It’s ‘Never Too Cold’ If You’re Dressed Properly

When the temperature drops, pile on the layers

Photos by Betsy Bethel Teresa Riley, sales floor outfitter at Cabela’s at The Highlands in Triadelphia, shows a Cabela’s base layer with specially designed cells inside to trap warm air from the body. Layering is key to staying warm in the Arctic weather that the Ohio Valley has been experiencing.

WHEELING –In single-digit temperatures with windchill factors in the negatives, most people with the option likely will choose to stay indoors under a cozy blanket with a hot beverage and perhaps a pet to keep them warm.

For those who do brave the frigid elements — whether for their jobs or for so-called leisure pursuits such as hunting, skiing or even jogging — there is one tried and true technique for dressing warmly: Layers.

“Our motto here is: It’s never too cold to be outside, you’re just dressing wrong,” said Bud Forte, marketing manager at Cabela’s at The Highlands in Triadelphia.

But this isn’t layering the way the mom in “A Christmas Story” dresses Randy for the cold (Remember “I can’t put my arms down”?).

“It’s not how many layers you dress in, it’s what those layers are,” Forte said.

The key to the base layer, the one closest to the skin, is that it wicks moisture away from the skin so that when you perspire during physical activity, your clothes stay dry.

“You don’t want anything that absorbs water,” said Mike Lanning, an employee at Alpine Skis & Boards in Wheeling.

The experts at REI, an outdoor gear retailer, suggest the base layer be made of merino wool, synthetic fabrics such as polyester, or silk. They usually are very thin, but they come in several weights depending on level of activity and temperature.

Teresa Riley, a Cabela’s outfitter, said pipeliners have been coming in this week to purchase the “polar” weight base layers.

A particularly effective base layer available at Cabela’s is one that has “cells” — like a checkerboard — on the inside that trap heat. (Think the waffle style of old-fashioned long johns.) The Cabela’s version also has longer sleeves with thumb holes that serve two purposes: keeping the sleeves in place when putting on subsequent layers and protecting the wrists from exposure.

In the same vein, hiking enthusiast Laura Roberts of Wheeling recommends a base layer by Columbia that has metallic reflective dots on the inside to reflect the heat back from the body.

The next layer should provide insulation, with fleece (such as Polartec or Thinsulate), wool and down the top choices.

“Down and wool are your friend,” said Melissa Saville of Wheeling, a self-proclaimed “freeze baby,” who prefers cold temperatures.

A few Wheeling residents who are active outdoors in weather that’s not quite as cold as it has been in the Ohio Valley this week suggest sleeveless vests as the top layer to ensure mobility.

“For skating, walking or snowshoeing, I wear a turtleneck and a sleeveless winter-weight vest so that my arms can move freely, and long johns under regular weight jeans,” said Isabel Harrar of Wheeling.

For those who will be exposed to snow, wind or water, a waterproof and windproof outer layer is key — again here, moisture is the enemy. The shell also should be breathable and roomy enough not to restrict movement, according to REI. The looser fit also traps warm air.

“The whole point of layers is that insulating air pocket between each one,” said Wheeling resident Karen Cox, a West Virginia University Extension agent.

Other key parts of the sub-zero ensemble, recommended by local residents, include:

— Waterproof, insulated boots.

— Wool socks with a little nylon or Lycra for stretch. “I have wool socks for running. They are great and really warm. Merino is soft and not heavy. It doesn’t trap moisture against your skin,” said Lee Ann Cleary of Martins Ferry. “Go with a synthetic-wool blend,” said Lanning. “I always find those to the be the warmest.”

— A balaclava to cover the neck and head. (“It seals the gap on your neck. Just don’t wear it into a bank,” suggested Judi Tarowsky of St. Clairsville.)

— And on your hands: “Thin gloves under thick gloves or mittens, tucked up into the sleeve of your coat,” Brandon Holmes of Wheeling said.

Once you’re properly dressed, you’re ready for hunting, sledding, skiing or even shoveling snow to your heart’s content, Forte said.

“When you’re dressed warmly, everyone will have a good time. ‘Cause once you get cold, you’re done.”