Thursday, November 20, 2014

How To Survive the Polar Vortex: Rider Edition

If anyone reading this actually knows me, they will know that I am a freeze baby. I am cold all the time, and wear more layers than any person has any right to. BUT I did survive last winter (may I remind you, the -35 degree "feels like" and the wind so cold you couldn't have your face uncovered) with all of my fingers and toes. For a minute there it was tense, but with some thought and new winter boots, I SURVIVED!


Much cold when riding outside on a "nice" day.

Here's how I did it:


I start with Cuddle Dud long john bottoms, or, if it's legit freezing, I bump up to my Columbia Omniheat baselayer (Omniheat is the best. Seriously.) with coolmax base layer socks to hold them down. I also usually rock a Cuddle Dud top, or, again, the Omniheat (mine is a mens, but #YOLO) should it be legitimately too cold to function. The Cuddle duds are wicking, warm and the 360 degree stretch gives you a great range of motion, and they're pretty affordable, too!

Mid layer:

I add a fleece layer next; usually a Columbia zip up fleece and Kerrits Sit Tight and Warm breeches. I am a Kerrits ambassador, yes, but I sincerely LOVE these breeches (and the discounts Kerrits gives me ;) ). I walked out of the barn, bracing myself, the first time I wore them, for the wind to blow through them and steal every iota of body heat from my lower extremities. And I felt... nothing. Windpro fleece blocks the wind, and the seat is super sticky which is wonderful when it's freezing and muscles don't work. Over the breeches, I usually wear REI mereno wool hiking socks (they come in different weights, but I prefer to go for the warm ones!) or Smartwool knee highs, which were a gift last year. I love them, and they have Koi on them and they're just so cool.

Outer layer:

My riding jacket is my old college jacket - a Columbia interchange with a windbreaker layer and inside, a puffer type jacket with omni heat. As you can tell, Columbia has worked out really well for me - if I don't wear the omni heat jacket, I have another Columbia that is oversized that I wear when I need to be active and have room to move. If you have a jacket you like, maybe try an Omniheat vest. which is also one of my favorite layers.

For boots, I have my new Ariat Brossard boots (link to my review post), which I put toe warmers in. The thinsulate lined foot and leg are the winning factor with me - between them, and the wicking coolmax socks, my feet stay warm and most importantly DRY should I cold sweat or overheat. Dry feet are warm feet, remember that. I bought mine through Amazon Prime and paid 150$ for them (just watch the prices - a deal will come along!!).

For gloves, I'm at a bit of a loss. I really like my SSG ProShow winter gloves, which are again fully lined with thinsulate. They're flexible and I can actually do buckles and ride in them without feeling like I can't feel the reins or function. They are not amazingly warm, but they hold their own, especially because I don't have to pull them off every two seconds to do a buckle or use my fingers. Otherwise, if it's dry, I will double up on the $1 cheapo gloves from Target or where ever - I tend to go crazy buying them up when they clearance out in the spring, and I get to indulge my love of crazy colors in the process. Two layers of them blocks the wind better, and you can strip off the top pair should they get wet and your bottom layer might still survive.

I also sometimes throw on a neck gaiter, especially if the wind is super cold. I pull it up over my face when I'm outside. When I rode outside full time many-a-year ago, I'd ride with a full balaclava on under my helmet. And while you look like a ninja, your face is warmer and your snot doesn't freeze to your face. It's the little things, right?

I have Helmet ear muffs in my helmet and they actually work great - when I'm not mounted I wear an omni heat hat, and it is legitimately worth it's weight in gold, plus more. The minute you put it on it goes to work reflecting your heat back at you and keeping you warm.

Seriously, I'm obsessed with Omniheat - some of it is pricy, but you can find it at Columbia outlets or online (Sierra Trading Post FTW) for pretty reasonable prices. And it's worth it. So, so worth it.

Stay warm, my friends. 

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