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Cold Weather Walking - What to Wear


Updated November 25, 2012



Wendy Bumgardner ©
Layers, Hat and Gloves! It's unanimous, we all put on layers for walking in the cold. A hat is an essential to keeping in body heat, and gloves are desirable. Just what you choose depends on the temperature and wind as well as what you have in your closet. My favorite winter item is a Head Sokz, a cowl made of polar fleece which you can double back up over your chin, mouth, or nose depending on the weather. Neck gaiters can also be versatile to cover up whatever is getting cold.

Traction is important!

I don't choose to walk in the ice, but when I have to make it from the car to the door, I am glad I found a pair of Stabilicers or Yaktrax at a local sports shoe store. These are slipover cleats, with a full sole of cleats on a rubber frame to slip over your regular shoes. With them I have confidently walked across a sheet of ice. I keep them in the trunk in my emergency kit. Look for them at your local shoe stores and running shops.

Don't be invisible!

When the days are short you may be walking more often in the dark or twilight. Put on a reflective vest or sash or add reflective tape to your jacket. A good source for these is the biking section of a sports store.
Top Picks for Reflective and Visibility Gear

What Our Readers Wear for Cold Weather Walking

"I wear a polypropylene undershirt, with a fleece jacket, topped with a wind breaker, when the temperature gets really cold. Nothing expensive." Emily, Michigan

"I personally find wind to be more of a problem. I layer in wick-away fabrics, fleece pullover, and a vest to allow some heat to escape, and always as much reflective gear as possible, since it gets dark so early." Ann

"When the temperature gets much below freezing, start to wear layers of clothing. A set of thermal underwear under shirt and pants will keep you warm and won't be too stiff. On your feet as long as the temp is above 0F I wear regular walking shoes with heavy socks. When the temp falls below zero I find a pair of insulated hiking boots are very effective For outerwear, a parka type coat with removable hood is very effective. Just wear the coat when the temp is warmer and add the hood when you feel it is necessary. Add to this a good fur lined pair of gloves A head covering of some kind is essential. I suggest a knit cap that will pull down over your face. If the temp isn't too extreme wear it on top of your head and pull it down when needed (If it's too cold to walk you can always rob banks)" JRobin

"When I was walking in the northern climes I would generally layer my clothing. At skin level, I had a T-shirt, next was a buttoned long-sleeved heavy fabric shirt and then over the whole she-bang was a windbreaker or shell that I could wear around my waist. The shirt could be unbuttoned and sleeves rolled up to allow evaporation and cooling. The shell or windbreaker could be worn if cold and removed if too warm, depending on the pace. Nothing special about shoes because I always wear two pairs of socks regardless of the weather. Just carry a change of clothing and shoes in the car." Bill, Florida

"I have a special need for fabric that wicks perspiration away from my skin and still provides some insulation. Wool if fine for this since it will still insulate when wet, but I prefer some of these sport specific fabrics like Thermax or Coolmax from DuPont. I usually wear a windproof shell when walking and carry a light sweater or pullover for warmth when stopped. Polartec makes some ideal tops for this, and any old rain jacket will block the wind. I usually wear the same pants as in the summer, but wear a pair of long cycling tights under them. My pair are made by Cannondale and are of the usual spandex/lycra stuff. But they offer extra protection in a pair of panels that run from the ankle up my shins crossing my knees and then coming up my quadriceps to terminate on the sides at the waist. I'm not sure what this strip is made of but it is very thin and warm to the touch. Keeps my knees warm and makes the cold almost unnoticeable. I also wear a hat to hold the heat from the top of my head, since you lose most of your heat from there and my hair has decided to make itself scarce. I recommend something that will cover the ears." Darwin, Texas.

"Layers, layers, layers because even when it's that cold, you warm up pretty fast when walking. Of course, you have to make sure your hands, ears, and head are warm, but I like a t shirt, down vest, and rather light jacket. I still prefer tennies and warm socks to boots unless it is below zero. If you have a backpack, you can cram the extra stuff there, or I frequently tie the jacket around my waste when it's too warm." Francie

More Readers' Choices on Cold Weather Walking Clothing
Next: >> Winter Changes to Your Walk

Tips from Diane | What to Wear | Great Winter Walks | Alternatives | Quick Tips for Safety

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