Be prepared for any weather when you dress in smart layers
As cold weather approaches people often ask us “How should my crews dress?” the simplest answer is: dress like an onion. What we mean by that is to think in terms of layers. An onion has many layers, so should anyone working outdoors in cold temperatures.
We like to steer people towards three layers; a base layer, a mid-layer and an outer layer. Sometimes one layer can perform multiple duties but for the most part during cold weather months it is best to have these three addressed before you head out for work.
The base layer is the next-to-skin-layer. This is the layer that keeps your skin warm but also should transfer moisture to other layers as you sweat. Therefore, base layers that wick are the best. These can be thin long underwear or simple performance Tees but if they move moisture away from the body, they will keep the body dry and warm. These layers are often made of thin merino wool, poly propylene or unique blends that perform well together.
The next layer, or mid-layer, should be your insulation layer. This is where the heat resides. Think of an R-value on insulation for your home. You want something with an R-value that measures up to the coldest weather you may face that time of year. For some, this layer might be a fleece pullover, a sweatshirt or even a wool sweater. Again, if this layer wicks moisture, then your sweat keeps getting carried further away from your body which is a good thing. There are many great insulating textiles. Some are light and thin and easy to move and some are heavy and bulky but provide serious warmth.
Lastly everyone needs a protective shell or outer layer. The main purpose is to keep the elements out. This means wind, rain and snow. Outer layers can be jackets, parkas, rain gear, snow suits, etc. Anything that keeps the inner layers dry and something that breaks the wind.
Another important piece of the puzzle we like to suggest is the ability to easily modify your layering in the field. By this I mean wearing layers that can unzip or unsnap partially or fully to regulate your temperature quickly. If it is hard to modify your layering on the spot, then most people will just keep working and “suck it up” for the rest of the day.
By wearing a sufficient layering system, workers in the field remain more comfortable, more level-headed and less susceptible to injury and temperature-related hazards.
So, the next time your crews are gearing up for a cold weather day, remind them of the onion.