How to Dress for Extremely Cold Weather

These tips can improve your safety and comfort in frigid temperatures.

In the dead of winter, there's nothing worse than getting outside and realizing you're not dressed warm enough to handle the frigid temperatures. Not only can it be a day ruiner—making it hard to think about anything other than how cold you are—but it can be dangerous, too. Dressing inadequately for winter weather can increase the risk of getting hypothermia and frostbite. So, when headed outside in extremely cold weather, it's important to put extra thought into what you're wearing and make sure you're adequately covered from head to toe.

To make the process of getting dressed for the winter easier, we researched the best cold weather clothing tips and tapped the CDC for expert advice. Below, find all the tips you need to get adequately bundled up during the winter and stay safe amidst below-zero temperatures.

Follow a Head-to-Toe Clothing Checklist

Part of dressing safely for cold temperatures is being intentional in making sure that every part of your body is adequately covered and kept dry. When getting dressed in the winter, use the CDC's checklist below as a guide.

  • A hat
  • A scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth
  • Sleeves that are snug at the wrist
  • Mittens (they are warmer than gloves)
  • Several layers of loose-fitting clothing
  • Water-resistant coat and boots

While it may be tempting to swap the mittens for an easier-to-use pair of gloves, mittens tend to be a warmer choice. This is because, according to REI, fingers generate more heat when they're not separated from each other by fabric, as they are with gloves. Look for mittens that include down or synthetic insulation, a waterproof design, and fit your hands properly. According to REI, a properly fitting mitten will have about ¼ inch of material at the end of your outstretched fingers.

As far as the best hat for winter weather, you can choose a style that suits you, but it's important to consider the material to determine what option will keep you warm and dry. According to Skis.com, microfleece and wool materials are both great at retaining heat and wicking away moisture.

Wear (the Right) Layers

When it comes to dressing warmly, it may seem that simply packing on the layers is a safe bet, but there's a bit of science to doing it right. Here's how the CDC says you should be layering in cold weather for optimal warmth:

Inner Layer: Wear fabrics that will hold more body heat and don't absorb moisture. Wool, silk, or polypropylene will hold more body heat than cotton.

Insulation Layer: An insulation layer will help you retain heat by trapping air close to your body. Natural fibers, like wool, goose down, or fleece work best.

Outer Layer: The outermost layer helps protect you from wind, rain, and snow. It should be tightly woven, and preferably water and wind resistant, to reduce loss of body heat.

Don't Allow Yourself to Overheat

When dressing for cold weather it's important to find the balance between keeping warm and avoiding getting overheated. This is because, as the CDC explains, excess sweating will cause your body to lose more heat, so make sure to remove extra layers of clothing whenever you start to feel too warm.

Don't Ignore Your Body's Warning Signs

According to the CDC, shivering is an important first sign that your body is losing heat, and constant shivering is a sign that it's time to go inside and warm up.

When venturing out into the cold, it's also important to know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite. In adults, the signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness, the CDC says. In babies, the signs are bright red, cold skin, and very low energy.

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