A zombie's gotta keep warm donchaknow
November 17, 2012 6:49 PM   Subscribe

What do you use for an outer layer when it's cold (0-30 F) but not raining?

I usually layer up with Smartwool or Stoic base layers and a simple shell before heading out into winter, but I'm curious what the hive mind does, at least those where the temp dips down, during the winter. So please share your activities and outer shells for those if you would be so kind.

my winter activities are day-hikes, standing at bus stops, some snow shoeing and biking.
posted by zombieApoc to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, the difference from 0 to 30 F is HUGE. At 30 F, a normal winter jacket is fine. At 0 F... being outside for more than a couple of minutes is miserable torture no matter what you're wearing.
posted by paperzach at 6:55 PM on November 17, 2012

A coat.

That said, I'm not really sporty or anything, and I've never understood the desire to wear sport gear when one is just wandering around in their urban life, not climbing mountains or anything.

I guess if I wanted to buy something specifically for hikes and whatnot, I'd probably get some kind of ski parka?

Realistically, if I were going hiking in cold temperature I would wear a puffer vest with some sort of wool layer and probably something else below that because wool is sort of scratchy and I might work up a lot of body heat. Though I think below freezing is way too damn cold for that sort of thing. I would prefer to be at home watching Netflix and drinking tea.
posted by Sara C. at 6:58 PM on November 17, 2012 [6 favorites]

Depending on the temperature, I wear my winter down jacket (30F - 12 ish depending on the humidity) with base layer or two underneath with my goretex shell if its raining or snowing. Anything below that, I pull out my parka or ski jacket depending on what I'm doing. I live in Northern Canada and love winter, so I'm usually snowshoeing, alpine skiing, camping, or hiking, or walking around town.
posted by snowysoul at 7:03 PM on November 17, 2012

Echoing the difference between 30F and 0F. Under most winter circumstances, I will wear a wool overcoat. Sometimes a wool peacoat or fleece-lined leather motorcycle jacket.

At 0F, though, it is painfully cold, so I would probably opt for a ski jacket in that circumstance with some fleece layers underneath, but that's the only point where I will wear sportswear when I'm not actually participating in sports.
posted by deanc at 7:10 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I tend to wear a gigantic Swiss Army surplus greatcoat. It looks fairly snappy over a sportcoat and tie. Usually some thick scarf or other. This is, of course, during the relatively few days such a thing is called on in East Texas.
posted by LucretiusJones at 7:21 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've got a North Face Windwall jacket that I wear when doing various sporty active things in cold weather, including hiking, biking, and horseback riding if the temp's between about 20 and 40. When it's colder than that I can layer a waterproof uninsulated shell over it. If it's not cold but it is wet, I can wear the waterproof shell alone. The end result is basically the same as a 3-in-1 jacket, but the Windwall is a superior standalone piece compared to most fleece liners that you'll find in a 3-in-1 jacket.
posted by drlith at 7:47 PM on November 17, 2012

you gave me a good laugh, LucretiusJones, when I finally hit the last two words of your post :)

I spend a good amount of time outside during the winter and know very well that -15 feel worlds different than 0 or 10 above. However, once 30 hits, as the temp is going down, most people flip to two or so different outer shells depending on the severity of weather (wind, sleet, snow, just damn cold), so my purpose was to just see what others turn to
posted by zombieApoc at 7:47 PM on November 17, 2012

Sara C., you need to try the smartwool stuff, because it isn't scratchy at all, and is some of the most comfortable fabric I have ever owned. If it wasn't so damn expensive I'd have a wardrobe of the stuff.
posted by markblasco at 7:48 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can't suggest Smartwool enough.
posted by zombieApoc at 7:57 PM on November 17, 2012

When I've lived in places it gets seriously cold in the winter (Montreal & Calgary), winter dressing for the city and playing in the mountains etc has simply involved various combinations of capilene/polypro, light fleece (or, t-shirt + shirt + sweater if it's just a day in the city), short down jacket and gore-tex type shell. E.g: Hiking/climbing/skiing: stash the gore tex and just wear the breathable fleece while you're exerting yourself, put on the shell when you slow down; have the down jacket stashed away if there's a chance it'll get really cold (or to keep you alive if you break a leg and need to spend the night (: ). For serious cold the nuclear option is to wear the gore-tex over the down and everything else; I've found this would keep me warm enough when things get down into the minus 30s.
Now I'm living on the east coast where it doesn't get that cold, minus 5 Celsius or so (25-30F ?). I've found the ultimate all-purpose winter jacket for Halifax is this Patagonia jacket (Triolet maybe?... no it's called the 'Speed Ascent') that's made of fleece bonded directly to stretchy water resistant fabric, not exactly waterproof but very breathable, and the fleece keeps away whatever does soak through if there is a downpour. The hood makes it very cozy too. Over the past two winters I've found this is pretty much all I need for winter activities, and it is nice not to have to faff around with any other layers.
posted by Flashman at 8:06 PM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've usually just gone with my normal wool coat plus gloves --- I don't even reliably button it until the temp is down into the low teens, and I absolutely hate hats of any kind no matter how cold it gets. If I have to spend much time out in below-0 temps, I'll add a good pair (preferably silk) of long underwear. But then, I've spent time in much colder climates than where I am now (northern Greenland, anyone?), and don't really view the 0-30 degree range at all that extreme. (Why yes, I am a bit weird, thanks for asking.)

By the way, when it comes to gloves: leather gloves may look better/classier, but wool gloves will keep your hands warmer. For extreme situations, try a thin (here again, preferably silk) glove inside a thick mitten (something like Goretex is good).
posted by easily confused at 8:13 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

If it's 30F, I generally wear a hoodie or a fleece jacket. If it is windy and/or rainy I have a columbia shell, I wear over it, but it will be quite warm. I might wear just the shell. It depends.

If it's 0F, I will wear the shell and hoodie. If it is windy, I will also throw on a long sleeved t-shirt as well.

Below 0F I'll definately wear a long sleeved T, hoodie and colombia shell. This combo has been good for me to -35 or lower.

I have a wool pea coat for dressier occasions, but honestly, above 10-20F and that thing is just too warm.

I go bird hunting with my wife, and she's often amazed at how little I need to wear compared to her. She's got like 6 layers on, and I'm usually sweating my ass off in a not much more than a Tshirt and jeans.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:28 PM on November 17, 2012

How windy is it where you are at? For me at least, the wind (either from surroundings or making my own while biking) makes quite a bit of difference. I'll often go ahead and wear my rain shell on top of my long underwear/fleece layers on windy days as it cuts down how much air is reaching my body. If it's not at all windy and I'm out being active, I'll often just wear a fleece.

Now that is for when I'm out biking or cross country skiing, or something else active. For just normal going to work/errands, I find it easier just to throw on a coat rather than deal with a lot of layers. Here in North Dakota, I have two coats, one more dressy wool coat for the higher end of your temperature range, and a down parka for colder days.
posted by weathergal at 8:30 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, totally depends on temperature, wind, and activity. Shell, light jacket, bomber jacket, parka, trenchcoat all have their place. Pair with light or thinsulate glove and with or without hat or scarf as appropriate. There is a huge difference between 30 degrees on a calm day in the sun - maybe just go out with a sweater and a cap - and 0 degrees at night with a steady 20 mph wind - at least a bomber jacket and cap for me, and probably a scarf.
posted by meinvt at 9:24 PM on November 17, 2012

0-30? A light fleece jacket, with a hat if it gets windy.

Toward the lower end of that (below say 10), or with a lot of wind, I'll go with a lined overcoat rather than a fleece. But the fleece pretty much works fine in all but the most bitter weather.
posted by pla at 10:06 PM on November 17, 2012

For 20F and below, down jacket with hood.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:11 PM on November 17, 2012

For 20-35F, medium weight jacket with hat/scarf/mittens available if windy or a long walk. For lower temps, hat and scarf remain, under the hood.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:13 PM on November 17, 2012

For shovelling or waiting for the bus, I wear a mid-weight fleece jacket and a goretex shell. At about 30 degrees, I may just wear the fleece. At 0 degrees, I have both on along with some long winter underwear (or base layer as they are now called).

For cross-country skiing or winter running, I wear a windblocking fleece top and pants. If it is windy or wet, I may add the goretex shell. I may wear some long winter underwear on a cold day.

My hat is usually wool and gloves are either wool or wind blocking fleece.
posted by Area Man at 12:40 AM on November 18, 2012

I work outside and range from standing around (not much) to strenuous activity. Layers are my friend.

Base layer is usually something technical so sweating won't be uncomfortable - on the bottom I use winter running tights and on the top something of a similar nature - underarmor or similar.

Then I'll do a layer of something with high volume/insulation capability - down, fleece, a sweater, an insulated hoodie.
On the bottom, a regular pair of pants.

Then outer layer of windblocking - windblocker, raincoat kind of thing.

For feet - a good pair of thick socks, wool is nice if you can stand the itchy.

In terms of head coverings - I'm another person who hates hats. But I'll wear one if necessary. Scarfs are nice because they can either just do neck or go higher and cover the bottom of your face too.

I tend to get stuff at outdoorsmen's supply places like Cabela's. Shopping the end of the season makes things less expensive.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:23 AM on November 18, 2012

I respectfully disagree with Flashman. During my first stint in Montreal I did the layering thing -- base layer(s) of thermal underwear, fleece, goretex -- but it's just too much of a hassle to take on and off. Now I do like the locals do and wear a single, spacesuit-like garment: a Canada Goose. Expensive but worth every penny, and I can wear my regular clothes directly underneath it.
posted by awenner at 7:23 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh sure, it is a hassle. You can kind of get the down jacket and shell off together in one go but it's still a bit of a bulky carapace. Nowadays (now that I could afford it) I would definitely buy a big down overcoat.
posted by Flashman at 8:05 AM on November 18, 2012

Re the layering/base layer issue, this depends HUGELY on temperature.

If it's around freezing, my uniform is jeans, a bottom layer which will be what I wear around all day once I'm indoors (a long sleeved tee, a flannel button-down, something like that), a wool sweater, long socks (either cotton or smartwool is fine), boots, scarf/hat/gloves, and a wool overcoat.

If it's in the teens or heading down towards 0F and I'll be outdoors for more than a few moments, I'll add a base layer below the "normal attire" layer, mandatory wool socks, and potentially a second scarf (I like one knitted one for neck protection with a woven pashmina style thing layered over/around to ultra-insulate from nose to shoulders). I also used to have a big puffy down coat that went down to my knees and had a great hood that could go over my hat. But this is strictly for MISERABLE weather. I wouldn't wear that to go hiking or the like, because fuck if I'm doing any outdoor activity in zero degree temperatures.
posted by Sara C. at 11:12 AM on November 18, 2012

My SO, who's a randonneur (does long-distance, self-supported, non-competitive cycling), has lots of Smartwool and Rapha base layers that he wears in the fall and winter, but lately he's come to prefer the ones from Ibex, which are noticeably thicker and softer. He also likes the Ibex cycling tights. His typical outfit for cold weather is wool base layer, cycling jersey, fleece half-zip sweatshirt, hi-vis windbreaker, heavy wool rag socks, cycling gloves, heavy wool rag gloves over them, wool skull cap under helmet, polyester neck thingie, skin shorts and fleece-lined cycling tights. Please let me know if you need more brand/source info for this stuff and I'll ask him.

I have very sensitive skin and can't wear wool or acrylic; my usual uniform in cold weather is cotton/poly wicking long underwear pants (plus size ones are hard to find; got mine at Kohl's), jeans, non-wool hiking socks from REI, a tee/long underwear top/turtleneck depending on temp, a fleece pullover, and this jacket from Duluth Trading. I wanted a jacket that would be warm but not bulky and it is (looks like the price has gone up about $20 from last year, though). My honey got me a hat similar to this with a fleece lining that is super-warm, so I also wear that. When it's below 30, though, I often wear a lightweight fleece balaclava (from REI) so that my rosacea doesn't flare up, and let me tell you, that makes a HUGE difference in how comfy I am. I find them somewhat annoying to wear, but they do keep you much, much warmer. I have a fleece-lined neoprene one also and it's basically too warm to wear.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 5:26 PM on November 18, 2012

for your outer layer, you want something that doesn't let the wind through, and generally keeps the water out when it does rain. it should be something that has enough room for you to put on layers underneath, depending on how cold it is.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:20 PM on November 18, 2012

I live in a very cold, very windy, very snowy climate (northern North Dakota) so I consider anywhere on the 0-30F spectrum to be positively balmy in winter.

This means that I wear my Free Country fleece/vest in everything from -5F to 35F (I did once wear it in -15F and that was...unfortunate). It comes in two pieces (they zip together when needed) so I wear the fleece when it's warmer and the fleece+vest when it's colder. This seems like a pretty common arrangement where I live.

My activities: I work on a college campus, so typically I'm doing some substantial degree of walking across campus, but otherwise I'm usually inside in winter. The clothes I'm describing are really only hiking clothes at the top of the temp range but I think they're bus stop clothes all the way through the range (I certainly see students waiting for the bus at the temps you're talking about in the clothes I'm describing).

For the record: besides Free Country, Zero Xposur, the North Face, and Columbia are all popular brands which make both fleece and lightweight jackets as well as heavier weight jackets.
posted by librarylis at 9:05 PM on November 19, 2012

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