Every year without fail we get that alert, Extreme Cold Weather. Winter in Winnipeg is inevitable, it happens every year. But it doesn't have to be an awful experience, with the right clothing system you can get outside and have a great time.
You have cross-country skis or a fat bike that you probably still want to use despite the cold conditions. Yet that deep cold weather intimidates you, and it seems easier to stay inside than go have fun. We fully understand. That's why with these few tips you can get outside and have fun enjoying a ski around Winnipeg's white pine forests, or taking your fat bike out on the trails.
Everybody’s internal furnace is a little different and some experimenting will be required as to how many layers and what materials you use. While being active your body will produce its own heat. Capitalizing on our heat is key.
When being active in cold weather you are fighting heat loss from two different enemies. Conduction, ie Sweat is the body’s mechanism to keep cool. As you sweat it conducts heat away from you. The other is Convection, aka wind. It will blow your heat bubble away. Your clothes are your first defence.
How should I dress to stay warm while being active?
Dress in layers. Wearing a big warm parka while being active can cause you to overheat. You want to avoid sweating because you will soak the insulation and reduce its ability to keep you warm. Instead, choose a good wool base layer (think long johns and a thin t-shirt). Next, a mid-layer with buttons or a zipper so that you can regulate your heat. Finally, use an outer layer that is windproof and waterproof to keep you from getting chilled by the wind. The idea is to let the sweat move through the layers to the outermost where it can evaporate or in very cold conditions be brushed off as frost. The number and thickness will vary as the temperature drops.
Don’t use cotton as a base layer. Cotton, when it gets wet, gets cold. An adage to keep in mind (although sounds harsh) is "cotton kills". Instead, use technical fabrics or wool to allow sweat to easily move off your skin.
Keep your head and hands warm. It’s not difficult to find good winter gear, but you’ll probably want to experiment a little to find the right combination. Our favourite headgear is a merino wool toque and we love split finger mittens to keep some dexterity while also staying warmer.
Don’t underestimate quality socks. Cold feet will ruin any outing so make sure that you have proper socks for the weather. Cotton is a bad idea but many of us find wool to be scratchy. Try merino wool socks or you could try layering. A thin polypropylene sock under a thicker sock could be great. Another option is Ski socks that are high enough to keep your calves warm.
Thin windproof/ breathable shells are better than one super insulation layer. When shopping for your outer layer of Jacket or pants, they are often the biggest expense of your winter wardrobe. We find that a thinner windproof jacket large enough to fit over your layers with breathability features built in, such as armpit vents, is preferable over having one thick down-filled jacket. North Face carries a jacket that works great as an outer layer and even comes with an isolation mid-layer that you can remove.
General cold weather clothing tips
For Winter biking or Skating, we highly recommend you keep wearing a helmet. During the cold snaps then an insulated helmet will keep your noggin from freezing. The layers in most insulated helmets can be removed so you can cool off as it starts to warm up. Alternatively, you can keep using your summer helmet but with a helmet liner underneath.
Hand warmers and Foot Warmers are always a cheap and easy way to snag a little warmth. These are great if you are out and stationary for a few hours at a time. Keep them in your pockets or your gloves and they will last for hours!
Goggles aren’t just for skiing. Have you ever been in weather so cold it freezes your eyelashes? Goggles will cover the part of your face you can’t wrap a scarf around. An Amber lens goggle will reduce glare from the sun, and still be somewhat visible at night. They make them with vents around the entire lens so fogging will be somewhat reduced.
On a budget? Use army surplus! Army surplus can fit into a budget option, yet be durable to last many years. A shop favourite is a Canadian extreme cold weather parka. Also use Canadian wind-breaking pants for riding my bike in the winter. They are puffy like ski pants, but aren’t insulated so I don’t overheat while riding!
We hope you are enjoying our tips this winter! We would love to hear from you. If you have any other suggestions you would like to add, leave a comment below!
Stay warm out there!