Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Warm Clothing & Fabrics

Tonight I spent an hour walking in the frigid 23 degree weather. It doesn't sound very cold, but it felt more like 10 below zero because I wasn't prepared at all! I wore a t-shirt and light-weight sweats, regular socks with tennis shoes, my good winter coat with a fleece liner, a pair of wool gloves and a fleece ear warmer. My mid-section was nice and toasty, which tells me that my coat is great. My hands were warm for most of the time, but when they started to get cold, I put them in my coat pockets and they were fine. My ears were cold. My feet were warm, but if they had gotten wet at all, I would have been done for. My face, neck and legs were so cold, they were stinging. When I got home, my face and especially my legs, were bright red and swollen, and turning white. What I realized tonight was that if I had had to spend any longer outside than I already did, I would have ended up with some frostbite. The next time I decide to go walking in freezing temperatures, I plan to be prepared!

Wearing the appropriate layers in the right fabrics can make the difference between comfort and discomfort, and in extreme cases, life and death. The following information can help you learn how to be better prepared to spend time in the cold.

layering infographic
What you’re wearing can make all the difference when it comes to staying warm. The greatest amount of heat can be lost from the head, so cover up with a hat, wrap a scarf around your neck or head, and wear lots of layers.

When layering, it’s best to start with just a few layers and add more when you need them. It’s a good idea to have a base layer to wick moisture away, a mid layer to trap heat in and a waterproof outer layer for protection against the elements. In addition to tips like choosing wool over synthetic fabrics, it would be a good idea to wear an outer layer with zippers and vents to let in air, in case you get too hot and perspiration gets trapped inside your jacket. Gloves and a thick pair of calf or knee-length socks, especially wool socks, are a must. Bathrobes, blankets and snuggies are a great additional layer to help keep you warm when the power is out.

wool blanketWool is great because it insulates when wet, unlike cotton, which only insulates when dry. Cotton is hydrophilic, meaning it’s not good at wicking wetness away from the skin and can become damp by being exposed to humidity. Never use cotton as a base layer in cold weather situations. Once cotton is wet, it can lose up to 90 percent of its insulating properties and will wick away heat from your body 25 times faster than when it’s dry. When cotton gets wet, water fills up the tiny air pockets that otherwise would provide insulation. Water doesn’t cling as well to wool as it does to cotton, wool can get wet without its tiny air pockets being filled up with water, so it still reduces heat loss by convection.

Synthetic fiber insulation like Thinsulate and PrimaLoft works like natural fiber insulation. According to Joel H. Benington, Ph.D., “the best insulation will pack as many tiny air pockets as possible into the smallest possible space with the least weight of material. There should be enough fiber between the air pockets to minimize convection, and yet enough space between those fibers to let moisture pass through the fabric to wick away from the body. Ideally, the fibers will also be made out of molecules that water does not readily cling to, so the air pockets don’t fill up with water when the fabric gets wet.”

To learn about more ways to keep warm in cold weather, go to

No comments:

Post a Comment