Winter Comfort and Joy Depends on the Right Clothes

I have to admit to being somewhat agnostic when it comes to winter weather. Living in southern California, it’s something I hear about but do not experience.


I am aware that it gets cold in some areas of the world. I’ve heard the term “polar vortex” and know the principle behind the windchill factor. But honestly, I just don’t care one way or the other. Well, I didn’t care until a couple of weeks ago.

I traveled to Colorado on business, booked into a nice hotel and settled in to get ready for a meeting the following morning. I woke to snow and temps in the low 30s F. There I was in open-toed shoes and a light sweater trying to break through some kind of frozen material disguised as ice and snow on the car’s windshield.

Normally, I would have chalked it up to poor planning and forgotten about it. But this was different. As I stood there in the snow, chipping away at the windshield feeling more foolish than cold, I kinda’ panicked. In just a matter of months, my husband and I, our business and all that we own will pack it up and move to Colorado! 

All I could think was how do people who live in cold climates manage to do that without majorly interrupting their lives and messing with their minds? Friends have assured me it’s not difficult, provided you “have the right clothes and you know how to layer.”

Sounds easy enough if you now what that means. But I don’t. So I posted a plea for Help! on our DPL Facebook page

Within minutes, readers who know how to live happily and comfortably through cold winters  began pouring in. You guys are fantastic, and I’m grateful. I have learned so much. In fact, I’m feeling very confident. Here’s what I’m learning:

Layer Up

Proper winter dressing, means three layers: wicking, insulating and protection. 

Wicking is the layer worn next to your skin, usually consisting of long underwear. This means the fibers will wick (move) moisture away from your skin and pass it through the fabric so it will evaporate. This keeps you warm, dry and comfortable. Readers are divided on the details of this wicking layer. Most insist (and I mean passionately) that silk thermal underwear is the secret of happy people in winter weather. Others are equally insistent that it has to be the brand Cuddle Duds because they fit so well and these items are so warm and comfy. I’m torn but plan to go with the majority, opting first for silk.

Insulating is the middle layer, and includes sweaters, sweatshirts, vests and pullovers. The purpose of this layer is to keep heat in and cold out, which happens when air gets trapped between the fibers. Popular insulation materials include fleece, a synthetic material that works well to insulate because it dries quickly and wool which naturally wicks away moisture.

Protection is the exterior layer, like a jacket and pants or a coat that serves as protection against the elements of winter. The protection layer should repel water from snow, sleet or rain. It should also block the wind while allowing perspiration to evaporate. Most genuine winter shells and pants are made waterproof and breathable to some extent by using tightly woven fabrics that have a coating or laminate. This keeps moisture on the outside but allows perspiration to escape, keeping you dry and comfortable.

Many readers strongly suggest that a down-filled coat or jacket is well worth the investment and something that I will not regret. I’ve been looking around and wouldn’t be at all surprised to find this beautiful packable down coat in shale, under the Christmas tree with my name on it.


Headwear is essential because most of the body’s heat escapes from an uncovered head.  I’m pretty excited that I’ll have a very real need to knit more hats, headbands, and beanies.

Sunglasses will do more than make us look cool. They’re essential to protect our eyes from the damaging solar radiation. And as we’ll be living in the high elevation of northern Colorado, I’m learning that the ultraviolet rays are particularly powerful, making sunglasses with UV protection an absolute must for good health and comfort.

Socks. Oh, my. You people really do know your socks and have totally convinced me that we’ll each need a pair of SmartWool socks. I was skeptical. I mean really, aren’t socks just socks? A bit of research convinced me that my readers are pretty smart. About wool. SmartWool socks are made from a perfect blend of New Zealand merino wool, nylon and elastane, engineered to be ideal for cold weather, addressing all of the problems regular socks and winter can produce (too hot, too cold, too tight, too bulk, too stinky). Let’s just say that my husband is going to find a pair of SmartWool socks in his Christmas stocking.

There’s no doubt that preparing for our first winter is going to require an investment of time and money. Thank you so much to everyone who weighed in with such excellent and specific information. You can still find that post and the highy entertaining comments at And while you’re there, click on that “Like” button to join in the fun.

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  1. RebeccaG
    RebeccaG says:

    Don’t forget the boots! Thin leather boots with high heels won’t work on icy surfaces. Living in Minnesota means I have several pairs of boots. The UGG boots (or other fleece-lined boots) are good with blue jeans and for casual wear. The Sorel or LL Bean boots are for prolonged work or play outdoors. A pair of leather boots for dress-up or going to work are nice to have. But Minnesota fashion allows you go to work with the warmer boots when it’s bitterly cold or snowing outside, as long as you bring appropriate shoes for indoors. Observe what the local, experienced people are wearing and ask them where they shop. Boots tend to sell out by early winter.

  2. Judy
    Judy says:

    Mary–it is essential (I think) that you have more than one winter coat to protect you through the various stages of winter. The “artic blast” coat is not needed every day of winter. Be sure to have something water proof that is a little lighter for the milder days of winter. Also, for most of the days “sloggers” rain boots are wonderful. They slip on and are total gum rubber so your feet stay dry. If there is only 3-4 inches of snow they are perfect. I live in Rochester NY where it is snowing today!

  3. Portia
    Portia says:

    I have lived in Upstate New York my entire life and rarely need to dress like a weather warrior. If I am spending a lot of time outdoors I wear heavy boots, silk long underwear, etc. My day to day clothing is usually a warm jacket, sturdy boots or shoes, gloves and a scarf. Two items I am very selective with are my gloves and sunglasses. The glare of the sun on the snow can be blinding. I wear my sunglasses year round not unlike you probably have done in So. California. Gloves must be warm and able to grip a steering wheel. No fleece mittens or gloves grandma knitted.

  4. Fay Pitz
    Fay Pitz says:

    I am sold on DryMax socks. I just finished hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and not a blister or problem was had. My feet were dry and comfortable. Although I have SmartWool socks, the DryMax perform better for me and are virtually guaranteed to not cause a blister. My co-hikers wore SmartWool and several had to use moleskin for the places on their feet. I found out about DryMax on a hiking site and bought a pair from Amazon to try before buying additional pairs. They come in running, tennis and hiking varieties.

  5. Sara Butterworth Connell
    Sara Butterworth Connell says:

    As a loyal reader and optometrist, I’ll weigh in on the sunglasses! You will want to find sunglasses that block 100% of both UVA and UVB. I also highly recommend polarized lenses which are great for dramatically decreasing glare which can be a significant problem in the snow. All the best for your move!

  6. Jinny Zeigler
    Jinny Zeigler says:

    I have for years wanted to start an investment club for our family’s women and daughters, granddaughters. My idea of fun is listening to them giving their “reports” on a company, interesting person, a book review, giving us information on an investing aspect. We would all contribute an agreed amount (i.e., $25/mo) and make a decision together about what to do with any profits, like a group vacation, in, 5 years for example, since before then all monies would be reinvested. Anyone else doing anything like this, and what’s the best way to get started?

  7. Annie36
    Annie36 says:

    Mary, loved the down coat. I live in Utah and it has been cold here! I got the Calvin Klein coat in taupe at Costco yesterday for $49. The also have a similar vest, different brand, that I have and love, and a shorter version of the coat by another brand.

  8. Annie36
    Annie36 says:

    Me again, Costco also has Head Runner’s Gloves that are warm, digital and have a cute design on the palm and fingers that make them safe for driving

  9. Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm
    Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm says:

    Sorry to be so long in responding…I live in the Appalachian Mtns of southwest VA and in Jan 1996 the outside temps got down to 35 below zero. In February of this year, the outside temps were 20 below zero. This isn’t the norm but it does happen. In 1995 we moved to this farmhouse and began renovations; in January 1996 we had no walls, only 6 mil plastic stapled over R-19 insulation. The reason we had 6 mil plastic over the insulation was due to the wind which kept blowing so hard, the insulation would come loose from the staples and fall on the floor. Each morning I would walk through the house, banging a wooden spoon on a pot so the wild animals who had sought shelter could be run out.
    Oh yeah. I know how to keep warm…it’s all about heat and eat when you live in a rural area.

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