Whether you’re buying our recommendations or cruising cold weather gear on your own, we’ve spoken to a few experts for advice.
Buy your equipment out of season
Nick Drew, Founder and CEO of WeThrift, says the best time to shop for winter clothing is January through March, when retailers liquidate cold-weather clothing. You can usually save on rarely discounted items like coats and boots.
If you’re looking for the absolute lowest prices, shop second-hand or go to a store like Burlington are good options, but with the ongoing pandemic and social distancing recommendations, it’s safer to avoid shopping in person at this time.
Natural or synthetic materials
As we mention in our guide to best base layers, some people swear by wool and other natural fibers, while others devote themselves to synthetics. Both types of textiles have their advantages and disadvantages. Liz Wilson, Vice President of Product Creation at Outdoor research, says that “the best materials depend on climate, temperature and personal body temperature.”
Mike Joyce, President and CEO of PrimaLoft, agrees, “When dressing for cold climates you need to consider the temperature, how much humidity you are likely to encounter, as well as what activity you are going to be doing.”
If you are active, you may need to avoid overheating. If you’re in a more humid climate, says Joyce, “it’s important that you choose clothes that can withstand these elements.” Synthetics tend to dry quickly, but wool and other natural materials are generally warmer.
The two types can be layered or you can go for a mix. Watch out for mixtures, however. Drew says composition percentages are essential, depending on the clothing retail industries. In general, acrylics and artificial fabrics “won’t keep you as warm as wool.” But an item advertised as “made from wool” may have low percentages of it.
Here are some of the fabrics of the clothes we have listed:
- Rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber made from natural cellulose fibers. Rayon itself is generally slippery (similar to silk or nylon). It’s absorbent but not very hot. It is often used in a mixture of other fibers.
- Acrylic is a synthetic fiber made from a polymer. Acrylic clothing usually contains a mixture of acrylic and other fibers. Acrylic dries fairly quickly and traps heat well.
- Modal is a type of rayon made from specific types of high quality cellulose. It is soft, stretchy, absorbent and more durable than standard rayon.
Keep the size in mind. Buying outerwear that is one or two sizes too big will give you enough space to add layers underneath. “Layering is the real secret to staying warm in cold weather, as these layers lock in and preserve heat, creating natural insulation,” says Drew.
If you wanted to bundle up, your outfit could look like a moisture wicking base layer, a mid layer with some kind of insulation, and an outer shell to resist wind and / or water. It doesn’t mean you have to be fully equipped either; an undershirt, a sweater and a coat could be your three main pieces. The important thing is to make sure you have multiple layers of work to keep you warm and dry. Remember, you can also wear layers on your legs and feet – tights, liners, and gaiters can strengthen your lower half. A good hat, gloves and socks can make you feel warmer than stacking yourself on several layers of the torso.
“A versatile layering system is a great investment in staying safe, warm and dry during your winter activities,” says Wilson. “Your head, hands and feet are among the first places to feel cold.”
If you’re starting from scratch, “a good place to start is to use a versatile jacket that can keep you comfortable in a variety of conditions,” says Joyce. Look for something that can be used in multiple seasons and climates.
Apply these tips to your unique situation. If you live in a cold and humid place, you may want to prioritize a good rain jacket or a synthetic base layers. Those of you who live in cold, dry climates may want to opt for pieces made of wool or down.