Is the snuggly doona and a movie on the couch more enticing than getting outdoors this time of year? I made plenty of gear mistakes and consequently spent hours freezing my butt off – as seen from my beaming smile in the picture below. But I’ve finally nailed (most of the time) winter clothes.
The first year I cycled in winter I was short on money for gear so I used my imagination to keep warm. I went so far as to cycle with plastic bags in my shoes and rubber washing up gloves under summer cycling gloves (hot tip: standard washing gloves don’t work but fleecy lined does help). Every time we stopped my hands went behind my back to keep them out of sight!
Over the years
I am too soft have no desire to shiver my way through adventures so I stocked up on winter gear. Here’s 6 items I rely on the most:
1. An awesome rain jacket. Without a doubt this it the one must-have item. I’ve got a Goretex jacket (just replaced the old one which I had for 7 years) which keeps me dry and blocks the wind. Water conducts heat 25x faster than air (and there are other factors at play too) which means if you’re wet, you can get cold fast. Wind also makes a massive difference – to keep warm we need to stop wind and water getting in.
2. Beanie. People often say you lose most of your body heat through your head. If all you are wearing is a pair of swimmers (which you’re brave to do in winter!), this myth has now been debunked1. We only lose slightly more heat than you’d expect compared to the surface area of the head. But if the rest of your body is covered up and only your head is exposed, then you do in fact lose a lot of heat through it (because the warm blood cools as it is exposed to the cold air around your head). And hey, who doesn’t love a warm beanie!?
3. Quality merino base layers. These are soo good! Our adventure racing team is supported by IO Merino who make what I reckon are the best merino clothes in the business so I stocked up on a bunch of items. Merino is super warm and is much better when wet than cotton (synthetic can be good but it also gets smelly. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…)
4. Mid layer/fleece. You need some decent insulation between those base layers and the jacket and that’s where a nice, warm mid-layer comes into play. It could be merino or fleece but inside the ‘shell’ of your jacket this is the layer providing the most warmth (unless you’re lucky enough to have the synthetic down jacket too).
5. For overnight or trips to colder areas: Synthetic down jacket. The down industry is not a pretty one, but down jackets are incredibly warm. Synthetic down is still very warm so is a good alternative. Only problem with down is that if it gets wet, it’s nearly useless so on multi day trips with a lot of rain forecast I’d be bringing another option like a 2nd warm mid layer.
6. Plenty of warm woollen socks (or synthetic but I prefer wool). Because cold feet suck.
One final note – if you have cold hands and feet even when they’re covered up, it may be because your core is cold. No matter how many layers you have on your extremities, if your core temperature is low your body will shunt blood away from extremities to try to maintain its core temperature.
Don’t ask me about clothes for ‘real’ winter as my Canadian friends tell me – I aim to steer clear of places where my dreadlocks might snap off like Cool Runnings. But for Aussie adventures, these 6 items go a long way!