When the temperature falls to zero, keep yourself comfortable and safe by dressing properly. Exposed skin can become numb in frigid temperatures, and after prolonged exposure to the cold you're at risk for developing frostbite. Your fingers, toes, nose and ears are particularly susceptible to numbness and frostbite. If you stay outside long enough or if your clothing becomes wet, your body temperature can drop significantly, leading to hypothermia. With proper attire, you can keep yourself protected from both hypothermia and frostbite.
One of the most important components of cold weather attire is a head covering. Because your head is sensitive to temperature changes, keeping your head covered helps you stay comfortable when the temperature drops. Hats that are windproof and have ear flaps offer the best protection in freezing conditions. If you plan to spend a significant amount of time in extremely cold temperatures, a balaclava or face mask provides extra protection. To make breathing the cold air less painful, cover your mouth with a bandana or scarf.
Layering your clothing is essential when you dress for zero-degree temperatures. The layers trap the heat from your body to keep you warm. For your base layer, choose regular underwear or long underwear made from synthetic materials. These fabrics wick the moisture away from your skin, keeping you dry and protecting you from becoming cold when the moisture evaporates. For additional layers, choose thick, warm clothes made from fleece or wool.
A high-quality coat intended for low temperatures keeps you warm. Choose a coat that's water repellent, so your clothing does not become wet if it snows. A tightly woven fabric keeps the chill out, and a coat with a hood provides an extra layer of protection for your head. If you spend a lot of time in cold temperatures, consider investing in a down-filled coat. When cold weather adventurer Mark Jenkins evaluated winter coats for "Backpacker," five of the six warmest coats he found were filled with down.
Hands and Feet
Keep your hands warm with gloves or mittens. Mittens made of synthetic fabrics offer the most warmth and will keep your hands dry. If you plan to spend a considerable amount of time outside, layer your mittens. A thin synthetic liner under a thicker wool mitten will keep your hands warm. For your feet, choose thick socks make of synthetic materials. Wear a high-quality winter boot that's insulated. When you choose your boots, look at the thickness of the sole. A thick sole will keep the cold of the ground from seeping into your feet.
Consider the amount of physical activity you will be performing while out in the cold. If you sweat, the moisture will cool you off when it evaporates. To protect yourself from hypothermia, you must keep the sweat away from your body. Synthetic fabrics are used to make sportswear intended for physical exertion outside in the cold. According to Dr. Brian Sharkey and Dr. Steven Gaskill, if you're going to be highly active, you need only .35 inches of insulating layers at zero degrees Fahrenheit, but if you're engaging in light activity in this temperature, you will need layers that are at least 1.3 inches thick.
- Winter Hiking and Camping: Managing Cold for Comfort and Safety: Michael Lanza, Brad Adler
- Fitness and Health: Brian J. Sharkey, Steven E. Gaskill
- Canadian Living: How to Pick the Perfect Winter Coat
- The Guardian: Scientists Debunk the Myth That You Lose Most Heat Through your Head
- Backpacker: The Warmest Coats in the World
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