Keeping Warm & Comfortable In Winter

It’s Winter: What to Wear and When

Staying warm in winter is crucial.

Follow these key tips for keeping warm and comfortable during winter by learning about fabric, layering, and facial protection.

NOTE: Some tips about your lips below this article!

It doesn’t matter if you’re snowboarding in the Alps or raking leaves in Wisconsin, a few minutes of focused thinking about what you will wear will help you keep warm and comfortable, and you’ll probably look better too!

The most effective method is to mimic the Eskimos who wore layered fur.  They knew what they were doing!

Wearing a series of relatively thin layers, rather than one or two thick layers is the most effective way to retain heat.

It’s also an easy way to adjust to varying temperatures throughout the day just by adding or removing layers.

Winter Fabric Tech 101

Cotton, wool, or silk can keep you warm standing still, but a body in motion pumps out perspiration that gets trapped in natural fibers, so you’re stuck with cold, clammy fabric next to your skin.

That’s the advantage of high tech synthetics, which wick moisture away yet remains impervious to the elements.

Here are some suggestions on how to layer yourself if you’re going to be out in the cold doing any physical activity:

Base layer

The primary function of the innermost layer should be to wick moisture away from your body.

Choose a synthetic fabric like Capilene, Thermax, or Prolite, all of which will wick perspiration away quickly.


The next layers should insulate plus continue to transport (wick)  moisture away from the body and towards the outer shell.

It’s better to err on the side of too many layers.  You can always remove something if you get too warm.

Look for fabrics that trap air to keep you warm.

Fleece, or brands like Polartec, Primaloft, Thermolite, and Thinsulate are all good options.


The outer layer’s purpose is to protect you from wind, rain and/or snow.  Fabrics in the outer layer should allow for ventilation and breathability.

Make certain that it’s big enough to fit over all the other layers comfortably.

When you wear a cotton shirt or sweatshirt on top of one of these high tech fabrics that wick away perspiration, you can expect that, the outer shirt will be as wet or wetter on the inside as perspiration is “wicked” away from the body and transferred to the absorbent outer layer.

If you wear a wind shell of Gore-tex or MFT, the moisture can pass through the outer layer and evaporate, leaving you more comfortable.

The outer shell must protect against the elements, especially wind and water, to keep the other layers dry. Look for waterproof fabrics that also breathe, such Gore-tex, or Supplex.

Keep all the layers loose.

This is for insulation as well as comfort.

You’ll want your pants to be loose enough at the  ankle and calf to roll up to mid-calf for proper ski boot fit.

Wear only one pair of well fitting ski socks that come up to the knee or at least mid-calf.

Loose socks can slip around and multiple pairs of socks can affect your boot fit.

Be careful not to buckle your ski boots too tightly. Restricting circulation can make our feet colder.

Thirty percent of body heat is lost through the head, so bring a hat.  A hat that also covers your ears is the best choice.

Don’t loose your mittens, and when you buy ski clothes try to work the zippers, and other closures with your gloves on!

Protect that face.

You’ll need it for après-ski. Experiment with a facemask, bandanna or cowl neckpiece to see what works best for you.

Winter cold, and the UV radiation from the sun (and reflected off the snow) is brutal on skin so it’s important to put moisturizer with high SPF sunscreen protection on your face and keep your lips sealed with lip balm (remember Suzy Chapstick!).

Even the high heat/low humidity indoors dries out your skin.

Don’t forget to moisturize from the inside with plenty of water (water, not hot buttered rums) before, after and while you’re doing any vigorous activity, especially at high climes.

Your nose dries out too, at higher altitudes so remember a little Vaseline inside your nostrils helps prevent nosebleeds.

The eyes have it too – glare, wind and cold.  Goggles or sunglasses are essential for eye protection.

Altitude or mountain sickness (both colloquialisms for AMS, Acute Mountain Sickness) is your body reacting to lack of oxygen at higher altitudes.

We ascend too quickly to get used to the change (thanks to modern transportation).

Most common symptoms are headache, muscle aches, nausea, fatigue and insomnia.  A good idea is to stay one night at a slightly lower altitude than your destination.

What could hurt spending one night in Denver before you hit Vail?

Also ask your doctor about prescriptions (and their side effects) that may help.

Drink lots of water – a minimum of 2 liters per day. If Adding Gatorade or drink mixes makes it easier to get it down, go for it.

For après skiing pain also hydrate.  Water flushes lactic acid (a primary cause of soreness and stiffness) from muscle cells and also lubricates joints.

Jumping into the hot tub for at least 15 minutes both before and after skiing helps warm up you muscles.

Thanks for help on AMS from Dr. Rutherford Johnson, high-altitude mountaineer, and explorer.

Keep warm and good luck.  If you have any further fashion questions, I’ll be in the bar next to the fireplace.

The experts at your ski-clothing store can explain all the latest High-tech fabrics.

I think about three new miracle materials are invented each hour these days.

Here are some current popular types:


Capilene is polyester that has been treated with a chemical bond that does not wash out.

Capilene keeps you dry by “wicking” moisture away from the skin.

Patagonia, Inc., who uses Capilene in its products claims it is superior to polypropylene and other hollow-core polyesters.

Those hydrophobic fibers easily absorb moisture but are inefficient at releasing it while Capilene, because it combines hydrophobic and hydrophilic molecules in each fiber, disperse moisture quickly.

Capilene is machine washable and dryable, and it also contains an anti-microbial finish to cut down on bacteria that causes odors.


A polyester, was originally designed to be worn under the hot uniforms of soldiers and police officers.

The Coolmax Ultra Cool RVU (for “ribbed, ventilated undergarment”) is specially designed to keep you cool in hot weather while other Coolmax products are designed to keep you warm in cold weather.

When your clothing gets wet and sticks to your skin, it stops the evaporation process that keeps us cool.

Coolmax was developed to keep an air space between your skin and outer garments so that your body can perform its evaporation process.


Cordura is created from ‘high-bulk’ yarn, with filaments that are looped and tangled within the yarn bundle.

This arrangement gives a “Cordura” weave bulk equal to or higher than that found in spun yarns, and offers greater abrasion resistance than either cotton or other man-made fibers.

A comparison of Cordura to cotton duck fabric of equal thickness shows Cordura weighs half as much, has three times the tear strength and three times the abrasion resistance.

This is one tough fabric that looks and feels like cotton canvas, but will out-perform and out-last cotton canvas.


A brand name, is one of the first and probably the most famous of the high-tech athletic clothing fabrics. Gore-tex is waterproof and breathable.

It is a membrane attached to outer and liner fabrics that prevents large drops, such as rain, from penetrating but allows tiny droplets, such as perspiration, to pass through and evaporate.


Is a silky fabric, composed of micro-thin filaments (half the thickness of a strand of silk) of polyester or nylon tightly woven into a fabric that sheds water, stops wind.


Micro Flow Transmission, works on the same theory as Gore-tex but at a more modest price.

Tiny pores allow perspiration to escape but block water and wind from entering.


A brand name fabric, is polyester that is napped and finished on both sides creating tiny air pockets, which trap warm air, and it breathes!


Which is sold under brand name LIFA, was the first of the “wicking” fabrics that transported sweat away from the body, keeping the fabric next to the skin relatively dry and comfortable.

There are several generations of polypropylene, including a new generation (“Prolite”) that can be washed and machine dried.

Earlier polypropylene fabric was meant to be line dried.


A brand name for a lightweight non-absorbent synthetic insulation, which stays warm even when wet.


A nylon fabric that Dupont created with the good qualities of nylon (easy-care, great color retention, little or no ironing, durability, softness, etc.) without the stickiness that nylon creates.

Supplex is a wicking, breathable nylon that comes in many styles including wovens and knits, and can be found with many different treatments such as water proof/repellent, sun-protective or anti-microbial.

This fabric is used to line other breathable fabrics, like the outer layer of a breathable garment, or can simply be used alone as outerwear.

Solarweave and Solar Knit

Both from the Solar Protective Factory, are breathable fabrics (either due to the style of knit/weave and/or the addition of special wicking additives).

They are light-weight, cotton-like, wicking, color-retentive, easy-care, odor and mildew resistant, and block 95% to 99% of the sun’s harmful UVA an UVB rays!

Skin cancer is a fast growing disease that accumulates after repeated exposures over time and surfaces later in your lifetime.

It’s not something that you get upon immediate exposure to the sun, nor do you need to be sunburned to have harmful ultraviolet radiation absorbed into your skin.

We lather up our exposed skin with high SPF lotion, but a typical cotton T-shirt will block only 50% of the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays.

Get it wet and it actually transmits 10% to 20% more rays.

These fabrics retain sun-protective properties even after two years of wear and tear and have passed extensive FDA requirements for skin irritation/sensitivity, abrasion and UV blocking abilities.


Describes brand name products usually containing a Supplex shell, Polartec lining and a thin insulation.


A soft, strong nylon brand name fabric, which is water-repellent and wind resistant.


A fabric made from wood fibers, which is soft as silk, and as breathable as cotton.

The difference between Rayon (also made from wood fibers) and Tencel is that Rayon is made using a chemical process, while Tencel production uses a spinning process.

Tencel lends a fluid quality when woven with other fibers.

Wools drape better, linen has fewer wrinkles, and denims become softer.


A hollow-cored fiber 1/6 the diameter of a human hair that retains heat for insulation.

It has a soft, silky feel and its large surface area helps wick moisture away from the body.

It is machine washable and dryable and, unlike polypropylene, does not retain odors.

Thermolite & Thinsulate

Both brand names for a polyester fiber insulation that provides warmth without bulk.


A waterproof, windproof, durable and breathable fabric system. A microporous coating is applied to the underside of the fabric.

The micropores are small enough to block out wind and rain, yet large enough to permit perspiration vapor molecules to escape.

A durable finish causes water to bead up on the outside to keep the fabric dry.

In testing to measure a materials ability to prevent water from passing through the fabric, Ultrex kept the wearer drier far longer than any other waterproof/breathable fabric.

And, in a “moisture penetration test,” which demonstrates how well the fabric stands up to wetness under constant pressure, Ultrex retained its capacity even after repeated washings.


Developed during World War II by the British under Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill’s orders.

The requirement was to find a fabric that would help RAF Hurricane and Spitfire pilots survive the cold North Atlantic waters if they were shot down while escorting convoys.

Ventile is a light, waterproof, windproof fabric made of dense long-staple cotton.  And it breathes!

Air molecules easily pass though, but larger water molecules are blocked.

The fabric swells when wet making it even more impenetrable.

Frozen Lips (can) sink ships and hurt!

Here are some helpful tips to help prevent chapped, cracked and dry lips in winter.

With cold winter weather, many of us experience dry, cracked and painful lips.

The skin of the lips is very thin (some of the thinnest on our body) and lips have very few oil glands to help keep them lubricated and moisturized.

Dry lips can be a sign of disorders, like an allergic reaction to your toothpaste, and even skin care products or face medications may be the cause.

Break the lip-licking cycle Many people think that licking the lips helps the dryness, but it can actually cause dry, cracked lips.

Digestive enzymes and bacteria in saliva can damage the lips, leaving them in worse shape.

When the moisture evaporates after you have licked your lips, they become even drier as they lose the moisture into the dry, cold air.

Instead, break yourself of the lip-licking habit and apply a moisturizer or lip balm throughout the day.

Eliminate the cause of the condition

Products that cause dry lip reactions include toothpaste, mouthwash, and lip balm.

It is the flavoring agent, cinnamate, in toothpaste and mouthwash that can cause a chapping reaction.

And some people are allergic to the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone, found in lip balms that contain sunscreen.

Chapping from an allergic reaction to a skin care product will go away when you stop using the product.

If you suspect that you are having an allergic reaction, stop the product for 10 to 14 days and you should see an improvement.

Several medications may cause dry, chapped lips, for example,  benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and Retin-A used for acne, or Renova used for repairing the wrinkling of the skin.

Consider discontinuing these products until the lips improve.


To prevent and repair chapping, use a lip balm or petrolatum-based ointment (Vaseline, Aquaphor) to seal in moisture and form a protective barrier.

Use it frequently throughout the day.