How to Dress for Cold Weather in the Military

Having the right military gear for extreme cold weather is key. When dressing for frigid conditions, remember that you want to be warm enough, but not so warm that you start to sweat. As perspiration evaporates, it will cool you, dropping your core body temperature—not what you want in frigid temperatures!

Keeping your hands and feet warm is crucial, because your extremities are at increased risk for frostbite out in the elements. Check out our guide to cold weather military boots and our review on Arctic Cold Weather Gloves for more recommendations on gloves and footwear for cold weather.

Layer Up

Dressing in layers is the key to staying warm and dry. Layers allow you to strip off clothing if you get too hot, and having an outer layer provides protection against the elements to keep your inner layers dry.

You should be using at least three layers to stay warm. Avoid making your layers too tight! The layers should be slightly loose to create pockets of warm air around your body.

Base Layer

Base Layer

Avoid cotton as your base layer. It can hold onto moisture, putting you at risk of hypothermia. Instead, try performance fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin.

Our recommendation:
ECWCS Gen III Level 1 Baselayer Top

This highly breathable and lightweight material has built-in antimicrobial properties and moisture-wicking technology that will keep you dry and warm.


Middle LayerPolartec Fleece Jacket

This layer should be the warmest, so choose a heavy fleece that will hold in the heat.

Our recommendation:
Propper® Gen III ECWCS Polartec® Fleece Jacket

This jacket is made from a material that is 30 times sturdier than regular fleece, with fabric that resists shrinking and wrinkling.


Outer LayerOuter Layer

Outerwear is all about blocking the elements so the rain and snow don’t get through to your other layers. Waterproofing is your friend, so look for fabrics like Gore-Tex that will repel moisture.

Our recommendation:
Arc’teryx Alpha Jacket Gen 2

This Gore-Tex jacket is designed to be layered and is ideal for wet and cold environments, with a protective shell that repels wind, rain, and snow.

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