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How to Choose the Right Clothes for Snowy Weather

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Snowy weather can be fun and beautiful, but it can also pose some challenges for staying warm and comfortable. Especially for people like me who don't really care how cold it is out there, because I am going to sweat anyway! If you sweat and stay cold the entire day after commuting to work, or even if you are sitting at your desk and you always have your feet cold, then this post is for you.



Whether you are going skiing, snowshoeing, or just walking around town, you need to dress appropriately for the cold, ice, snow and/or windy conditions. In this blog post, I will share some tips and recommendations for choosing the right winter clothing. This information has been compiled over years by reading, trying and comparing different technologies to either hike in the mountains of Chile or by dealing with the cold winter in Boston.

The most important concept that I learnt in this process is the breathability of clothes. This is an essential trait to stay comfortable not just in winter, but also during summer. But let's do this step by step.


Vibram Undersole Technology for Shoes


One of the most important things to consider when dressing for the snow, rain and ice is your footwear. You want shoes that are sturdy, comfortable, and slip-resistant. That’s why I recommend shoes that feature Vibram undersole technology, which is a highly durable compound that provides excellent grip and traction on various surfaces, including ice and snow. You can find this kind of undersole in different shoes such as hiking boots, trail running shoes, and casual sneakers.


Gore Tex Membrane in Jackets and Shoes


An essential factor for winter clothing is water resistance and breathability at the same time. You don’t want to get wet and cold from snow or rain, which can lower your body temperature and increase the risk of hypothermia. That’s why I suggest jackets and shoes that incorporate Gore Tex membrane, which is a waterproof yet microporous fabric that blocks liquid water while allowing water vapor to pass through (breathable membrane). I got my shoes around 7 years ago, so it’s not easy to get that model anymore. A similar but newer version can be found here. If hiking boots are not your style, then you may try these. Even when they do not have the Gore Tex nor Vibram undersole, they do have similar technologies. The grip is great on ice, they are insulated to keep your feet warm and they are waterproof. I have worn them the last two winters and they are great! Very comfortable too.



In addition, when it comes to picking a jacket, my choice was one with Gore Tex membranes (or similar waterproof technology), but also windproof. Worst part of winter either in Boston or in the mountains is the wind, so this trait is a must for your jacket.


Quick-Dry and Breathable Clothes


While water resistance is important, it is not enough to keep you comfortable in the snow, especially if you practice winter sports or just sweat a lot like me. You also need clothes that can dry quickly and breathe well. Quick-dry and breathable clothes are clothes that have the following properties:


  • They can move moisture away from your skin and evaporate it quickly, keeping you dry and comfortable.

  • They can let air and moisture escape from your skin, preventing overheating and sweating.

  • They can regulate your body temperature, keeping you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot.


There are several alternatives in the market such as polyester, nylon, and rayon. These fabrics are synthetic and have a smooth and lightweight texture. My choice is merino wool. It is a natural and renewable fiber that regulates temperature and moisture but also it is very soft, not itchy as regular wool, it is biodegradable and absorbs odors generated by bacteria during longer outdoor activities. These are my choices for base layer and socks.


My life changed after I started using merino wool socks and Gore Tex hiking boots. No more cold feet anymore!


Windproof Gloves and Jacket


Besides water resistance and breathability, you also need wind resistance to stay warm and cozy in the snow. Wind can make you feel colder than the actual temperature, as it removes the layer of warm air around your body. Wind can also penetrate through your clothing and reduce its insulation value. That’s why I advise you to wear windproof gloves and a jacket, which can block the wind and keep your body warm. This technology consists of synthetic fabrics that have a tight weave or a special coating that prevents wind from passing through. WINDSTOPPER® is a fabric that combines the Gore Tex membrane with other fabrics to create a totally windproof, reliably breathable, and water-resistant material. WINDSTOPPER® products are available in various styles and fits, such as hoodies, pullovers, and zip-up jackets.


My personal experience with gloves was a disaster! For years I tried different technologies and brands. Until I found a warm glove with WINDSTOPPER® fabrics. Mine are not in the market anymore, but this one is similar (same brand and design).


Goose (or synthetic) Down Jacket


When it comes to winter clothing, nothing beats the warmth and coziness of a goose down jacket. Goose down is the soft and fluffy layer of feathers that geese have under their outer feathers. Goose down is an excellent insulator, as it traps air and creates a layer of warmth around your body. Goose down is also very lightweight and compressible, which makes it easy to pack and carry. However, not all goose down jackets are created equal. You need to pay attention to two factors: fill power and fill weight. Fill power is a measure of how much space one ounce of down can occupy. It is expressed in cubic inches, and it ranges from 300 to 900. The higher the fill power, the more loft and warmth the down has. Fill weight is the amount of down used in the jacket. It is expressed in ounces, and it varies depending on the size and style of the jacket. The higher the fill weight, the more down and warmth the jacket has. For a goose down jacket that can keep you warm and comfortable in the snow, I recommend a fill power of 700 or higher, and a fill weight of at least 10 ounces.


My choice was an Arcteryx jacket. I’ve had this one for ten years now and I love it! A very important detail though is that these jackets were originally designed to be used just to keep people warm. For this reason, again -most of them- are not waterproof or windproof.


Of course you dress in layers or get a jacket with all these traits, but those are insanely expensive. If you don’t like goose down jackets, Academic Mom has a recommendation for you, a jacket but with synthetic insulation.


Synthetic or Regular Wool Beanie?



A wool beanie is a simple and versatile accessory that can cover your ears and head, which are two of the most exposed and sensitive parts of your body (actually the head is where most of the body heat is lost!). Wool is a natural and warm material that can wick away moisture and resist odor. A regular wool beanie has a snug and stretchy fit, which can adapt to your head size and shape. However, some of these may get itchy when you sweat.

I’ve tried many different technologies or fabrics such as fleece, ceramic fibers and others. For me, the most important trait in a beanie is breathability. That is the reason why my favorite during the last few years is this one.


Takeaway


Dressing for the snow, outdoor activities or just for your daily commute to work can be challenging, but also fun. By following my tips and recommendations, you can choose the right winter clothing that will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable during winter.

As you may notice I have been doing a comprehensive study of winter clothes for more than 10 years now. My final advice would be “do your homework”. There’s plenty of alternatives and technologies in the market and always choose clothing for your needs. This guide shows just recommendations based on my needs. For example, if you really suffer from cold temperatures (below -5 C or 23 F), then you may consider a goose jacket with higher fill power (850 instead of 700). Do you live in a windy area? Same idea.


You may have also noticed, I didn’t mention anything about pants. Well, that’s because I don’t really need anything other than regular cotton/polyester jeans like pants for my everyday activities (I don’t even wear a base layer for my legs during the cold winter in Boston or outdoor activities), but that’s me.


Cheers!

Academic Dad


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