clothes for extreme cold
Layer clothes for winter warmth

Winter Clothes Layers Keep You Warm

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When the temperature drops, the number of clothing layers you wear needs to increase. The layers help trap body heat like a blanket. Here are suggested clothing layers for winter. You have options for each piece of clothing. The key is not to have all bulky clothing.

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Winter Clothes Base Layer

Your base layer should be made of wool, silk or polypropylene. This layer needs to hold heat without absorbing moisture. Cotton holds moisture against your skin.

Top Clothes Layer

Your next layer may be a pullover sweater, a flannel shirt, a thin sweatshirt, a silk blouse, etc. You will want something that is loose fitting but not bulky.

If it is not extremely cold outside, 2-3 layers are all you need. Choose clothes made of wool, flannel or fleece. If it is extremely cold, you will need three plus layers. If this is your top layer, you can choose bulky clothing such as cable-knit sweaters, bulky fleece, etc. Or pick an easy to remove layer such as a cardigan.

Insulated Layer

In extreme cold, you will need a piece of inner clothing that is insulated. Choose natural fabrics such as classic fleece, wool, or goose down. The vest or jacket will need to be thin.

Bottom Winter Clothes Layer

You will need two layers on your legs plus your base layer.

This layer needs to be thin, so it fits under your top pants. Choose a pant that is thin and breathable with a minimum of details. For women, leggings may be a good choice.

Choose a thick fabric for your top pants clothes layer such as denim, fleece-lined sweats, thick wool pants, heavy duck or corduroy. If you are going to get wet, wear water-resistant pull-up pants over the other two pairs.


Using two layers of socks will keep your feet toasty. The under sock needs to be thin-such as a dress sock.

Your top sock should be insulated and preferably have padding on the bottom. Your socks should be long–no anklets.

Outer Clothes Layer

Your coat should be wind and water-resistant. Choose one that is insulated–down (real or synthetic), fake fur, fleece or other thick linings. Pick a coat that fits snug at the wrists. A coat with a double layer closure–zipper with a snap up tab over–will offer the most protection. The tab protects against wind entering through the zipper. Choose a fabric that is tightly woven. Leather coats are both wind and water-resistant but usually are not insulated making them a poor choice for bitterly cold days. Styles that work include trench, military coat, longer ski coats, puffer coats, and a parka. To fit over the clothes layers, you may need to buy a size larger coat.


Choose a cap or hat that covers your head including your ears or choose a hat with ear flaps. For people with long hair, a ponytail hat allows space for your hair. Pull the hood of your coat over your cap on freezing days.


Mittens are warmer than gloves. The choice is yours. You can pick a
knitted glove or a leather glove for cold days, and a thin glove with a
mitten pulled over on a frigid day. If your hands are going to get wet,
choose a water-resistant mitten.

Scarf/ Face Mask

On freezing days a scarf wrapped around your face or a face mask is recommended. The scarf is to protect you from inhaling icy cold air.


Choose a pair of flat boots–no high heels–that have tread on the sole of the boot making them suitable for icy conditions. Choose a boot that is taller than ankle height to keep out snow. They should be water-resistant. The style depends on your taste–work boot, hiking boot, snow boot or something more fashionable.

Additional tips:

  • Wet clothing chills the body quickly–try to stay dry or wear water-resistant outer clothing layer.
  • Goose down loses its’ insulation ability when wet.
  • If you feel warm, remove a clothing layer. Do not allow yourself to get sweaty.
  • Don’t ignore shivering. Seek a warm place.

Source: Outdoor Safety During a Winter Storm

Please share any additional ideas for layering clothing in the comments below.

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