Winter is coming and for a lot of us these days that will mean any activity will need to be an outdoor activity. Maybe the activity is skiing, but maybe it is urban outdoor dining; whatever it is, with the correct outfit it can be fine.
As someone who grew up in the snow belt near Buffalo, NY, I know a thing or two about cold-weather clothing. The first thing is to think about how much heat your body will be throwing off. If you are cross country skiing, you will be a furnace of cardiovascular heat. But if you are sitting outdoors having a coffee, you will need a lot more insulation.
First off are the feet. You need warm, dry feet. If you are walking in NYC in February, something like a Gore-Tex ankle-high hiking boot should be fine. They are the Jeeps of footwear, go-anywhere confidence. Something like a classic Vasque is always nice. If you combine that with a wool sock from Smart Wool, or a lightweight cashmere sock with a bulky merino wool sock, you will be in good shape. But if you will be on snow, or sitting still for long periods of time out in the cold, you will want something more along the lines of a pack boot. There are a number of these — Sorel is the favorite of many people. For indoor toasty feet, a pair of Uggs with sheepskin works miracles. Pro tip: don’t wear socks with the Uggs, and your feet will be even warmer.
Next up is your jacket. A giant puffy down one will keep you very warm, but it will be much too warm if you are doing something like skiing. My favorite down company is Feathered Friends — ethically sourced down, family-owned, made in Seattle. They make some expedition gear that is suited for the Arctic in winter if you are into that sort of thing. When looking for a down parka, get one with an insulated hood. Also consider the length. Eddie Bauer has some nice longer ones. If you will be sitting or just strolling in the cold, you will be better with something thigh-length or longer. It will cover your bottom when you sit. But if you are hiking, you will want the mobility of a waist-length parka.
For most athletic activities, like skiing, you will want a layered outfit. The outer shell should be waterproof with pit zips; wear a fleece jacket under it, and one or two thin base layers. I have had this hard shell one from Acrteryx for 12 years and it has held up great. The hood is big enough to go over a helmet, which is good for skiing and boarding. My Patagonia windproof fleece is my go-to underneath the shell. I prefer merino for a base layer, but some people prefer Capilene from Patagonia. If you have one with a zipper neck, you will be able to modulate your temperature and keep from over heating. I have an Icebreaker top with an over-the-hand covering that works well. Keep your wrists warm to keep your fingers warm.
Next up are the hands. Get the best, warmest gloves or mittens you can afford. I find that as I am a bit older, it is harder for me to keep my hands warm. I have these from Dakine– nice grid pattern, pocket for your pass, and a leash to keep them from leaving the chair lift for the groud. For more urban wear, go for a Thinsulate insulated glove like these. For super cold days, one solution I use is to wear a very thin pair of glove liners inside an insulated glove or, if it is really cold, a mitten. They make them so that you can use your touch screen while wearing the liners, which is really helpful. Then if you need to take off your gloves, your hand will not be exposed to the full force of the cold. Hestra makes the best mittens.
6.Long Johns and Pants
A nice pair of merino long johns is key. Smartwool makes a a good pair. If you are going to be sitting, or if the air is really chilly, I recommend an insulated pant with side zips. Soft shell pants with some give to them are good for cross country skiing, although I wear my regular Patagonia hard shell pants, too.
I rather like the Scandinavian saying that there is no bad weather, only poor clothing selections. We are all going to be outside this winter, so let’s do it warmly.