Polar vortex is the media adapted term for “really severe cold snap”. I won’t get into that though, but fact is this: we’re getting a taste of the new normal. Yes, it is thanks to global warming, on the account that the more heated air is in the atmosphere, the more intense the storms – of both kinds. This is what happens when a world with a raised temperature is trying to go back to normal: we get extreme cold snaps. And this isn’t just me, it’s cold hard science talking.
But that’s beside the point of this post. The point of this post is to keep you guys warmer. I was born in a cold country, and wasn’t really expecting to have my birthplace’s weather come back to visit. Not the reminder I wanted. Some of these tips you may have known, but can’t be too careful.
What to wear:
1. Two pairs of socks. No, I’m not kidding. One pair short, one pair long is best. But the base point is this: unless your boots are fur-lined, you’re going to have a lot of trouble keeping your toes warm. Frostbite sets into the extremities first, this is without fail. If you have one pair of thick long socks, great, but slide on a pair of plain old athletic socks underneath those. If you have homemade knitted socks – GREAT. They’re warmest of all. And still put on a pair under those.
2. Boots ONLY. Do NOT wear sneakers. No matter how tempting it is, do NOT wear sneakers. They’re comfortable, but they’re also ventilated. How else would they vent out the sweat/odor but through the tiny little holes you see around the top? This will work against you. Cold wind will blow right through those sneakers given enough force, and this is where two pairs of socks won’t do you anywhere near as much good as they would do in leather (or even pleather) boots. $40 will get you thick, chunky faux-fur-lined boots from Payless. I strongly recommend the investment.
3. Thermals, or alternatives. Now we move on to pants. Ladies, this one’s for you: whatever you do, do NOT wear skirts in weather below 25F. Trust me on this: no fashion is worth being chilled to the bone. No amount of looking cute is worth freezing certain body parts. Just trust me on this. It’s pure experience talking.
That said: you need to layer. If you do not have long johns, or don’t like them, then your yoga pants ought to do in lieu of thermals. They’re usually cotton and leg-hugging, so they’ll slide under your pants easily and keep you toasty under whatever pants you wear atop those. It’s a good idea to have a pair of pants one size bigger than what you usually wear for just these events, and even better if they’re wool. There’s a reason why Russian peasants had worn wool (okay, and fur) through the centuries: that shit is w-a-r-m. Long johns are great for heat retention, but when you do not have ’em, cotton will do. Cotton under wool? Winner.
DO NOT WEAR JEANS. Yes, they’re cotton, yes, they may seem thicker than your usual pants, but they allow for too much airflow. You do NOT want that when it’s cold and there are subzero wind chills to boot.
3. There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Layers. Okay, no, there is: when you can’t move. However, when you want to keep warm, this is effectively imperative.
Start easy: shirt and undershirt. Cotton tank top under a long-sleeve T-shirt. Already, you’re better off than with just the tee. Sweaters you need to choose wisely. If you have a body-hugging cashmere sweater, I recommend it: cashmere-wool blends are spectacular for heat retention. I recommend that under another sweater, preferably a loose fleece sweatshirt.
I have a body-hugging fleece sweatshirt that goes well underneath a baggy hoodie. Together, they’re honestly a match for a coat. But they do little for the wind, pity.
4. Choose Your Coat Wisely. Down coats are best for extreme temperatures. We know it. However, if you do not have a down coat, or a parka or any sort, the next best thing is either fur, shearling, or heavy, heavy wool. You can tell if it’s heavy enough easily: it will slightly impede your movements just with its weight. And if you ever wondered why Russians have fur coats, this is why: because it is cold as all unholy hell, and this is the only coat you can wear if you don’t want death by hypothermia. It’s not fashion, it’s survival, no more and no less.
But that aside: if you’re choosing a coat, make sure that it’s about a size too big. You want to be able to wear it with layers and get into it. Ski jackets are a good idea, but make sure they’re lined. Make sure that the coat is longer than your hips. Trust me, a frozen behind is not fun and yes, it is possible. If you’re lucky enough to find a wool coat down to your ankles, I recommend it.
5. Yes, it’s about the wool. In this case, wool scarves.
Look, I’m a knitter. And I’ve not had to buy a scarf since maybe 1998. One of the best scarves I’ve made is one made of fisherman’s wool. Fisherman’s wool is light, but warm. I also have a wool-rayon blend white scarf that’s long enough to sweep at my feet. Both have one thing in common: wrap them around and you will never, ever be cold. A thick worsted yarn, even if it’s synthetic, does a hell of a lot of good. Avoid chenille; it looks thick, but it’s nowhere near as warm as it appears. It does nothing for wind.
6. Yes, gloves and hats are required. Unless you want to experiment with frostbite on your fingers. I cannot say this enough: you need wool here. Wool or fleece, not leather, unless fleece-lined. Same thing with the hat; make sure it’s knit or fleecy. Anything that will trap and keep heat.
And whatever you do, remember that the wind is the culprit. You can tolerate chilly temperatures if you bundle up, but the wind is the worst. The more of it, the more likely that you will get sick from it. Protect against the wind and you’ll be okay.
Stay warm out there.