Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Layering Up

The weather took a turn for the miserable in my area in the past week, and proper clothing is well known to be the key to combatting bad weather.

The commonly-given advice about clothing is "dress in layers." While this is entirely true and proper, what does it mean? You could try to wear two pairs of jeans and four t-shirts, but the results would be less than satisfying.

While my example is obvious silliness, it illustrates my point: there is a method to dressing in layers, and following the method will keep you more comfortable than more haphazard methods. 

The specifics of your layers will depend on the conditions in your area. In an area with more humidity and less cold, or when you're performing physical labor, you'll want more breathable materials, with a waterproof outer layer in case of precipitation. In an area like mine, where humidity is low and temperatures can get lower, the concern lies less with breathability and more with insulation.

Base Layers
This is the foundation of all clothing, layered or not. My standard base layer is a t-shirt and a pair of denim jeans. In very cold conditions, I add thermal long underwear. I also wear heavy wool socks during the winter, as a concession to the fact that I often work outdoors.

Insulating Layers
Worn on top of the base layers, the insulating layers are a flexible area, with as little or as much clothing as needed to maintain comfort. Sweatshirts, sweaters, and other "fuzzy" clothes fill this bill nicely. I'm partial to flannel or chamois shirts because they're less bulk, and easier to peel off without losing too much insulation. In addition, chamois shirts help maintain heat even when damp. 

While one thicker layer will work well enough, 2 or 3 thinner layers in this area give the same amount of warmth, but allow for added flexibility as temperatures increase and layers need to be removed.

Outer Layer
This is the weatherproof portion of your clothing. For my top, I wear a jacket that is water-repellent, and just a bit heaver than a windbreaker. Its primary function isn't providing insulation as much as keeping rain and wind out.

For my torso and legs, I wear a pair of insulated bibs. They're water repellent, made of a tough canvas material, and the legs zip up so that they can be put on and taken off easily. If cost is a concern, and high durability is not an issue, there is a lighter-duty alternative known as a snow pant that will keep you warm on a budget.

Hands and Head
The head is an area that is often overlooked, but loses a huge amount of heat. Hands get cold easily, and cold hands are miserable at performing tasks that need doing.

Hands are simple: any insulated glove will keep you warm. Use the thinnest one that will get the job done, allowing yourself the most dexterity you can get.

On my head, I stick to the same layers. I start with a head sock, the very same one you see in my picture each week. Over that, I add a watch cap and a neoprene face mask on the really cold days. At that point, only my eyes are visible, but I'm plenty warm. 

If the temperature climbs during the day, I can pull a couple layers off to prevent overheating, and if the temperature drops, I can add layers back on.

Think and plan ahead a bit, and layer up to keep the weather out.


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