I am so excited about winter.
As a naturally cold-blooded Australian girl, I can tell you that I didn’t always feel this way. One may say that it took me a few Canadian winters to warm to this idea. Pun very much intended.
Ten years on however, I can honestly say that I love winter.
So, why the change?
The change came from learning. Learning that enjoying winter comes from being prepared for the cold weather, and making sure that you get out and enjoy it.
As humans we thrive on being outside. For many summer-lovers, myself included, the main issue with winter was that it kept me indoors. In the summertime it is easy to get outside and enjoy nature, the weather, and the company of your loved ones.
In winter, people feel that the weather restricts these activities. But in reality, the only difference is the preparation.
With this in mind, here at Chez Skerwink, we thought we would bring you a series of articles to share a few of our helpful tips about not only surviving, but thriving this winter! To help you love winter as much as we do, we bring you:
(1) Learning how to dress,
(2) Learning what to do outside, and
(3) Learning what to eat.
So without further ado, we bring you part (1)
Learning how to dress!
There are a few main things to consider when dressing for winter:
- What is the weather?
- Temperature (5′ to 0′, -5′ to -15′, -10′ to -20’… you get the idea)
- Is it windy
- Is it raining or maybe snowing
- What activity will I be doing? (e.g. walking, waiting for the bus, running, skiing, etc.)
Depending on these factors you will need to add, or remove certain layers, and choose materials that match your activity. For example, if you plan to be stationary waiting for a bus, you may not need breathable materials. Likewise, if you plan to be active, the last thing you want is a stifling silk base layer that will only get sweaty and ultimately make you colder.
Before I get into the layers, let me first explain why layering is so important. Each layer you add traps air and thus provides additional insulation. It is the air between the layers that is so important, and hence why regulating the amount and movement between these layers can mean the difference between a warm, or a cold day. Layering also allows you to add or shed warmth as needed, and is therefore more versatile than wearing a single heavy layer.
So what are these layers that I’m talking about? Base layers, mid layers, and shells.
Although the examples below are for women, there are men’s versions of all of the selected clothing on each of the sites provided. Furthermore, this information does not simply apply to clothing worn from the hips up. People often assume they don’t need layers on their legs because they don’t feel cold.
Don’t be fooled! Just because our legs don’t feel cold doesn’t mean your well earned heat isn’t escaping through thin jeans. We loose a lot of heat through our legs, so make sure to layer up!
Base Layers are those that sit flush with your skin, hence “base”.
These will range from soft silk/cotton long-johns like those available here from LLBean, to synthetic or merino breathable layers such as those found at here from MEC.
All base layers, be they silk, wool, or synthetic, come in a range of shapes and weights (read warmth), and can be found in a variety of stores, fashions, colours, styles etc.
The synthetic/merino layers are designed to breathe, and keep you warm while you are being active. They balance breathability with warmth, so that as you sweat and cool, you don’t get cold. The silk or cotton alternatives are designed to keep you toasty while you’re standing/sitting still, they are less expensive, and often warmer, but provide no breathability so run the risk of becoming clammy and cold.
For more info on the pros and cons of the various underwear materials, see this great guide by REI.
Mid-layers/ Insulation Layers — you guessed it, they’re worn in the middle, between the base and the outer shell.
Once again they come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, makes and models. The material/style you choose should reflect both the weather of the day, and the activity. On a warmer day perhaps your mid layer will be a nice flannel shirt, or maybe a cotton jumper. On a colder day maybe a fleece, or a woollen sweater. On those really cold days maybe your light down puffer coat will act as a mid layer beneath a jacket.
Once again the different materials offer a varying level of breathability. Cotton is notoriously bad for breathing, wool however is very good. Synthetic options are usually very good, and down is always a winner.
For more info on down vs synthetic vests, check out this guide!
Some popular options include:
As with the base layers, the weight and material will impact the level of warmth and breathability, so be sure to plan ahead.
Jacket/Shell — Finally we arrive at the outer layer, your jacket/shell. This is your wind and water protection, and therefore will need to be chosen based on the day’s weather.
Shells are broken down into a range of categories based on how warm/breathable they are. At one end of the spectrum you have your light waterproof shells, that are very breathable, and on the other end, you have heavy insulated coats that provide additional warmth for those really cold outdoor days.
Whether you are hiking in a light shower and want this North Face shell or watching polar bears in the Arctic in this Canada Goose Parka you will need a shell that protects you from the elements, while keeping you the right balance of toastie but not clammy.
For a technical breakdown of waterproof vs breathable clothing, see this guide!
Accessories — The last thing to think about when dressing for the cold are accessories: hats, scarves, and mittens. More than just fashion statements these items stop your valuable heat from escaping through your neck and head–an absolute definite in any conditions, and your hands when it is very cold.
As with all the above clothing, these accessories come in a range of shapes and sizes, and offer a varying level of warmth to the wearer. Furs and wool are always nice and toastie and breathable, while cotton and some synthetics may not do as good of a job.
We hope that you have found this helpful, and that you are inspired to layer up and get outside this winter!
Stay tuned for next week when we will bring you Part 2- What to Do Outside!
Love The Skerwinkles xoxox
For more info on dressing for getting outside check out this nice video by REI: