Baby It’s Cold Outside

Here’s my normal method for dealing with months that have an average temperature below 15 degrees Fahrenheit: Hibernation.  A stack of books, a clawfoot tub, a roaring fire. Basically, I’ll see you again in May.

But I did two very unexpected things last year. 1.) moved to the country, and 2.) became the proud mother of a couple of miniature donkeys. Both of which mean I am outside in the freeze-your-ass-off cold more often than I’ve ever been before in my life. Sometimes it’s burning the garbage (there’s no trash pickup out here, so burnables go to the burn barrel), sometimes it’s working on the house, sometimes it’s trimming donkey hoofs, but it seems that hardly a day goes by that I’m not steeling myself against a bitter wind and praying I don’t lose a couple of digits to frostbite before I get back into my toasty warm garage.

So it probably comes as no surprise that I’ve been stockpiling cold-weather gear for the last year. Last weekend I worked for 5 hours in 15 degree weather with hardly a cringe, so for those of you who share a more northern latitude with me, here is some of my winter survival gear:

Base Layers

When it’s under 40 degrees outside it’s a safe bet that I’ve got long-johns on under my work clothes. Last year MysteryMan’s parents got me some Under Armor, which is my undershirt of choice, when it’s clean:

I alternate it out with my tru-fit thermals, and I’ll admit I was a little peeved when this was the only thermals-for-women option at our local workwear store. I mean, the package says “thermal pajamas“, as if that’s all that we’re expected to need as little women. Pajamas. Hello, building a house here.

However, I have to say that these things are twice as thick as my Hanes thermals, so pajamas or not, they get the most use.

My other must-have base layer is a pair of really good socks. I have both these ladies Carhartt socks, and SmartWool socks and they work beautifully.

Work Clothes

It takes me about an hour to get all of those under layers on, them I need to stop and take a breather before digging out the least dirty of my work clothes to put on over them. I don’t buy special work jeans or shirts (unless you count a new pack of men’s undershirts at the beginning of each summer), so this layer consists of any “good” clothes that have been ruined, or free stuff I get (there’s a brand spankin new shirt from my orthodontist awaiting some paint as we speak… but that’s a whole other story), and it’s always pretty loose fitting, which I get isn’t the most flattering look, but it makes it a heck of a lot easier to swing a hammer.

You can see the  short and long-sleeve options for winter.



Versus the undershirt option for Summer. (Oh, how I wish it was Summer.)


I know, I’m just a style maven, aren’t I? I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that MysteryMan forgets I’m a girl half the time.

Outer Gear

I can get by with my long-johns-and-work-gear combo, with maybe a hoodie on the side, until it gets down below 40. Then I need to break out the serious outer layers.

The first outer layer almost always consists of a large hoodie.  Even less flattering than my previous outfits, but seriously, being a frozen corpse isn’t very attractive either. I have a couple of off brand hoodies I won at a benefit and then a Carhartt version (it’s a Mens and it’s ridiculously long, but it’s warm). The next purchase I make will be a women’s lined version.

Now, in previous years I’d throw my Northface vest on over that and call it a day, but I also had about a two-hour time limit outside before my eyeballs turned to ice cubes. This year I sprung for a pair of Carhartt overalls, and oh my God this is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. When I pop home for a quick check on the donkeys during my lunch hour, I can zip on a hoodie and put these over whatever I’m wearing for instant outdoor gear. No coat is required, which makes them so easy to work in.

Since I haven’t found a store yet that carries Women’s Carhartts that you can actually try on, I had to guess at the size. I’m 5’3″ and a buck-twenty-five and I went with the 6/30’s which are perfect. I love them–even for indoor work before we had heat– as you can see.


The second most important piece of my cold weather gear is the hat. Now… you know my John Deere hat is basically fused to my brain at this point. Summer or winter I wear this thing with a bandanna tied under it to alternately keep my ears warm or keep my head from itching because of the sweat.


And I don’t mean to be dis-loyal, but it just wasn’t cutting it for the real cold weather. My mom came through with this awesome faux-fur lined bomber hat from L.L.Bean for Christmas.

I don’t think you can fully understand the awesomeness of this hat until you wear it. Okay, it looks a little ridiculous, but let’s consider the fact that it’s eighteen degrees outside of my garage right now. I’m actually wearing this hat as I type, because  it’s not a whole lot warmer inside at the moment.

I’m tempted to also put on one of my many pairs of work gloves now too, since I’m starting to loose feeling in my fingers. I recommend having at least three pairs, a heavyweight fingerless glove, a lightweight glove, and if you’re an iPhone user, a pair of these.

Which brings us to the most lacking area of my winter work gear wardrobe. The boots. I’ve had my standard steel-toed Wolverine work boots for almost a decade. After ten years I about had then perfectly broken in, and then I had to stop wearing them in wet weather this year because the soles have cracked all the way through. My temporary fix has been to wear my rubber muck boots whenever I’m out in the snow..

They have zero insulation and while they’re perfect for actual “muck” applications, they aren’t the best general outdoor work boots. I’m totally in the market and hoping to find something like this on sale soon:

Tell me, how do you survive the cold?

16 Responses

  1. Long johns; LL Bean silks work best with very little added thickness. Duofold long johns if you want thicker layering. Have lasted many years before wearing out. And I’m outdoors every day for hours with the dogs.
    Socks; Beans wool ragg or their primaloft sport crew socks, best socks ever for outdoors cold work.
    Boots; only one way to go for cold weather==SOREL. They make so many styles now you can find ones that work as work boots. I use the snowboard style for that purpose. Wear their Snow Lion style for walk fields, etc.
    Coats; I go with North Face outermost cold layer, Columbia for rain layer, Woolrich and LL Bean for inner layers. Nobody beats North Face for protection from elements like wet, wind, snow. Nobody. Take it from someone who has had to walk 6-12 dogs outside every day of her life.

      1. Sorel Kaya are ones I use as all around work boots. They are unreal comfy, great traction and don’t weigh 50 lbs like most snow boots.

  2. I feel bad for you. You don’t have any Farm & Fleets (some stores also called Fleet Farms) near you! They are my second favorite store right behind Menard’s which you also don’t have!!

    Um you need to drive down to IL or come visit us in WI and we’ll hook you up with all the woman’s Carhart and other work gear you can carry. You can try everything on in store and special order sizes if need be. They also carry a huge selection of winter boots which is where I get mine. But DH does love his Sorels…also from Farm & Fleet but you can get them other places. He has an extra tall pair that go up to his shins which come in handy when you need to walk through deep snow. Luckily, we take the same size shoe so I can wear them too if need be. F&F also has Walls coveralls and jackets which is a knock off of Carhart but for half the price. My sister actually worked there for a while in the woman’s clothing department.

    Wait a minute I just realized F&F has an online store now! Not as much stuff as they have in store but it’s a start. I love my Ranger boots:
    [a href=][/a]
    Let’s see if that’s how you link on here…
    They also have lots of thermal and outerwear:

  3. I’m telling you the bears have it all figured out: stuff yourself silly during fall until you are nice and fat, sleep through the winter and wake all skinny in time for spring :o)

    I’m glad we still have all of our cold weather gear after living in NE Florida for almost 7 years now – that has helped us quite a bit over last year’s and this year’s winter … brrrrr! I can’t wait for it to be over!

  4. I don’t usually deal with the cold lately because we’re in southern NM, but will eventually be headed back to UT. Then I hibernate with many layers on in front of the fireplace/heater vent.

  5. Burr, I’m a native Texan so I can’t even imagine! I hardly even have any warm clothes. I’d wither up & die if I had to endure being outside in that weather.

    Take care!!

  6. Well, I was born and raised in Montana, which I believe has even harsher winters. Just damned near every winter, somewhere along the line the temperature would drop to 40 below zero. And snow. Oh, man, the snow. But I did finally learn how to cope with all of that winter stuff. I moved to San Diego, California!

  7. I’m so ordering those overalls!

    Btw, for my 30th bday, the dude ordered me the Dickies mechanic coveralls and a name tag. He also forgets I’m a girl sometimes.

    1. You will LOVE them. I was going to get them last year and then kept putting it off… best purchase I’ve made this winter!

      1. It’s not like it need them for being outside. I would just wear them around the house…because it’s that cold inside.

  8. I really want your overalls. But I can’t really justify them, since I can do most of my projects in the basement for the winter. Stan the Man just got a Carhartt coat for Christmas, which I fully intend to steal on a regular basis.

    You should just tell Mystery Man- “Sorry, I can’t do anything besides lay in bed all day, because all the store had were these pajamas. You don’t expect me to work in clothing that was meant for sleeping, do you?” He’ll totally understand.

  9. I have a pair of Muck boots and I even shovel snow in them. I guess people find them fashionable because when I wear them to the store women ask me what they are and where I got them. Who knew….

    The Original Muck Boot….

    I also have Rangers which I wear. Both have held up very well and I abuse my boots and shoes in the elements.

Comments are closed.

I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.