There are 3 critical factors in wearing winter clothing of which to be aware. The holiday and winter season is a time of great joy. Many people travel during this time of the year to visit relatives. For example, AAA® estimates that over 54 million people will travel by car over Thanksgiving this year. The winter months are a busy time of the year. Winter clothing is a critical consideration when traveling or outdoors. What are the four essential characteristics to remember about winter clothing?
The first notable characteristic to consider about winter clothing is that it fits properly to your body. Winter clothing that fits appropriately will function more efficiently to keep you warm. Clothing that is snug or tight around the body hinders the breathability of the fabric. Clothing that is too loose or long when worn will also lose its ability to keep you warm efficiently. Therefore, it is recommended to get measured, so you know your waist size, inseam length, neck size, and arm length before purchasing winter clothing. It is also important to try clothing on before purchasing if possible. Sizes vary among manufacturers so be careful about sizing when purchasing winter clothing online.
The concept of layering is critical to the effective functioning of winter clothing. There are three layers of winter clothing: a base layer, an insulating or middle layer, and a shell or outer layer. These categories are: silk weight, mid-weight, and shell. The U.S. Army has seven layers of winter clothing: Lightweight, Middle Weight, High Loft or Fleece, Wind Breaker, Soft Shell, Wet Weather, Extreme Cold Weather. Most layering systems do not count your shirt or pants as part of the layers. However, you should consider it as a layer. Thus, for the average outdoor enthusiast, the primary layers should be the following: Undergarments, Shirt and Trousers, Outer Garments. Your head, face, hands, and feet are covered, as necessary. Why is layering important?
Importance of Layering
The layering concept helps keep your body warm in cold environments. Layering works by creating layers of warm air around the body. The fabric of winter clothing also employs this concept. Winter clothing traps small pockets of air between the fibers. These micro-pockets of air are heated naturally by one’s own body heat. Poor personal hygiene in the field will hinder the efficiency of winter clothing. This is also one of the reasons why mountaineers freeze to death at high altitudes wearing all of that bulky winter clothing. The warming properties of their clothing diminish after days of sweating in this gear. They, then, get caught in a blizzard, and their winter clothing does not help them stay warm, thus precipitating hypothermia and frostbite in concert with fatigue and high altitude sickness. What about the layering of the head, hands, and feet?
Layering of the Head, Hands, and Feet
The covering of your head, hands, and feet is also an area to consider employing the layering concept. However, most winter gloves and shoes use Gore-Tex fabric in them to enable the warming of hands and feet. Some headwear also uses a Gore-Tex membrane to help the head keep warm. Therefore, understanding and practicing the layering concept of wearing winter clothing is an essential factor in staying warm outdoors. Footwear and gloves that use Gore-Tex linings already have the layering concept within them. However, there are glove liners of wool or acrylic that can be complimentary if necessary, to add a second layer of protection to Gore-Tex gloves. Thus, as you consider the wearing of winter clothing, layering is an important concept to remember. What about fabrics for winter clothing?
The primary concern with fabrics in winter clothing is whether or not the fabric retains moisture and keeps you warm. There are only three categories of textiles in winter clothing: natural, synthetic, and blends. All of these categories have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, natural fabrics come from wool or cotton. Synthetic fabrics like acrylic or Gore-Tex come from petroleum processing. They help retain heat and whisk moisture away from the skin and offer some durability over natural fabrics. The blended fabrics are an attempt to combine the best qualities of natural and synthetic fabrics. A common type of blended fabric is rip-stop (60/40 or 50/50 cotton to polyester ratio) material common in modern military fatigues.
Outdoor experts agree that wool winter clothing is the best if you can obtain it. An excellent example of wool clothing is the WeatherWool® All Around Jacket or the WeatherWool® Neck Gaiter. You can purchase both of these products at the Sigma 3 Survival School store. The outstanding qualities of wool clothing are many. Wool is a natural fiber that comes from sheep. It helps keep the moisture off of your skin even when it is wet. It maintains its heating qualities even when wet. Therefore, purchase wool clothing when you can.
The second best type of winter clothing to purchase are those of Gore-Tex® fabric. Gore-Tex® is a type of fabric that is a derivative of Teflon. It allows water vapor to escape away from the skin while simultaneously not allowing liquid water to come through the fabric to the skin. Thus, various combinations of Gore-Tex® fabrics are in winter clothing. Gore-Tex clothing combines some of the desired qualities of wool with the durability of Teflon. An example of quality outerwear made of Gore-Tex® is the U.S. Army’s Generation III Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) Parkas and trousers. Thus, Gore-Tex® is outerwear is the best on the market for winter clothing made of synthetic fabrics.
These three essential factors of wearing winter clothing are at the core of keeping warm this winter. A person would do well to remember and practice these basic tips for the wear of winter clothing. Whether traveling for the holidays or going on a winter backpacking trip, wearing the right clothing in layers are keys to keeping warm in cold weather conditions. Equally important to remember is that poor personal hygiene while in the outdoors will diminish the warming qualities of winter clothing. Therefore, to get the most benefit from quality winter wear, keep yourself clean as much as possible when outdoors. Quality winter wear should be part of your emergency bag or get-home bag that is in kept in your car. Thus, the proper use and care of winter clothing will save you a big disappointment in an emergency.