As the weather breaks and I put the finishing touches on hand knit sweater, I thought I’d share some of my tested and true tips for keeping warm while working in winter weather. I am having a difficult time writing about the cold while it is a relatively, balmy 40 Degrees Fahrenheit outdoors. After weeks of bitter cold, Spring has made an early appearance in our area. Perhaps the Groundhog saw this coming, but I find the sudden weather reversal disconcerting. The snow melted away quickly, revealing hints of green grass. Flocks of red-winged blackbirds and robins have seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
But because February is still technically Winter and it is snowing somewhere, I will share my list.
Perhaps my love of wool is the result of my upbringing. My grandmother proudly dressed as ‘Eunice the Ewe,’ a Wyoming Wool Growers mascot for many parades in my formative years (Someday I’ll track down photographic evidence). Honestly the power of wool is much deeper and far more practical than my childhood affiliations. A brilliant natural fiber, wool is lofty, warm, moisture wicking, and increasingly fashionable. It is the perfect choice for winter layering. Which brings me to my second point. . .
2. Layers, layers, layers.
I can’t emphasize the importance of layers enough. The first layer is the most important. Wool, silk, or synthetic performance fabric long underwear are your best options. The next layer depends upon the the temperature and weather conditions. Moderate cold (we’re talking 32 degrees to about 10 above if one is acclimated) regular jeans, pants, etc. are perfectly acceptable. When the temperature dips below ten degrees or the wind chill adds an extra level of cold, fleece or flannel lined pants are a must.
Keeping your core or upper body warm is an easy way to fool the rest of you into enjoying the outdoors on a winter day. I start with long sleeved wool t-shirt, top it off with a button down shirt of silk or wool, add a sweater, and a vest. Silk and wool wick, or pull moisture away from your body, while insulating and a vest cuts the wind chill. Now I’m going to let you in on a geeky little secret. It isn’t going to win you or I any fashion points, but I promise it will help you stay warm. Before I put on my outer layers, I make sure my shirts are tucked firmly into my long underwear bottoms. Why? Have you ever had that feeling, that cold breeze up the back of your coat? Uncomfortable isn’t it? Particularly if you’re horseback, actively opening and closing gates or swinging a rope. I deal with it, by securing my shirttails in my underclothes. Trust me, it works.
3. Wild Rags.
Scarves, screamin’ rags, or neckerchiefs. Whatever you chose to call them, donning a big colorful silk scarf will win back a few of the fashion points you lost the moment you tucked your shirt into your underpants. In addition to being stylish, they are warm.
I get by with a pair of chinks, shorter and looser than shotgun chaps, year round. If I, spent everyday outdoors rather than being a fair-weather cowgirl, I would have shotguns. If I lived in winter bound country, I’d have a pair of woolies. Point being, a pair of leather chaps provide substantial wind-proofing and I highly recommend them.
5. Shedding layers.
Now that your bundled up, I come to the most important point. Don’t be afraid to shed layers, in fact you must shed layers. If you’re indoors, in a vehicle, or just overly warm start stripping down. Leaving your warm clothing on while riding in the pick-up, will soon find you over-heated and sweaty. Once you are horseback outdoors, being sweaty quickly translates to being chilly.
I’ve exhausted my knowledge. Notice I never mentioned appropriate footwear, for one very good reason, I haven’t found it yet. If I knew how to keep my feet warm, I would gladly share it with you all. Unfortunately, I’ve not discovered the perfect combination of sock and winter shoes for toasty toes. Have you? May this find those still in the throes of winter well and warm, best wishes to you all.