type of under-armor gear would make the workday (office temp of 68 F) unbearable.

57 Pete June 24, 2013 at 7:13 am

Thanks for the article. I concur with the post that advises a move to Australia, I actually sought your advice because here in Sydney this week it has been 40F and in the past Fremantle in Perth got 35F in the mornings (despite what the other post said) I honestly did not have a clue about how to dress for these temps as apart from our “Snowy Mountains” (2228m at highest, possibly 0F at worst. ) we don’t get anything this cold. I conclude I must be soft. I feel freezing. But how do you folk go with 111F ? ? Keep up the good work. Now to find a shop that sells this stuff…..

58 Mitch June 29, 2013 at 10:16 pm

While snowboarding in the extreme colds and wind on the top of Vermont’s Green Mountains, I found a helpful face cover to be 2 layers. I wear a balaclava facemask combo to insulate and keep me warm. Then a generic bandana over that. After about an hour, my breath saturated the bandana, then I would pull it away from my face and it would freeze and become a hard, solid layer for excellent wind protection.

59 Mitch June 29, 2013 at 10:20 pm

2nd one is TL:DR version

60 Hank July 28, 2013 at 2:31 am

In response to Tryclide’s comment about NorthFace, I agree it has become more fashion than function but if you seek out the brown label made in USA NORTHFACE that earned them the reputation as quality outfitters you wont be disappointed. I have a below knee length down brown label I paid $18 for that I have yet to keep zipped up for an entire outing. By outing I am talking 40 below snowshoeing across frozen water with gusting winds. Yes wool will keep you warm when wet but its heavy and at 40 below zero its all but impossible to get wet without some serious effort. I have down long johns, down mittens, coats, vests, and being unable to justify the $350 for a down expedition hat, I made my own from a down vest. one word of advice on that front, sew two seams about a quarter inch apart then make your cut between them.and you can avoid a LOT of feather mess.

61 Denny September 23, 2013 at 11:06 am

I’ve got a problem that no one has been able to solve. I occurs when I ski.

I’m an aggressive skier. By the time I get back down to the chair I’m breathing heavily. After a run or two I’m sweating. On cold days I wear a fleece hat, goggles and a fleece neck warmer. I also wear glasses under my goggles. My goggles are top of the line Smiths with a turbo fan. After two runs my glasses begin to fog up. I’ve tried everything, prescription inserts, fog cloths, fog sprays, etc. Its so frustrating when the powder is good and I can’t see. I’m open to any suggestions.


62 Christopher Bartley November 10, 2013 at 9:22 am

Great post! Where does my dress shirt go in this layering system? Since it’s most likely cotton material, does it go over the mid-layer (i.e., sweater)? Wouldn’t that look bulky? If it goes over my wool base layer, wouldn’t it soak up the sweat that my base is wicking? And then what about my actual suit jacket? Does that replace the mid-layer or the shell/outer layer?

63 foxinabox November 16, 2013 at 9:52 am

3rd generation alaskan here.

A lot of you people commenting…… you’re clueless. The article totally nailed the subject. Follow the directions above and stop giving carhartt free air-time.

Just. Stop.

Nothing else to say but stay fed and hydrated. No caffeinated or alcoholic drinks. Lots of warm/hot water before leaving if it’s below freezing, Carry bottled water (close to body) or a bota bag if your exposure may last more than 2 hours, especially if walking. Or fill up in nearby stores’ restrooms. It’s free.

64 Jessica November 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Regularily drinking ginger tea or taking ginger capsels can help with circulation through out the dayand night in the body and keep the body warmer if your constitution is too cold.

65 Ian Cooper December 7, 2013 at 6:53 am

I would just add that keeping hands warm is not just about gloves. You need to keep the blood warm while it’s on the way to the hands. If you’re not wearing adequate insulation on your sleeves, your hands are going to be cold no matter how effective your gloves are. The same applies to feet – poorly insulated legs lead to cold feet.

66 bhavesh January 9, 2014 at 9:34 am

what kind of thermals should a person wear in diffrent tempreture.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter