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:
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.
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.
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?