I feel like the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. The difference is the mantra. His was affirming his belief in spooks, mine is fighting my dread of winter: “I do believe winter can be fun. I do believe winter can be fun. I do, I do, I do!” Because truth be told, I don’t think it’s a whole lot of fun. This is because I’d prefer being in a tank dress over a down coat any day of the week. But, my current reality is that I live where it’s cold half of the year. And I am a fun girl. So I’ve got to find a way to make it work.
I was told by a friend it’s all about the clothes. To enjoy being outside, you need to be wearing the right gear in order to be warm and still able to move (were you ever or do you have the overstuffed snowsuit kid?) There’s a method to layering clothes for warmth. Following these tips from Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills by Abigail R. Gehring (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2008) should keep you and your kids both warm and comfortable.
1. Before thinking about the clothes, realize that food supplies heat to the body; the clothes provide protection so that it isn’t wasted. Make sure you eat a good meal before spending an extended amount of time outdoors in winter.
2. Several light, comfortably fitted layers are preferable to a single heavy layer. Generally an outer, mid, and under layer suffice.
3. Underlayer. Two-ply long johns and undershirts, (cotton on the inside for comfort, wool on the outside for warmth, are warmer than thermal-knit underwear. Two pairs of socks–a thin pair of cotton socks beneath a heavier wool pair–are warmer and more comfortable than a single thick pair.
4. Midlayer. For warmth and ventilation, wear a tightly woven wool shirt that opens down the front and a quilted jacket over it that also opens in the front. Pants should be of tightly woven wool, cuffless, with plenty of room in the seat and legs, and flaps over the pockets to help keep snow out. For added ventilation use suspenders rather than a belt. A woolen stocking hat or mask-like hat will greatly reduce loss of heat from the head.
5. Outer layer. The main job of the outermost layer is to protect against wind, rain and snow. A parka that covers the hips and has a hood with a full-length zipper is best. If you’re planning on going above the timberline or along windswept ridges, you’ll need a windproof face mask. Down pants, mittens and booties are fine around camp, but are too warm for the trail. Two-piece mittens–a wool liner and a nylon outer shell with a leather palm–are better than gloves.
6. A good pair of boots are essential. Double boots–a felt inner liner and high-top outer boot–are warm and comfortable, but very expensive. A rugged mountaineering boot has many of the benefits of the double boot at a lower cost. Foam-insulated rubber boots will keep your feet warm, but will also make them perspire.
7. While down provides maximum warmth at minimum weight, wool has the important advantage of retaining its warmth even when wet.