Saturday, September 1, 2018

No Such Thing as Bad Weather

Us outdoor enthusiasts like to say 'there’s no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothing'.  

But what, exactly, constitutes good clothing for enjoying outdoor activities in winter?  My answer to that question is a little different from what I’ve seen/heard, so this blog entry is going to share my personal strategy for getting out in winter and LIKING it. 

Most of us already know that cotton is the “death fabric” in winter and we should avoid it at all costs.  But there are some surprising other fabrics that I’ve learned to avoid in winter as well, for example, polar fleece, and any “wonder” fabrics touted as being great “wicking” fabrics for avoiding having moisture held against your skin.  With both fleece and "wicking" fabrics, I have a problem with getting (and staying) chilled after I've finished an activity.  

Now that I’ve taken away fleece and all of those fancy “wicking” fabrics, what am I left with?!  WOOL!  See my 2012 blog, A Little Wool-vangelism.  Wool is practically the only fabric I wear in winter.  I stay warm during the activity.  More crucially, I do not get chilled to the bone AFTER the activity.  It takes a lot of time, and a lot of sweat for it to start stinking, which is why it’s also my fabric of choice for summer cycle touring – you’ll never see me in a fancy cycle jersey, as awesome as those are. 

I am one of those people who gets cold easily, stays cold, and HATES being cold, yet I love my outdoor winter activities.  Here’s my list of winter must-haves (and must-dos) for enjoying myself:

ItemNotesWhere to Get
Bra For winter activities, I skip wearing a bra altogether. I haven’t yet found one that does not contribute to my getting chilled, and since I’m “appropriately endowed” to go without, I do.
A buff is a great, versatile piece of gear. You can wear it on your head, around your neck, around your face, and even under your cycle helmet. In fact, I wear a buff under my helmet every single time I ride because it keeps me warm when I need warm, and protects me from sunburn on my forehead and neck when it’s sunny out. You can get merino buffs (yay for wool), and the “polar fleece” buffs are my exception to my “no polar fleece” rule because they’re great scarf substitutes and you can take them off before they contribute to getting chilled when you’re finished your activity.
I like PlanetBuff (now PlanetGear) for getting buffs but you can now get them at pretty much any outdoor store. Be mindful of the fabric you’re buying, though… there are a lot of knock-offs out there that won’t give you what you need.
Gloves Sometimes, during your activity (e.g., having lunch) you have to take your gloves off. Any time I take my gloves off, I stick them under my jacket into my arm pits. That keeps them nice and warm so when I put them back on, they give my hands a nice boost of warmth instead of keeping them sufferingly cold.
Merino Shirts
I own short-sleeved merinos, long-sleeved merinos, and turtle-necked marinos, and I layer them according to the weather. Merino wool is non-scratchy so you can wear it right against your skin, and as I’ve said (multiple times) before, they don’t pick up the stink that other fabrics do. Wool is the only fabric that I’ve discovered that I can wear in which I do NOT get overly chilled after I’m done my activity.
You can buy merino shirts at the outdoor stores, but they’re often over $100 for one shirt. Look for a source for them that is not quite so dear. I used to buy Segments brand merino shirts at Costco. You can still get some merino at Costco. You can also, apparently, buy Segments brand on Amazon.
Merino Longies If merino is good enough to wear against my torso, it’s certainly good enough to wear against my legs, and I do. All the same advantages. Ditto for the shirts above. I believe merino longies are still available at Costco.
Wool Sweaters I own a variety of wool sweaters – pull-overs, and cardigans. Since regular wool is NOT non-scratchy, I never wear it right against my skin – only merino for that. But you can add as many wool layers as you like/need over top of your merino to keep you warm. Don’t wear a heavy coat – one or two good wool sweaters under a shell jacket is perfect. My favorite wool sweaters came from thrift stores. You can get great deals on the wool layers you need. I also love my alpaca wool sweater that I ordered from South America, and my pretty Irish wool sweater that I bought… in Ireland.
Magical Pants by Lole For a lot of winter activities, especially cross-country skiing
and cycling, your thighs are a“leading edge” for cold air. If you have a problem with the fronts of your legs getting cold, I highly recommend “Magical Pants” by Lole, which have insulated panels down the front. If you buy the kind with bright colored panels, note that they wear very large (order at least one size smaller than usual), and if you buy the kind with the olive green-ish panels, note that they wear very small (order your usual size, or one size larger than usual).
Lole web site, Lole store, or e-Bay.
Bicycle Pogies
Pogies are covers that you attach to your bicycle handlebars that you can put your hands inside. When cycling in colder weather, your hands are another “leading edge” that can get extremely cold, and the right set of pogies will completely solve that problem.
Your favorite bike store.
Bicycle Overshoes Overshoes slip on over your cycle shoes (leaving a hole at the
bottom for your clips) to prevent your feet (another “leading edge”) from getting too cold. They work, and they’re really really worth it.
Your favorite bike store.