The Ultimate Guide To Layering Your Winter Clothing

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The Ultimate Guide To Layering Your Winter Clothing

Nothing's worse in winter than going outside to find that the temperature has taken a dive, or a storm's blowing in and you're not prepared. The cold cuts to the bone, and you're absolutely miserable until you can get to a warm spot again. Dressing in layers can help you avoid those chilling moments that make your spirits sink. Layering traps air that will keep the cold out and your body heat in. It also offers the advantage of allowing you take off a layer if you get too warm as you walk or if the sun comes out.

The Bottom Layer

Choose Your Fabrics Carefully: Your bottom layer lies next to your skin. It's good to have a fiber that will help move the perspiration away from it. If moisture is trapped next to your skin, you can get chilled. Lightweight wool, silk and certain synthetic fabrics that are designed to “wick” away moisture are good choices.

The synthetics used are primarily polyester and polyester blends. Some underwear blends use high percentages of nylon to increase abrasion resistance or add small amounts of spandex or elastin to enhance stretch. Polyester, however, is the main synthetic fiber used in wicking bottom layers. Some examples of companies that sell these synthetics are Patagonia (Capilene), CoolMax, ExOfficio, Hot Chillys, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, REI (Polartec Power Dry), The North Face and Under Armour.

Outdoor enthusiasts recommend not wearing cotton next to the skin. It retains moisture and can leave you vulnerable to chills.

Wear Extra Underlayers: While long underwear may remind you of what your grandfather wore, the versions available today are lightweight and easy to care for. Investing in a pair or two is a good choice if you live where it’s cold most of the time in the winter. Long underwear will fit nicely under your clothes. You can wear a top under a blouse or sweater at work and add the bottoms when you take a walk.  

Tights, leggings and leg warmers also can add warmth. Wear tights under pants for especially cold days. Leggings add warmth under a wool skirt. Leg warmers will stop the biting cold when you're wearing either skirts or pants. Keep a pair or two of tights, leggings or leg warmers at work to slip on if it starts blowing or snowing before you leave for home.

The Middle And Top Layer

Add Insulating Layers: The layering method recommended by REI and other outdoor clothing specialists is to have a middle layer of insulation, such as polyester fleece, wool or goose down. The insulating layer helps retain heat by trapping air close to your body.

The outer layer recommended to cover the bottom and insulating layer is a shell layer. It protects you from wind, rain and snow. Most are water repellant and keep body heat in, while allowing water vapor to escape.

Invest In A Good-Quality Winter Coat: Winter coats are available that provide both the insulating layer and the protective outer shell. This is probably a more practical choice for most consumers who don’t want to worry about having the right layers. Select a long wool coat that will last for many seasons. With a suit or blazer underneath or a sweater teamed with a blouse and under layer, you’ll be ready for many of winter’s blustery conditions.

Hats, Scarves And Gloves

  • Protect Your Hands: Leather gloves or those made with Thinsulate, a thinner polyester used for insulation, may meet your needs. You can also check out the layered gloves that hikers and skiers use, which have a top layer to resist moisture.
  • Protect Your Head: Hats come in many colors and styles. Select one with a color that complements your coat. Wool is a good fiber to add warmth.
  • Protect Your Neck: Scarves are available in a variety of fabrics, colors and styles and often can be purchased for a reasonable price. A scarf allows you to keep your body heat in your jacket. Select a color that will match your hat or accent your coat.


Look For Waterproof Functionality: If you live where it snows a lot or where it is often slushy, the winter weather will ruin leather boots before the season is over. Select a waterproof pair of boots to wear when you’re outside and save your stylish leather boots for inside.

Staying warm during the winter takes some thought and preparation. With information about the fibers that are available and the new ways they're being used, you’ll be better able to keep yourself warm this winter.

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