Winter Clothing & What You Should Know

For several years I worked for a well-known outdoor sports store and I have helped outfit people for countless adventures, day hikes to winter expeditions. Hands-down the most often asked question was essentially, what should I wear? It is a valid and important question to ask and goes well beyond what is fashionable. It is certainly an appropriate concern when it comes to winter.

There is a saying that I really enjoy, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear’.

It really is about having the appropriate tool for the job, so to speak. If you’re someone who truly loves being outdoors or someone who aspires to experience all that nature has to offer, understanding your clothing, its benefits and limitations, is incredibly important.

Winter is a beautiful time of year and the cold weather should not limit or hinder you’re outdoor endeavors. I’ve put together some information regarding some of our most commonly used clothing/insulation materials to better inform your clothing choices that you may safely and confidently explore your wintery natural world.

Cotton

First and foremost, NO COTTON! We all love wearing cotton. It is a comfortable and useful fabric in warm and dry climates; however, in cold temperatures your cotton clothes could very well kill you. There is a saying, ‘Cotton Kills’. It is so because cotton absorbs water very quickly and readily and takes a tremendous amount of energy to dry.

Cotton Bolls ready for Harvest

If you don’t believe me, take a quick jump into a pool or any other body of water with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt on. Chill out poolside in the sun and take note of how long it takes for your jeans to dry. Furthermore pay attention to how your body feels in relation to the ambient or surrounding air temperature. I’ll give you a tip, jump in the pool early in the morning on a day forecasted to be hot and sunny. Allow yourself plenty of time to hang out and dry!

Now should you find yourself in a cold rain, slipping and falling into a winter stream, or even sweating alone, cotton will cool your body temperature well below what is safe and ultimately expose you to a hypothermic situation. A very scary and life threatening state.

Be meticulous, check the labels of your clothing, including your underwear and socks. This tip alone could save your butt!

Synthetics

Instead of cotton, opt for synthetics, quick drying fabrics like nylon and polyester. Synthetics dry quickly and allow you to retain heat whilst being wet. Synthetic materials also have the advantage of being light and possess a low packing volume. That is, you could squeeze an extra pair of hiking pants, synthetic t-shirt, and long-sleeved t-shirt into the volume of half a loaf of bread.

Synthetic outer shells, like the snowpants pictured below can also be waterproofed which provides the added benefit of staying dry in snowy activities such as snow-shelters construction.