This year with the extreme temperatures, even the toughest nature-lovers and survivalists may find themselves devolving into winter hermits, huddling under a fleece blanket by the fire. Over a decade ago, I learned the hard way how to dress warmly for the cold. I initially had this “toughen-up” attitude, as though I thought I should be able to survive nude in the winter. I took it to extremes, taking cold showers, going outside in thin cotton shirts, and taking polar plunges in frigid streams during snow storms. It seemed everything I did just made me dislike winter more and feel the cold more acutely.
Finally, after three years of miserable winters, I decided to simply dress warmly for the weather. I’m sharing with you the winter tips I developed to keep me warm all winter long:
1. Tighter is Better
This one tip is the MOST IMPORTANT point here. From your long underwear to your hat and coat, all of your layers should be snug. You do not want the breeze to sweep under your pants, coat, boots, hat, etc. stealing all your body heat. It’s like leaving a door open in your house.
2. Always Put on a Tight Layer First
Have you heard that saying that you should never wear cotton in the winter? It’s true that wool, fleece, buckskin, and down all insulate much better than cotton and still keep you warm when they are wet. And yet, I prefer not to wear most types of wool right next to my skin. I put on a simple, tight tank top first, every day, all year long. This one small action has made a huge difference in keeping me warm inside a chilly office, at home, and even outside. If the weather turns and starts to feel too warm, or I’m working up a sweat building a debris hut, I can always take my outer layers off so all I have on is my tank top.
3. Sleep Warmly
Staying warm all night has made a big difference in my body temperature during the day. I wear a fleece, hoodie-footie to sleep in, then an extra fleece bathrobe. My husband bought the hoodie-footie for me as a gag gift one year because it’s an extreme measure to take, but it’s been one of the best presents he’s ever given me.
4. Don’t Let Your Body Temperature Drop
Letting your body temperature drop may make it hard for you to feel warm for the rest of the day. Pay attention to that chill running down your back and grab a sweater before you let you body temperature fall too low.
5. Don’t Let Yourself Overheat
If you overheat, you’ll start to sweat, which will make you feel cold. That being said, exercise in winter will help keep you warm, just change out of anything wet or remove a garment or two to prevent sweating.
6. Insulate Your Torso A Little Better
Vests are one of my best winter investments. For a whole week this year, I was reluctant to do dishes because I’d lost my favorite, thick vest and had to wear thick, bulky sweaters that impeded arm movement instead. Wearing a vest keeps you warm while also freeing up your arms.
7. Don’t Forget Your Legs
There’s a reason for that long underwear in your drawer. Wear it under another layer. If it isn’t tight against your skin, buy one that is. Jeans and leggings aren’t the best, but with a great pair of long-underwear and tall, warm boots, you might not notice too much.
8. Buy a Good, Long Coat Plus a Thick Fleece
Many outdoor stores sell great coats and at the end of the season the prices drop dramatically. L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, Columbia, and Patagonia are all great brands and there are many others. Make sure it’s for single digit temperatures if you’re serious about staying warm. Long, down ones are especially good. In addition to a great coat, I also put on a thick, tight fleece underneath right before a leave the house. I sometimes even pull it on inside the house if I feel chilly.
9. Wear a Thick Sweater
Is this one obvious? Well, there is a reason for sweaters and many are good enough. I don’t actually love regular wool because it’s itchy and you have to wear your long underwear under it all winter long. Alpaca wool is awesome, but most sweaters I find are adequate as long as they are tight enough and long enough. With the option of throwing on a vest and a fleece, a super warm sweater doesn’t become quite so necessary and opens the door to whatever fashion you prefer.
10. Wear Snow Pants Even if it Isn’t Snowy
This idea just occurred to me this year. It was a cold, rainy day and I didn’t even feel like going out very much, but I really wanted to work on a shelter I’d started. So, I told my daughters to put their snow pants on and grab their umbrellas. We were very comfortable outside for the entire morning and could have stayed out the rest of the day.
11. Remember Your Extremities
You can find warm, inexpensive gloves, hats that cover your ears, and warm fuzzy boots these days. For boots, make sure they are waterproof, have some fuzz inside, and the higher up your calf the better. Warm, dry socks are also a must. Scarves also make a big difference in keeping the heat inside your coat when you’re outside.
Going for a run, walk, swim, or doing some yoga in the morning will help keep that blood flowing and raise your body temperature for the rest of the day.
I hope this helps you brave the unusually cold winter this year and helps you get outside once again. It’s important to know you don’t have to be miserable just because it’s cold. Buying a few warmer, tighter layers will make a huge difference.
And, remember, winter is the easiest time of year to observe birds because the trees are bare and you can see farther in the woods.
Good luck and enjoy!