Dress in Layers to Survive (& Enjoy) MN Winters

The wind is whipping and the forecast says the “polar vortex” is looming again. Days like today it would be nice to stay in my pajamas and slippers and never leave the house. For most of us, staying indoors all day is just not possible and I do like to get outside and embrace our winter season. I am going to give you a few tips about how to dress in layers to keep warm outside while enjoying the winter weather. Most of these apply to when you will be outside for an extended period of time.

My daughter enjoying winter at Powder Ridge.

My daughter enjoying winter at Powder Ridge.

To be outside on those really cold days you do need to dress warm. Buying a few pieces of warm clothing can make all the difference. I have found base layers to be a must. Your base layer is your next to skin layer. Many are made to “wick” or transfer sweat away from your body to your outer layers where it can evaporate. I have found this out the hard way. When I dress too warm and am not wearing a base layer with wicking ability I sometimes sweat and now that sweat is making me very cold! Once you get cold it can cause a misery so deep that you may never want to leave the comfort of the indoors again. With your base layers you can remove your heavier outer layers as you get warm. There are different ratings to base layers which depend on the level of activity you are doing and the outdoor temperatures. I find it best to be too warm, rather than too cold! 

After your base layer you have you mid layer. These are your everyday items such as tee-shirts and lightweight pants. These provide insulation and protection. You can also find mid layer clothing with wicking ability. I usually put on a tank top and long sleeve tee shirt (or two!) 

You can then move to your insulating layer. The purpose of this is to retain your body heat and provide warmth. I usually wear a larger loose sweatshirt or fleece sweatshirt as my insulating layer. You can buy pieces of clothing made specifically to be used as an insulating layer. 

Your last layer is your outerwear or shell layer. This is your jacket and snow pants. The purpose of this layer is to protect your whole body from wind and precipitation. There are so many of options to choose from in this category.  Ultimately, I find that if wind or water (especially wind!) can get through this layer, you will be miserable! It also needs proper ventilation, otherwise moisture (your sweat) will not be able to evaporate. I finally invested in a down parka which I love.   Although not very fashionable, it is very warm! Good gloves are also important and those little disposable hand warmers are amazing too. Throw one in your pocket and when your hands start to get cold put one inside your glove. I found I only need to use one and just alternate between hands to warm them up. I like to wear two pairs of socks as well. I wear a thinner pair of socks with warmer wool ones over that. I have had the same pair of black snowmobile boots for years and my feet hardly ever get cold. Again, they are not very fashionable, but they are warm! 

If you are starting from scratch you could be spending more money than you would like on these warm clothes. However, most of us Minnesotans have some of these pieces that we can add to. (Sporting Goods stores like REI, Cabela’s, and Scheels have a great selection of winter clothing.) I believe myself to be a true Minnesotan and love all four seasons. Winter is my least favorite season, but I have found many things to love about it. We all live here for a reason so let’s quit the complaining and get outside!  Well… you can complain a little bit!

This blog post was written by Stephanie Swanson, RN, Hospice Director at Divine Hospice Care.