How to Dress When Walking in Cold, Winter Weather

If you’ve spent any time in the Jetti Fitness Crew, you’ve probably heard the statement “there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing.” Because we believe that no matter the weather—within reason, of course—you can always get outside for a walk. As long as you dress the part.

We get it. Knowing what to wear can be confusing, but we’ll break it down for you. To start, the first rule of thumb to consider for winter walking is to dress as if it were 10 degrees warmer than what the thermometer reads. Yep, you’ll likely be a bit cold when you first hit the path, but we promise, as soon as you get going, your body will begin to warm up. In fact, according to this video from University of Manitoba researcher Gordon Giesbrecht, AKA Professor Popsicle, the more you go out into the cold, the more your body learns to regulate temperature. 

So, what should you wear? 

Layer Up

When walking in the cold, you’ll want to make sure to dress in layers. Layer one is your “base layer.” Here you should avoid cotton, which retains moisture when it becomes damp, so opt for wool or synthetic base layers to be next to your skin. Layer two should be something warm and toasty for both top and bottom—sweatpants and a fleece pullover are great options. Layer three is your “outer layer”—a warm jacket or coat. 

Keep the elements in mind as you select your outer layer. If there’s moisture in the air, consider a waterproof jacket to provide protection from rain or snow. Finally, for really cold days, consider adding a vest between layers two and three. Fleece or lightweight down vests both work well.

Pay Attention to Your Extremities

When we are out in the cold our bodies generally don’t pump as much blood to our head, hands and feet, so it's super important to pay extra attention to these areas. First, keep those tootsies toasty with a good pair of socks. Darn Tough has a variety of merino wool socks that provide a great layer as they are breathable and moisture-wicking. Remember not to wear cotton as a base layer to avoid your socks getting damp and cold. For your hands, a good pair of gloves, like these from Hestra, with breathable insulation are a must to keep your hands warm and cozy. Finally, you’ll want a warm hat —we love a lined beanie like this one— that covers your ears.

The Best in Footwear

Though you can get away with a good walking or light hiking shoe for most weather, if you’re walking in snowy or icy conditions, or temperatures in the teens or below, you may want to find a heavy Sorel winter boot. Not only are they fashionable, but paired with good socks, they’ll give you good traction and warmth for your winter walk. Speaking of traction, icy and slippery conditions warrant crampons like the ones from YakTrax which can attach to any shoe from sneakers to hikers to winter boots.

Don’t Forget to Accessorize

Now that you’re layered up, you’ll want to add the right accessories. Nope, we’re not talking about a sparkly pair of earrings, though if they inspire you to head out for a walk, have at it! Seal off your layers with a cozy scarf, neck gaiter or balaclava to make sure there’s no break in your warmth. And, snowy winter days tend to reflect a lot of light, so grab a pair of shades to protect your eyes. Not to mention a moisturizing sunscreen to hydrate your skin and fend off the sunburn. 

You’ll want to stay visible since daylight is at a minimum during the winter months, so wearing reflective gear and a headlamp, or carrying a flashlight, can make sure you’re visible to any oncoming traffic that might be in your path when the light is low. We do love Jetti Lights for a light-weight, hands-free option.

To Wrap it Up

Though layers are important, they don’t have to be bulky. You still want to be able to move easily and keep a good pace, so if you can’t lower your arms once you’re all dressed (see Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story, it might be wise to reconsider if the layers you chose are best. Also, take note of how you feel during each walk. Were you too hot? Maybe too cold? Don’t be afraid to change things up and find what works best for your body. 

One last tip. When you get back from your walk, though you may not feel it right away, you’re likely to have worked up a sweat. We advise you to climb out of your layers right away—yes, before you grab that mug of hot cocoa—and get into dry clothes. There’s nothing worse than the chill that moisture brings to your body, making it almost impossible to warm up.

This winter, don’t let the dropping temperatures keep you from the benefits of walking outside. Instead, gather up the essentials, lace up those boots, and head out the door. Winter walks are a thrill, if you’re dressed for the chill.