Winter is back and bringing a little snow our way. Whether you’ll be outside to shovel snow off your driveway, to take the kids sledding, to hit the slopes at Hidden Valley or even if your work takes you outside, Alpine Shop has three things you should do to keep yourself safe and warm as St. Louis braces for another winter storm.
First, Learn to Say “NO” to Cotton.
There is an old saying in the winter that “cotton kills.” That’s because cotton loses all of its insulation properties once it gets wet. So, if you’re skiing and snow melts on the jeans you chose to wear, you have no way of keeping your legs warm. Or, if you’re wearing a sweatshirt made from the “fabric of our lives” to shovel the driveway, if you start to sweat, you’ll lose your insulation once that sweat hits the sweatshirt.
Alpine Shop’s Tip: Wear either Merino wool or a synthetic undergarment instead. Merino wool is completely different from the old scratchy wool you may remember from year’s past. These garments are soft, comfortable and many times are machine washable, well. We recommend brands like Smartwool and Icebreaker. For synthetics, Patagonia’s Capilene is a long-trusted source of warmth and breathability and we also carry Under Armour. If you sweat while wearing either of these materials, that moisture will be spread out over the entire garment and will dry very quickly, reducing your chances of losing insulation
Don’t believe us? Try it out yourself. Go outside with a cotton t-shirt under your coat. Now, take a water bottle and drip enough to make a quarter sized spot on your shirt. You will immediately feel cold against your skin where the shirt is wet. And that spot won’t go away either. It may take hours for that small bit of water to dry. In contrast, redo the test with a merino wool or synthetic shirt. (If you need to be convinced, head into any Alpine Shop locations and mention this test. We’ll let you try it out yourself with a garment from our sales floor.) While the wet area may be cool initially, you’ll also notice that the quarter-sized spot begins to fade immediately. Both wool and synthetic base layers are designed to take moisture from your body and transfer it to as much surface area on the clothing as possible. That means it dries faster even while it’s holding on to it’s original insulation properties the entire time. That’s exactly what you need for warmth in the winter.
Second, Learn to Layer.
Start with the base layer we mentioned above. You want something that fits fairly closely to your body so it can pull moisture away from you to help keep you dry and warm. The second layer should be your main insulation. Depending on the winter temperatures you’ll be facing, this includes materials like wool and synthetics like your baselayer or also down in varying thicknesses. In fact, your insulation layer may actually consist of multiple layers especially if you’ll be active for time periods followed by times with little or no physical activity. The final layer should block wind and precipitation while allowing your sweat to evaporate through it. Other alternatives include garments that have zip openings under the arms and down the legs to vent heat and moisture.
There is no “one-warmth-fits-all” approach to this. The only person who can tell you how much insulation you’ll need during the winter is yourself. That’s why it’s so important to layer up. It’s just as dangerous to get too warm as it is to be too cold. If you find yourself getting too warm, simply take off one of your insulation layers. Or, if there is no wind or precipitation, simply take off the outer layer. Try not to allow yourself to sweat too much while outdoors during winter weather. That sweat can lead to hypothermia later on – when you’re not active – if you’re not careful.
Alpine Shop’s Tip: If you’re going to be away from any sort of building or warmth for a significant period of time, use a small backpack to store extra pieces of insulation. That way, you’ll never have to worry about having too little or too much with you.
Finally, Know When to Add a Little Warmth.
In extreme winter cold, or for those who just get cold easily, there are steps you can take to protect your extremities. Use hand and toe warmers when needed. Wear a balaclava for your face. Pair that with goggles and a cap and you won’t have to let any part of your body feel the cold.
Alpine Shop’s Tip: Buy Warmers by the Big Pack. It’s cheaper and you’ve got extras for the entire family!