November 07, 2023
The winter can be a lot of fun, especially in places with cold, snowy winters like the ones we enjoy in Canada. The winter can also be downright miserable, especially in places with cold, snowy winters like the ones we suffer through in Canada. How can the same season bring such joy and such misery? In our opinion, it largely comes down to how you are dressed. Wearing the right gear for the current temperature is essential for enjoying (or at least tolerating!) the winter. The key to dressing appropriately is to consider what it is you will be doing outside. In this article, we will assume that you are not dressing for a winter sport, but rather are getting ready to go for a walk, or maybe even just waiting for the bus at temperatures between 0°C and -40°C. We will also assume that you will be going outside for around an hour, spending extended time outside in sub-zero conditions requires more meticulous planning.
At this temperature range it is cold, but not frigid. If there is no wind, and the sun is shining -5°C is a beautiful winter day. At this temperature you will want to dress warmly, but not excessively so.
Base layer: A pair of thermal underwear (where I’m from we call them Long Johns, or long underwear), wool socks, and a long-sleeve shirt. Your long sleeve shirt need not necessarily be made from thermal material at this temperature range, a long sleeve t-shirt or button-down shirt will work fine.
Mid layer: A medium-weight sweater or fleece should be sufficient for insulation purposes. If you are not going to be rolling around in the snow, a pair of insulated pants should be all you need on top of your Long Johns. If you can, avoid wearing jeans, denim is not very effective at blocking wind or water.
Outer layer: A medium-weight winter coat will be fine at this temperature. A winter hat, insulated mittens or gloves and good waterproof, insulated boots are essential to staying dry and comfortable.
At this temperature range it is definitely starting to feel pretty cold. However, if properly dressed it is still perfectly fine to enjoy the winter weather!
Base layer: You will need thermal underwear at this temperature range, nice thick wool socks, and your long sleeve shirt should also be made of some kind of insulating thermal material (more than just a cotton long sleeve T-shirt).
Mid layer: A heavier fleece or a down jacket will keep you nice and cozy at these temperatures. At this temperature range it is highly suggested to wear properly insulated, windproof, and waterproof snow pants.
Outer layer: You will want to wear a heavy-duty parka, ideally one with a hood. A winter hat that covers your ears, a thick scarf or other neck warmer and mittens (not gloves!) are essential. They may be more expensive, but if you are going to be regularly spending time outdoors in these temperatures, good winter boots with appropriate temperature ratings are a worthwhile investment. Speaking from experience, getting frostbite on your toes is really no fun at all.
At this temperature range it is cold, there is no getting around that fact. If you do not own winter gear that is appropriate for these kinds of temperatures, you should start by asking yourself if you really need to go outside. If the answer to that question is ‘No’, then grab your favourite blanket, make some hot chocolate, and cozy up for an indoor day. If, however, the answer is ‘Yes, I must go outside!’, be sure so to regularly take stock of how you are feeling and whether you are still warm. If you start feeling cold, please go back inside as soon as you possibly can.
Base layer: Double up on your thermal underwear, and your thermal long-sleeved shirt. If your boots are big enough, wear two pairs of wool socks.
Mid layer: Also double up on your mid layers. Combine a lightweight mid layer with a thick, insulated mid layer.
Outer layer: A high-quality arctic parka and snow pants that are windproof and waterproof are a must. Make sure that your winter boots are rated for this temperature range. Consider wearing a balaclava, or some other kind of face covering to reduce the amount of skin exposed to the air. Wear a good winter hat, and neck warmer over the balaclava. If you can, wear a thin pair of gloves under your insulated, waterproof mittens.
This is dangerously cold. Do not go outside. It is also very unlikely that you will ever encounter temperatures this cold. Just for hypothetical fun we will go over what you would need to wear for a walk at -35°C, but really, seriously, stay inside.
Base layer: Wear as many thermal base layers as you comfortably can without restricting your ability to move. Thick wool socks, two pair if possible, are recommended for your feet.
Mid layer: You will need heavily insulated mid layers, such as down-filled jackets, or thick polar fleece. Wear insulated pants over your thermal underwear.
Outer layer: You will need a high-quality arctic expedition parka, and snow pants (such as the ones used by Everest climbers). You cannot leave any skin exposed, as frostbite will set in quickly at this temperature. Wear a balaclava under your hat, and neck warmer, and a pair of goggles to protect the skin around your eyes. You will need specially designed extreme cold resistant boots and mittens. Seriously, stay inside.
Being properly dressed goes beyond just being ready for cold temperatures. Winter weather can also affect how you need to get ready to go outside. Is it snowing heavily? Consider wearing a rain shell over your winter coat to be sure you stay dry. Is it icy? Throw a pair of ICETRAX on your boots to protect yourself from nasty falls!
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