One of the most important factors when preparing for winter is the clothing and gear you’ll wear. But, with all the cold-weather products that are advertised as “survival gear,” is there a way to know how you should actually dress? Is there anything in particular that’s recommended? Will anything in the market do? The answers are yes, no, and no! In the spirit of sharing knowledge and insight, we did the research for you, and through this short guide, you’ll discover what’s important to wear for cold-weather survival.

Why You Need to Layer Clothing in Winter

The best recommendation we can make for anyone out in the cold is to wear layers of clothing. Why layers? Well, a few loose-fitting layers of clothing will provide better insulation than a single bulkier one. In fact, you’ll actually stay warmer as the clothes can retain more of your body heat. Additionally, you can easily adjust the number of layers, depending on the actual temperature outside. Thus, layers will help you regulate your body temperature with ease and avoid the dual threat of hypothermia or overheating.

But wait,” you say. “Why is overheating a bad thing in a cold-weather survival scenario?

Well, the answer is moisture. You see, moisture is one of the biggest enemies of cold-weather survivalists. Perspiration dampens your clothes and also reduces your temperature, which in turn causes your body to trigger a secondary reaction for heating up. You’ll end up burning through your energy reserves as you struggle to maintain a healthy core temperature.

Wearing the right winter gear means finding the perfect balance of inner, middle, and outer layers. Each layer serves a different purpose, and it’s recommended you have at least three layers on hand.

Base Layer

The inner layer (or base) is the one you’ll wear underneath and closest to your skin. The best fabrics you can use for this layer are those that have the ability to dry quickly. Thin wool, nylon, and polyester are particularly good for a base. Keep in mind that the overall thickness will impact the fabric’s drying capability. The thicker the material, the harder it will be for you to dry off, even if it’s not raining and you have some decent air circulation going. Level I base layers will be thinner, while Level II will be a bit thicker for colder days.

Furthermore, the best inner layers fit snugly without constraining blood flow, as good circulation is required for warmth. Depending on the weather, you might want to consider packing two separate inner layers, one for your upper body and another for the lower body. This will help in extreme cold situations.

The Middle Layer

The middle layer is known as the insulating layer, and it’s worn over the inner one. It’s recommended you wear fabrics that can trap air, as this will help you retain warmth and stave off the cold. Additionally, you’ll want this layer to be something bulky, like a fleece top or bottom.

It’s important to choose the material of the insulating layer wisely, as its performance can vary. For example, fleece is capable of retaining heat in wet or damp conditions. Another good choice for your middle layer would be wool, as it dries fairly quickly. Down, on the other hand, loses its heat retention properties if it gets wet.

Nevertheless, down is still a great insulator. In fact, it’s one of the lightest, warmest, and most useful materials you can get if you’re out in the cold. It can be expensive though, for a material that quickly becomes useless once it is wet.

The Outer Layer

Finally, you have the outer layer, which is meant to protect your inner and middle layers from exposure to the elements. The best types of jackets to wear as an external layer are wind- and rainproof, but still allow moisture to evaporate from within. Survivalists often recommend a jacket made from Gore-Tex materials, but there are other types of fabrics that will yield similar results. You should have an outer layer for both your upper and lower body, but there are one-piece suits available.

To summarize, a light jacket and pants made from wool, down, Gore-Tex, or anything that protects you from wind and snow when you’re walking or sitting down are your best bet.

What Else to Wear

In addition to your layers, you’ll want to bring some extra gear like mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, and balaclavas to protect those easily forgotten areas of the body. Out in the field, you’ll want to cover your body as much as possible; your head, wrists, ankles, and neck are all areas that, when exposed to the cold, will bleed out heat.

  • For headgear, you’ll typically want something like a wool beanie or a fleece hat with flaps. A scarf or balaclava are good too, but you must ensure that you can breathe through them, as they can potentially accumulate moisture. Don’t forget about the hood on your jacket!
  • Gloves come in a great variety. Your best bet are usually some Gore-Tex gloves with wool lining. Bring an extra pair or two, so that you can allow the worn ones to dry off at night. Keep in mind that mittens and leather gloves work better in extreme cold scenarios, whereas Gore-Tex works best for situations where it’s a tad warmer.
  • Socks should be made from polyester or wool. Don’t forget to carry a few extra pairs and wear them as needed. They might come in handy if it’s extremely cold.
  • Footwear can be any snow-rated or insulated boots. There are some with removable interior lining that can be used to dry them faster, but they have their own set of pros and cons.
  • Pro Tip: Experts will always recommend you wear a mixture of fabrics if you’re ever stuck in extremely cold weather. Wearing one type of fabric can have devastating results, especially if it gets wet with sweat. Many experts recommend using a wool sweater or any other moisture-absorbing material as the middle layer, so that it can absorb moisture from the first layer.

Keeping all of these tips in mind will go a long way towards helping you find gear and survive a cold-weather emergency. Remember that there isn’t a single item that takes precedence over another. Make each of your layers count by wearing different materials in order to fulfill each of the objectives mentioned: an inner layer to retain heat, a middle one to absorb moisture, and an outer layer to protect you from the elements. Keep a list of accessories, and store a few dry spares inside your pack in order to swap them out when wet. Dry off your wet gear as quickly as possible. And most importantly, remember the properties of each material and use them to your advantage. This will almost certainly guarantee your survival.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Emmanuel "Dash the Bomber" Barbosa

Emmanuel Barbosa, AKA Dash The Bomber, is currently serving in the 7th fleet, and has over 8 years of experience in the military. A writer with a penchant for the humorous and informative, he loves to share his stories with those who would be willing to listen. Having served in deployments that have taken him around the world, Dash has seen and heard about many things that would be hard to believe. A loving father and a faithful husband, he is dedicated to protecting his family and country. For fun he enjoys cosplaying, videogames, and writing for online magazines.
Emmanuel

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