by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager
I have outlined ways to keep our extremities (feet, head, and hands) warm during the winter in this series. However, you need to keep the core of your body warm to make all those methods work. Heat retention and heat regulation is similar when it comes to the core. It is good to start with an under layer that will keep you warm, but dry, during strenuous activity. While those old waffle knit cotton long johns had great insulation, they were lousy when it came to wicking moisture away from the body.
If you haven’t caught on yet, I love wool. I have merino wool thermal underwear that is light, and warm. It is my go-to underwear for cold, stationary activities. You can feel the warmth as soon as you put it on. Wool also seems to regulate heat well. (So, I don’t usually overheat when I get back inside.)
My only problem with wool is it is relatively expensive. “Stuff” happens at work and I don’t’ want to rip it on multiflora rose, sharp tools, or other equipment. So, I often rely on synthetic thermal underwear for everyday use. There has been an explosion of synthetic fabric technology in recent years. The polyester blends are usually proprietary information for manufacturers, so I just stick with mid-weight options in my price range. These products work well for a range of activities and temperatures.
For my second layer, I might add another set of thermal underwear if it is cold and I will be stationary. My everyday work layer is a flannel shirt if I feel I will stay dry, otherwise it would be light wool sweater. I might add a fleece, wool or down vest if I need more warmth but don’t want to restrict movement in my arms. My regular work shell is an insulated canvas jacket with a hood. The canvas is fairly wind and water resistant. The hood helps regulate heat loss from my head and keep my neck warm. Otherwise I have a closet of wool jackets and coats. I also have nylon shells for snowy activities like cross country skiing. I usually wear jeans, but have shells in case it is wet. Gore-Tex coats and shells are ideal for the winter. Down jackets are also great in the winter.
A couple things that I have found useful are tops and coats with a product called Windstopper. It is a liner fabric (similar to Gore-tex) that blocks wind. It is great for heat retention, especially when the wind is a factor. Turtlenecks are often overlooked for keeping warm. I think keeping heat from escaping the core is an important function of the turtleneck. They also negate the use of a scarf and keep my neck warm. I have a few wool dickeys that I keep in my winter arsenal. Dickeys are the butt of many jokes, but they add an extra layer over the heart and back, yet they don’t restrict movement. (They can also be removed relatively easily if you are getting overheated.)
Winter isn’t over yet. While we are getting tired of the shoveling, there is still fun to be found outside. Like the Scandinavian saying goes: “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.”