How to stay warm on the coldest days

I should start this post off by saying that I am one of those weird people who love the cold.  I love winter, I love snow and I like to be outside in the cold and snow.  Some of you may be wondering where along the way I hit my head so hard to enjoy such an uncomfortable time of year.  Let me reassure you I certainly don’t like BEING cold.  I love when it gets cold out because I know how to bundle and I love that cozy feeling of being so warm when its so cold out.

So, the question is, how does one stay warm when the temperatures are dipping into the -30’s celsius without the consideration for wind?  My two easy answers are layers and no cotton.  As I learned how to guide and be comfortable in the bush, almost every instructor would use the phrase “cotton kills”.   This isn’t to say you are going to die if you wear cotton when it’s cold, however it can become very uncomfortable very fast.  If you sweat at all, the cotton will get wet and wet cotton holds no heat, it will just continue to make you cold.  (Wool will hold 60% of it’s heat even when soaked through)  The best thing to get is wool (merino wool is a good choice) or another synthetic material.  Layers are essential if you are going to be doing any type of physical activity when you are outside in these temperatures.  As we do work our body will heat up and want to sweat.  When you stop moving the sweat (your wet clothes) will become uncomfortable, will make you colder and may even freeze.  Wearing layers means that you can add or remove in order to keep an even body temperature.

Now that you have the basic idea, we’ll look more in depth at what products I like to wear, from your toes to your head.

Toes first!

As we want to layer, we will look at our layers for our feet first.  There are a few different things you could do depending on what your body is like and what types of activities you will be doing.  Our first sock layer is an optional one, but is a good idea if your feet sweat a lot, or you will be doing things that may leave your regular socks wet and susceptible to the cold.

Image result for vapor barrier socks

Vapor barrier socks.  I can’t say that I’ve tried these myself, however one of my friends recently went mountaineering in Mongolia and said these kept her feet warm in the coldest weather.  The idea behind them is that it traps moisture right beside the skin so that your body heat keeps it warm and it doesn’t get the rest of your warm layers wet.

Our next layer would be a good wool sock.  You may decide to layer a thinner and a thicker wool sock, or just to wear one.  While there are many wool socks out there we like these Icebreaker Merino Socks .

Over your socks, winter boots are a necessity.  Based on what you are doing, you may need a different type of boot.  If you will be in deep snow you may want a taller boot.  If you just need something warm but also fashionable, you may opt for a shorter style boot.  Just remember you want a boot with good tread, a warm insole (liner) and a waterproof outer shell.

Sorels are my go to for winter boots!


Comfortable underwear are the most important first layer.  As mentioned above, cotton can be very uncomfortable and gets cold quick, so it is best to look for a wool or synthetic material for your underwear.  Next will be a base layer, something thermal and somewhat tight so that you can fit more layers overtop.  There are may good options for this and you may already have your favourite pair of long underwear or leggings (no cotton) but here are a few good options I like to use:

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Mens thermal pants                                           Women’s Butterlicious Stripe Tight

Your pants that you wear over top will vary with activity.  If you are hiking, or cross country skiing, you may opt for a warm pair of mobile, breathable pants.  If this is going to be your outermost layer there are some good pants with a water resistant coating to make sure those melting snowflakes aren’t getting through to make you cold.

Top Selling Womens Dynama Pants! Shop Now! mountainhardwear.caIf you are planning on spending a lot of time in the snow (such as snowball fights or building snow forts) or are skiing or snowboarding, you will most likely be wearing snow pants over your outer pant layer. Depending on your choice of snow pants and the amount of time you will be spending outside you may choose to only wear a base layer underneath or to layer with another pair of comfortable pants.

Some of my warmest snow pants have come from Columbia Sportswear. Check out some of their winter deals with the link below.


Just like with bottoms, a good base layer is essential! The baselayer should be close to the skin, made of smart wool or synthetic material, and even better is a wicking material to keep the sweat away from your body.

Once you’ve found a great base layer, you need a good mid layer and you are well on your way to getting outside in the coldest temperatures.  My favourite mid layer ranges from my favourite cozy hoodie (for being outside short periods of time) to a thick wool sweater (one of my many great thrift store finds).

After this all you need is a good coat.

                     On my hands, I like to wear a pair of small gloves which give a good range of movement for when I need to tie knots or take pictures.  My gloves even have touch screen pads on the fingers so I can get those great selfies as well!  Over top, I opt for a pair of warm mitts which are water resistant to keep my hands warm and dry through anything.

There is never bad weather, just bad preparation.  Be prepared and learn to love the cold weather!

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