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How to Survive the Whizzing Cold and Live to Tell the Tale


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Lately it’s been cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. And while the folks who work at an office may not feel the real frost, tradesmen get to know all about it.

  Extreme weather conditions in the US and Europe have made a point: winter gear is essential.Johan Lange / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

That calls for some quality winter gear, especially if you have to get out there for longer periods of time. Extreme weather also creates extreme situations such as emergencies, and that’s when it’s on for you. In order not to end up like that brass monkey, you need to know how to properly dress in such weather. The science behind it is rather straightforward.

Layering and Insulation

portland general / Foter / CC BY-ND

Layers are the single most important thing when dressing up for the job. A well-balanced work uniform will provide you with mobility and will retain your body’s temperature. Insulation is also important because a major part of your heat is lost when it radiates out due to not being closed off. The key is what you put on and when you put it on.

1. Wicking layer

Your base layer is the wicking layer. Its purpose is to absorb all that manly sweat you’ll be producing. If your gear doesn’t absorb your sweat and it stays on your skin, you’ll end up freezing from the inside out.

Therefore, your base layer needs to be long, thermal type underwear made out of synthetic or polyester fibers that draw sweat away from your skin. It should wrap tightly around the body but not too tightly so as to obstruct circulation. A long sleeve shirt and a pair of winter leggings can help you here.

2. Insulating Layer

Next comes your insulating layer. Its function is to trap and retain heat. Heat is trapped in-between clothes, so it’s best to have a number of layers. Even the warmest sweater is not as good as a number of lighter layers of clothes. The more layers, the more air is trapped, the more temperature is retained.

An Arctic Quilt Lined Extremes Coverall is highly effective in retaining your body temperature.

Fleece and wool are ideal materials for the insulating layer. They, too, absorb moisture and spread it out evenly so that it evaporates faster. Wool, even when wet, can still retain a lot of warmth. A possible insulating layer, for example, could include a cotton shirt, a fleece jacket and a fleece lined nylon jacket on top.

The latter is water resistant and will serve as an intermediary layer between the insulating and the outer, protective layer. Finally, put on an overall or shoreline pants to cover your legs.

3. Protective Layer

The outer protective layer is like a shell. It’s not supposed to keep you warm on the inside so much, as to keep you covered on the outside. Protective clothes usually consist of one layer which is breathable, so as to let moisture evaporate but shield you from the wind and water that assault you. A parka is a great choice here.

Additional Gear

A hat or facemask is a must if you work in extreme weather conditions. We tend to lose about 10% of our total body temperature when our head is exposed and not insulated well at the neck.

Gloves and socks, it goes without saying, are essential too. Frostbite is not something you want to be getting, so don’t be reckless. Never put on cotton socks in cold and wet weather. Liner socks are one option and you can have layers here as well, though don’t overdo it so as not to stop your blood flow.

  Don’t underestimate the importance of additional gear such as hats and scarves. Your ears will thank you for that.Kel Patolog / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

And while mittens can be great for your hands because they help retain more warmth, they’re not always suitable. If your job requires of you to have more hand freedom, opt for a glove liner and a pair of high-quality gloves.

In conclusion, if you want to live to tell your grandchildren how you worked throughout that winter 40 years ago, don’t underestimate your opponent. It’s not by chance that it’s called winter gear, so make sure to equip yourself properly.

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