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Cold Weather Layering: Get the most out your Time outdoors

Cold Weather Layering: Get the most out your Time outdoors.
By:Chris Hodges

Rain....sleet....snow....cold, biting wind...these are but a few of the weather
conditions one will face when heading out the door in much of the Country. While most
have what they consider appropriate outwear for say, a dash to the store, things
change quickly when faced with the prospect of spending an extended period of time
outdoors in the Winter. This lesson was first drilled into my head by my Grandfather, an
old school USMC Gunnery Sergeant who spent more time outdoors than any human I
knew. Amazingly, some of his "old stand by's", clothing-wise, are still as relevant now as
it was 40 years ago. While materials and clothing change and improve with time, how
you choose and layer said clothing most certainly has not!

First and foremost, I must state here that, while some clothing types and materials are
just a shoo-in for wear, please do be aware that SOME materials are just not built to be
breathable, just wear or moisture proof. Materials such as nylon, polyester and canvas
(especially if theyre treated) can hold in moisture and sweat, making your jaunt a
miserable one. It certainly makes sense to step back and read up on whatever article of
clothing you are thinking about purchasing. It pays to pay attention to things such as:
materials, features and durability. One boon in this regard is the prevalence of the
ability on many websites to post a review of the clothing in question. Sometimes, this
can be a very valuable tool to help you make an informed buying decision. Just be
aware that sometimes, the reviewer in question could be throughly clueless as to what
their writing- the ability to "read between the lines" certainly comes in handy here!
Now, obviously, this Blog addresses Winter layering, but, many of the principles here
are relevant to other Seasons as well. So, where does one start??

The first thing I address on my body is my Core warmth. This is the area from your neck
down to your waist. There are a million different coats/jackets on the market that
literally appeal to just about EVERY outdoor activity under the sun. Therefore, I'm not
going into great detail about what to look for, jacket-wise, as this seems to be a very
individual decision. My best advice here is to try and find a jacket that has as many
features as possible, from drawstings along the bottom of the coat, to velcro closures
on the sleeves with as much waterproofing as you can afford (5,000MM would be my
lowest standard waterproofing number) with hopefully a Gore-Tex or similar breathable
membrane that stops moisture outside from coming in, but, allows your sweat to
evaporate during activity. There are MANY fine coat/jacket "systems" that include a
waterproof shell and a removable liner of some sort. Purchasing one of these systems
can be a fiscally responsible purchase, depending on what you are recieving with your
purchase. This brings us to an often queried clothing item- long underwear.
In this case, just like with jackets/coats, there are definitely many many options, but,
there are certainly better materials than others. For example, there are mid- and
Expedition- weight underwear- some are made out of polyester fleece, while others are
composed of Merino Wool. If you perused my prior Wool blog, you know I'm a BIG fan of
this material. Its insulation, breathability and resilience is hard to beat! Merino Wool is
also extremely soft on your skin, which cuts down on chafing. It also retains heat when
wet, so, if you manage to perspire too much, at least this material can assist in bringing
moisture away from your skin. And, depending on the outdoor temps and level of
activity, one could change your base layer to match. Materials such as silk and
polyester make great base layers when the temps arent too cold out and feel great next
to your skin. This is also relevant for your feet- wear sock liners with those wool socks
to keep your feet dry and comfortable!

This brings us onto our extremities.
Here is where people I honestly feel lean more towards the fashion-sense side of
clothing, rather than actually wearing appropriate material. For example, for TRULY
cold temps, mittens are the hand warmers of choice, rather than gloves. Why? Well,
think about the fact that ALL of your digits are in the mitten, right next to each other,
keeping your hands that much warmer. Obviously, when dexterity is needed, gloves
need to be used, unless you happen to locate "convertable" mittens that allow for BOTH
styles of wear with finger dexterity. Ditto for hats- goofy patterns and funky designs
seem to have taken over for good old design and con struction. DO: wear wool hats that
cover your ears completely DONT: buy cheap poly hat that will get wet and STAY wet!

There are many fine manufacturers out there who make hats and gloves with Gore-Tex,
wool, or really any other material out there. Just expect to "get what you pay for"- the
reason some products cost more than others has very little to do with Brand Name
cache' and more with what materials they are built with. And, obviously, DO YOUR
HOMEWORK! The internet is FULL of information out there on a whole host of clothing
items, and, its up to you, as an informed consumer, to do your due-diligence prior to
your purchase.

Bottom line with layering is this: Find the appropriate materials/clothing items that
match your activity level as well as the temps outside- read those online reviews....ask
friends what they some comparative shopping...then get out there and
enjoy some fresh air in your new gear!!