How to Stay Warm in Cold Weather
Brrr! When the winter temperatures dip low, living and working in a sub zero climate can really take its toll. By employing a few tricks, however, you can stay warm despite the cold weather.
1. Wear an under-layer. This is an easy way to stay warmer without having to do much. An under-layer is a layer of clothing which goes under your normal clothing. This under-layer can take many forms, but each can help you stay warm without adding a lot of bulk or extra steps. Common under-layer items include stockings, leggings, thermal shirts, and long underwear. It's important to keep in mind that having this under-layer can become uncomfortable if you are in a warm room if you have outer layers on. For example, if you bundle up to drive to work in a warm office, you may find the additional base layer too much. After fishing, you may have to strip down to your thermals when sitting in front of the fireplace in your alpine cabin. If opaque, this is generally considered appropriate apres-fishing wear.
2. Wear a waterproof outer layer. When you know there will be chances to get wet, it's important to have a waterproof layer to stay warm. If the water penetrates through your clothing, your clothing will only make you colder. Examples of watery conditions you might encounter include rain, snow, and spray (such as if you will be out on a boat or if there are lots of puddles on the ground). You can throw a rain jacket on under a warm but less waterproof coat, for example. When you buy coats, look for materials that are very waterproof and warm, such as neoprene.
3. Wear a heat-retaining layer. Aside from just keeping dry, you want to look for clothing made out of materials that are very insulating. You've probably heard about fleece but this fabric is not for everyone. Find out what other options are available to you and then go on a shopping trip. Wear wool, if you can. This is one of the best insulating materials, even though it can be expensive. You can also use wool clothes, instead of just wool coats, to cut down on how much you need to wear total. Many inexpensive wool items can be found at vintage stores. Other warm materials include down, lined leather, fur, and neoprene. Wool will continue to keep you warm, even if wet. This is not true of most materials such as leather or quilted cotton.
4. Protect your extremities. It's not completely true that you lose X percentage of heat from your head or your feet or whatever. However, it is true that leaving thes'e areas uncovered can make it tough for you to stay warm. When you're outside, try to keep your head, hands, and feet covered with a scarf, hat, gloves, and thick fuzzy socks and boots. You may also wear two layers of socks or leggings/thermals under your waders. It is very important for all of these items to be waterproof, since these are the areas where you are most likely to notice wetness and added cold. A trick a fishing guide taught me is to carry two pair of rag wool gloves, and put a heat pack in your jacket pocket. That way, if/when the pair you have on gets wet and your hands get cold, you can wring out the wet pair, stick it in your pocket with the heat pack and put the dry pair on. If you are out in the rain, or your hands are continually getting wet netting fish, you can keep swapping the dry and wet gloves for as long as you need to.
5. Protect yourself from the elements. When you're forced to go outside, stay as far away as you can from things like rain, snow, puddles, ice, and wind. These things getting too close is what makes you feel cold; your clothing and body can usually handle the air temperature okay. Move quickly between buildings, use a car when you can, and when you must be outside, try to walk under a shelter. This is just common sense, and most of the time, when we're fishing, we can't stay away from the elements, but seeking cover under trees, boat canopies, tarps, or the like can make the time spent out in the weather a bit more tolerable.
6. Bring warming materials. You can carry around little heat sources with you, if you find yourself struggling to stay warm. Small items, like reusable hand warmers, can be put in a pocket to get the job done when gloves just aren't enough. Other items, like travel mugs full of soup, can be used to warm you from the inside out. You can even make your own hand warmers if you can't find anywhere to buy them for a good price. There are many websites with instructions and all are easy to make with the right ingredients.
7. Wear clothing that is the right size. We know you want to look hot, (and boy, do us fly fishermen look hot in our wading jacket, waders and boots!) but theres a reason why Eskimos wear those big coats and loose pants. When your clothing fits tightly, it can't keep you warm or comfortable. Instead, if you want to stay warm, make sure the clothes that you're wearing fit loosely. This creates a protective layer of warm air between your skin and the environment on the other side of that fabric.
8. Move around to create heat. If your clothes themselves can't keep you warm, let your body create heat. Moving around will burn energy in your body, which gets expressed as heat. Try exercising or at least try not to stand still. Try to catch more fish!