What to wear in extreme cold
What items do you need to protect yourself in extreme cold?
- Long thermal underwear
- Thick socks
- Windproof jacket
- Warm trousers
- Cap or beanie
- Neck protection (like a long face mask or bandana)
- Normal boots or moonboots (depending on the situation)
How to protect yourself against extreme cold?
1.The bottom layer: thermal underwearEvery layer of clothing is important when you’re going outside in extreme cold weather, so make sure your underwear is always in good order. Thermal underwear with long legs/sleeves provides an excellent basis (boxer shorts and undershirt with long sleeves).
Preferably choose underwear made of polypropene, the heaviest warmth retaining fabric there is. If you prefer underwear made of natural fibres, then thermal underwear made of wool or silk is a good choice. Next to that, wear at least two pairs of thick socks to keep your feet warm.
2. The middle layer: clothing made of wool, down or fleeceAdd a second layer of clothing made of fleece, down or wool. When you're wearing heavy fleece trousers and a sweater made of wool, you can challenge the icy cold successfully. Choose lightweight clothing to make it possible to move comfortably when you’re wearing the fivefold layers of clothing which are necessary for survival in extremely cold weather.
Avoid clothing made of cotton, as this material absorbs moisture rather easily and doesn’t dry quickly in excessive cold. In theory you could freeze to death in extreme weather conditions if you wear cotton clothing!
3. The upper layer: wind- and watertight jacket + trousersComplete your winter outfit with jacket and trousers which are wind- and watertight. Avoid loosely woven garments, as they allow the wind to reach the underlying layers. The best choice would be a winter jacket with hood, as this provides extra head protection.
What type of jacket and trousers you need depends on the type of weather you encounter. Dry air for instance requires another type of protecting clothing than air with a high degree of humidity.
Ask staff members of your local outdoor sports shop for advice which type of clothing you’ll need in your specific situation.
4. Scarf, mittens and headgearAdd a scarf, mittens and headgear to your upper, middle and bottom layers. In extreme cold a pair of mittens is a better choice than gloves, as your fingers can touch each other in mittens. Fingers radiate heat, so consequently your hands stay warmer.
Wear the scarf over your mouth so you don’t have to inhale icy cold air. It’s better for your lungs. Instead of a scarf you can of course wear a balaclava, face mask or headgear with a neck protector. These face masks keep your neck warm and that goes for your face (and therefore your lungs) too.
5. Moonboots or boots with heavy solesTake the utmost care in choosing a good pair of boots. In icy areas moonboots are the preferred option. Boots with heavy soles to keep your feet warm are your best choice in regions with a little snow. Choose a bigger size of boots than you normally would do. Remember your boots have to accommodate a double or threefold layer of socks! Last but not least: your boots should have a good grip on slippery surfaces, they should be watertight and they should have a warm lining.
Extra tips to overcome extreme cold
- If you’re getting too cold, the best thing to do is to get a lot of exercise. Take a brisk walk and you’ll warm up in no time.
- If you’re heating up and decide to remove one or more layers of clothing, don’t forget to immediately put them on again when you stop moving. That keeps your newly acquired body warmth inside and helps you to overcome frostbite in a later stage.