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September 20

How to Dress for Winter Activity

We now have a wonderful array of clothing choices available to us to allow us to train with comfort in the winter months and keep warm without losing movement and without having a major melt down! However, knowing how to put what layer where, how many layers and what materials can be a minefield but lets see if we can help demystify dressing for sport and activities in the winter months:

Clothing yourself for training in the winter months can be simplified by the following rule:

  • Base layer
  • Mid layer
  • Outer layer

Always look at the weather report where you go and choose your clothes according to the coldest time of the day and pick your clothes to suit your activity.

Cold is enhanced by wind, wet garments, sweating, external moisture, touching cold surfaces, lack of movement or too little activity, not enough layers and not having the right layers.

Clothing LayerDescriptionGood materials to wearDo not/ Do
Base layerKeeps the skin dry and warm.Polyester, polypropylene, wool, silk.Do not wear cotton in cold conditions as it has a cooling effect when wet. Look for garments with wicking properties and breathable.
Mid layerAdjusts the thermal insulation of clothing depending on the weather or activities.Wool, fleece, and synthetic fur.No more than 1-3 mid layers of clothing. Wear more layers rather than risk too few. You can take them off if not needed.
Outermost layer(Coat/Jacket)Protects against cold, wind, and moisture.Technical fabrics such as soft shell, padded insulated polyesterShould be loose fitting so that the layers underneath are not pressed and there is enough air inside the clothing. Should not be over bulky if you need to move a lot.

Your base layer should be quick drying and moisture wicking to keep skin dry

The Extremities

The face, fingers and toes usually get cold first. If hands and fingers are wet, they get cold more easily. Depending on the temperature of the skin this can feel neutral, cool or cold. Everybody feels cold differently.

Head protection is important in cold weather. The head should be protected against cold, wind and moisture. Make sure to protect the ears and face because they get cold most easily. You can adjust your clothing by using a scarf, hood, face guard, earmuffs or a headband.

Hand protection consists of different layers. Wear thin gloves underneath and thicker ones on top, so that you never need to have bare hands. Mittens give more protection than gloves but lack functionality if you need to use your hands. Remember to take an extra pair of gloves with you so that you can change them if they get wet.

Feet protection, wear socks made of synthetic materials underneath, and woollen socks that have good thermal insulation on top.

NB: Cotton is not a suitable material in cold weather because of its cooling effect when it is wet.

Winter shoes should be one size larger than summer shoes. They should have a thick outsole to protect against heat transfer from the feet to the ground and a high leg to protect the ankles. Insulation can be increased by using insoles made of felt or other insulating material.

Some really good clothing brands to take a look at:

In the 1970s, synthetics such as polyester took over. While artificial fibres are lightweight, easy care and usually non-itch, they’re also clammy, stinky, poorly insulating and highly flammable – and they’re all petroleum-based. You could choose cotton instead, but you’ll freeze to death when you get wet in the cold. Have a look at these brilliant brands:

Sealskinz, Over thirty years’ experience in developing and manufacturing endurance accessories. Sealskinz have worked in partnership with some of the world’s greatest athletes including mountaineers, explorers, cyclists, skiers, runners, sailors, horse riders & all forms of mad ultra-event teams and individuals, to ensure their products deliver the very best in comfort and performance, to enable you to defy the great outdoors.

Ice breaker, use of merino wool in the wilderness since 1994, and now nature and technology create merino layers for the outdoors, for performance sports, and for the city. Icebreaker merino wool is grown in the Southern Alps, a rugged mountain range that stretches like a spine down New Zealand’s South Island.

Thin, natural fibres make it warm in cold weather, cool in warm weather, light, breathable, easy care, no stink and no itch. Renewable and biodegradable, because it’s made from grass, water and sunshine, rather than petrochemicals.

North face, originated after a hiking trip on the Eagle Mountain in Minnesota. The north face of a mountain in the northern hemisphere is generally the coldest, iciest and most formidable route to climb.

Jack Wolfskin, is a major German producer of outdoor wear and equipment headquartered in Idstein. It was founded in 1981 and is now owned by the American company The Blackstone Group.

In some cases, a more expensive brand can be well worth the investment when items can be washed and worn and retain their shape and performance.  However, many cheaper brands such as Regatta and Quecha to name two, offer some great technical clothing without the expensive price tag.

Do your research to find out which brands perform well in your sport to make an informed choice.

Enjoy the winter and don’t complain about the cold!