When you’re uncomfortable working in cold weather or, even worse, ill-prepared, it can negatively affect your mental and physical health. The biggest concern for trade professionals working outside for long periods of time in the winter is hypothermia. Investing in the right gear and proper layering is crucial for coping with seasonal demands.

How to Prepare

Effective layering is essentially creating your own heating and cooling system for your body. You can regulate temperature and comfort level by slipping layers on and off as your activity level or the weather changes. 

Instead of choosing 1-2 bulky items to combat the cold, like a t-shirt and a big jacket, select three well-fitting layers. For work in inclement weather, fleeces, thermals, and water-resistant pieces are your best options for staying dry and keeping warm.

Base Layer

The primary purpose of your base layer, the one closest to your skin, is to wick. Your body will use more energy to stay warm if your skin is wet, so opting for something that moves perspiration away from the skin and keeps it from freezing is key. Wicking fabrics need to be in contact with your skin to work properly. The piece you choose should have a snug but not a tight fit. Heavier or thicker fabrics will keep you warmer, though fabric weight will be up to personal preference and the climate you work in.

Mid Layer

Next up is your mid layer, an insulating piece that traps your body heat to protect you from the cold. Fleece dries fast and stays warm even if it gets damp—making it a favorite for wet weather. It also breathes well, preventing you from overheating. Another option is a layer with synthetic insulation, which retains its insulating properties even when damp. Because synthetic insulation gets packed inside a shell-like material, you have the added benefits of water and wind resistance.

Shell Layer

Your final layer, or shell, is the last line of protection between you and the elements. A shell should prevent you from getting wet, treated with DWR, so water beads up and rolls off. If the goal isn’t full waterproofing, a shell should also be breathable enough so sweat can escape.