Cold Weather Tips

One of the most important rules for keeping warm is to have multiple layers of wicking materials.  Wicking materials allow moisture to move away from the skin and evaporate from the surface of the material. Clothing made of materials that wick will be indentified on the label.  Wicking is sometimes referred to as moisture transfer.  Common wicking fabrics include Thermax, Polarfleece and Microfiber, to name a few.  Some items referred to as "breathable", such as cotton, do not transfer moisture away from the skin.  The body is more susceptible to chilling when wet or damp clothing is against the skin.

One of my favorite winter clothing pieces is the Under Armour Compression Fit Coldgear.  The turtlenecks are wicking and also made of a material that provides light muscle support without feeling strangulating.  I've found I feel much less achey in cold weather since I've started wearing these.  Sometimes you can find these items at TJ Maxx or Marshalls for half of the retail price, which makes buying multiples much more affordable!  In fact, many times you can find "rider friendly" clothing in the Active Wear section of these stores.  I've also found Smartwool socks and warm barn socks, although sometimes you have to search the Men's section to find them.

For really cold days, a polarfleece beanie keeps your head warm.  For more moderate temps, I prefer earband warmers.  Sometimes you can find them with velcro fasteners, which is ideal for riding because you can fasten it around your neck if you don't want to wear it under your helmet.  There are a few different options to attach to your riding helmet to keep your ears warm.  One is a Polarfleece helmet cover, which covers the helmet and extends over the ears to fasten at the chin.  The other are fleece ear muffs which attach to the inside of the helmet strap to cover the ears.  I prefer the ear muffs because it is easier to turn your head without the whole polarfleece unit moving with you.

Winter helmet with polarfleece ear muffs. Under Armour compression gear turtleneck.

My favorite winter breeches are Romph Nordic Winter Breech. They also make a Scandia winter breech available in a full seat version.  They are very comfortable with fleece lining and a soft water and wind repellent outer shell.  For really cold days, layer the Under Armour compression leggings underneath.

For my feet, I use a sock liner of thermax or something similar and Smartwool socks under my lined winter paddock boots.

Smartwool socks

For my hands, I use SSG Ceramic Glove liners and SSG 10 Below Gloves. The glove liners not only add another layer of insulation, but they also allow dexterity needed for buckling bridles that thicker gloves may be too bulky for.  The SSG 10 Below gloves are also waterproof, so they are a great choice if you ride in the snow.

For barnwork, I wear lots of layers of wicking clothing.  This allows me to take layers off as I warm up. I start with a base layer of wicking underwear. Every layer of clothing, especially those closest to the skin, needs to be able to transfer moisture away from the skin.

wicking underwear

wicking sports bras

I am addicted to the UnderArmour Compression Turtlenecks.  I wear one every day in the cold weather.

I usually try to wear polarfleece zip neck shirts because it wicks better than sweatshirts.  Even the wicking sweatshirts tend to get clammy feeling after a while.   The disadvantage of fleece is that it is a hair and hay magnet, so if you can find a top with a smoother finish, it may be better at repelling hair and hay.

1/4 zip fleece

I layer ski bib overalls over my jeans and fleece top. I like the ski overalls better than the canvas type because it is easier to move around in them and they are also water resistant.  Which is good because I'm always spilling something on myself! Another advantage of the ski bibs is that they keep the clothes underneath  clean and they last for many seasons. If you get hot while doing barnwork, you can always take them off and work in the layer of clothing underneath. 

ski bib overalls

I then wear a three season jacket-something usually with fleece lining and a smooth water resistant outer shell.

three season jacket

  For my ears, it is either velcro closure earbands or a snug fitting cap.  For my feet, I wear sock liners with heavy wool socks.  In 30 degree and above weather, I wear Muck boots.  For less than 30 degree weather, I have a pair of Sorel boots that are incredibly warm. The sole is thick, so there is more space between your feet and the ground, keeping your feet warm.  The thick sole also makes walking look like a Frankenstein imitation!

velcro closure earbands

sock liner

  For my hands, I like the SSG Ceramic Glove liners and SSG Winter Ranchers or SSG 10 Below Gloves.  The Winter Ranchers are leather but not waterproof, but they seem to last much longer than the 10 Belows for barnwork.  I tend to use the 10 Below gloves during rainy or snowy days due to their waterproof qualities and the Winter Ranchers the rest of the time. In the coldest weather, using disposable latex, vinyl or nitrile glove liners underneath your work gloves will keep your hands warm. These liners will keep the warmth and moisture next to your skin. Your hands may get sweaty in them but as long as you don't remove the liners when you are in the cold, I have not found this to be a problem. It is also very easy to remove the outer work gloves and just use the liners when you need additional dexterity. An added bonus is that my hands don't suffer the skin damage they normally do in the winter. I have found that the latex gloves rip the most easily. The vinyl gloves are more durable but more loosely fitting. Because the vinyl gloves are loose fitting, they are easy to remove and also re use if needed. If they stick together after removal, simply blowing into them like a balloon will allow you to slip your hands into them again. I highly recommend the nitrile gloves as they fit more closely and are more durable than latex. They are the most durable and do a great job of protecting your hands in the winter without sacrificing dexterity. I apply moisturizer to my hands first, then apply the nitrile gloves. If you blow into the gloves first, it makes them much easier to put on.

vinyl disposable gloves

nitrile disposable gloves

latex disposable gloves


Another worthwhile item is a boot dryer.  These are designed to warm and dry out your boots.  They also work well for gloves that have gotten wet but cannot be put in the dryer

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