Winter Wear: Materials Matter

The material your winter clothes are made of can make all the difference.

| November/December 2009

  • Balaclava
    The face hole in a balaclava can be adjusted to better manage your body temperature.
    iStockphoto.com/eyebex
  • Family playing in snow
    Dress appropriately to get the most out of winter outdoor recreational activities.
    iStockphoto.com/Christopher Futcher

  • Balaclava
  • Family playing in snow
MAIN STORY
Winter Clothing: Stay Warm and Pursue Winter Activities 

The material your clothes are made of makes a difference. Stay away from cotton in cold weather. There is an expression among experienced outdoor people that “cotton kills.” This is because cotton fibers soak up lots of water and lose their ability to insulate. 

Next to the skin

Long underwear should be close-fitting and made of silk, polyester, acrylic or polypropylene. These fibers tend to carry moisture away from the skin and can be good insulators. Wool also works, but it can be itchy and is a little slower to dry than other fibers. 

Middle layers

Several loose-fitting middle layers of fleece will keep you warm and allow you to adjust your insulation easily. Use layers made from the same fibers as long underwear in varying thicknesses. 

Outer layer

Tightly woven nylon or other synthetic fabric protects you from the wind, and it’s best when the jacket has a zipper with two sliders that can be opened from the top or bottom. It should have a hood with a drawstring to protect your head and neck. Breathable fabrics that are waterproof and still let moisture evaporate are ideal. 



Hands

Thick, knitted or pile mittens are good insulation until the wind blows. Keep handy nylon or leather shells to go over the mittens. If you’re going to be outside for a long time, bring extra pairs of mittens to replace ones that become damp from sweat. Leather or knitted gloves are useful when temperatures are too cold for bare hands but too warm for mittens. 

Feet

The kind of boot you wear depends on what you are doing outside. The rising snowmobile industry has made warm boots commonly available. Unless you need a specialized boot for a particular sport, a boot with an inner felt bootie for insulation, a waterproof foot and a wind-proof nylon or leather upper works well. Remember to protect the felt booties from sweaty feet. 





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