Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Walk in Bad Weather

        Health | Exercise

How to Dress When Walking in the Cold

Learning how to dress when walking in the cold is quite simple: Just reverse your hot-weather strategy. Instead of wearing light-colored clothing that reflects the sun's rays, choose dark-colored clothing that absorbs them. If you'll be walking in the evening or early morning, however, be sure to use reflective tape or a reflective vest so that motorists will be able to see you.

In addition, you need to construct a personal heating system that uses your body as the furnace. To do that, dress in layers of warm, loose-fitting clothing. The loose fit allows freedom of movement and promotes comfort.

The layering strategy is very much like the insulation in your home; it keeps the heat in and the cold out. The layers of clothing trap warm air and hold it next to your body. The more you work, the warmer the air becomes.

At the same time, these layers of warm air act as a barrier to the cold. When it comes to dressing for cold weather, it's the total thickness of the layers that really pays off.

The best choices for the innermost layer are polypropylene, silk, or thin, fine wool, because these materials "wick" the perspiration away from your skin. The middle layers should be made of knitted wool or synthetic pile.

For the outer shell, use a windbreaker made of water-repellent, tightly woven material that "breathes." This breathable fabric will allow the water vapor from your perspiration to escape.

After a little practice, you will quickly learn what you'll need to wear for protection from the cold and wind. When you walk in cold weather, it is always better to wear too many layers rather than too few. That way, you can strip off layers, one by one, as your body heats up.

You can then tie this extra clothing around your waist. Even better, however, try using an outer layer that has a zipper front. This way you can simply unzip the top layers to let the cool air in when you get too hot.

Be aware that, even in the winter, exercise can induce overheating. In warm weather, walkers tend to be on the lookout for signs of heat illness. By exercising continuously for over half an hour, you can raise your body temperature significantly, even if it's cold outside -- but cold-weather walkers may not realize this. That's why you need to shed or unzip one or two outer layers as soon as you start feeling too warm.

It's even possible to get dehydrated in the winter, so it's important to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your winter walks. Cold acts as a diuretic, encouraging urination and fluid loss from the body.

Out in the dry, cold air, you may lose more body fluid than you realize. Your thirst reflex is also depressed in the cold, so you shouldn't rely on it to tell you when to drink.

Go to the next page to learn how to choose the right hat, socks, and mittens for walking in the cold.

To learn more about walking, see:


More to Explore