Clothing For Cold Weather
There is an amazing range of outdoor clothing for cold weather, much of it quite reasonably priced if you shop around.
Several layers of clothing are best in cold conditions, as air is trapped between the layers providing efficient insulation from the cold surrounding environment. These can be taken off or added to to regulate your temperature. This concept is depicted in the 3 layer system below:
A. The Inner Layer is generally thermal underwear. The inner layer should not absorb and retain moisture but transport it away from the skin, thereby countering any ‘after-exercise chill’. As manufacturers come up with new high tech synthetic fabrics or re-invent older materials like wool, the inner layer material is constantly changing. Do some research, and buy good quality thermal (not cotton as it gets wet and stays wet = dangerous) underwear that will last and serve the purpose.
B. The Mid Layer is the second layer of clothing which is put on after the base layer. The Mid Layer is designed to insulate and hold onto your body heat. The best way to do this is to create a layer of still or dead air around your body. As this still air warms it decreases significantly any heat exchanged between your body and the ambient outside temperature. Mid Layers often consist of polyesters; have a deep pile or loft, which traps air between the fibres.
C. In the 3-Layer System the Outer Shell is the only layer directly in contact with the chilly outside world. The Outer Shell serves three main purposes:
1. Block wind and outside moisture like rain and snow.
2. Allow body moisture out
3. Prevent chafing, abrasion, and other damage (to your body and inner garments)
The great thing about a three layer system is the flexibility it provides, particularly as the outside temperature around you changes, or your workload increases/decreases.
Generally you always keep your inner layer on (except on extended trips to wash!). I have worn just the inner layer combined with a pair of shorts whilst trudging through alpine country on a sunny day and humping a heavy pack.
The mid layer is the one that provides the greatest flexibility in outdoor clothing for cold weather. By simply putting on and shedding layers you can regulate your temperature, according to your workload and the ambient temperature.
The outer layer is reserved for periods of rain, snow or high chill factor winds. As the weather and your activity changes, you simply swap the layers.
It is worth noting that an uncovered head can radiate one half of the body’s heat production at 4.5°C (40°F), and at -15°C (5°F) up to seventy five percent of your total body heat can be lost. Outdoor clothing for cold weather should include balaclavas or a parka hood, as they are a very important component in preventing this huge heat loss.
Remember you don’t have to be in freezing temperatures to risk hypothermia – if the environmental temperature is below your body temperature you will “donate” heat to the surroundings. Make sure you have packed enough and suitable clothing for cold weather.