Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dealing With The Cold

We've been in a deep freeze with last few days feeling like -22 C (warming up today!) to -28 C overnights at home and -34 C at the cottage.

D just called and said he thinks for the first time in his driving life, the entire windshield washer system, tank and all, had frozen over and had a hairy drive to work because of it.  It hadn't started working yet when he got to work.  Normally if it was just the nozzle by the wipers, it kicks in after 10 min of driving.  And we have de-icing spray for that. 

We will be adding winter windshield fluid to our shopping list.  And should it look like it is happening again, he will be turning around home and taking my car (garage) instead. 

Since we are on the topic of cold weather, I'll use this opportunity to write about dressing for warmth, something most of us Canadians know a thing or two about.

It never fails to surprise me what people wear in the winter.  We like to layer so that heat can be trapped and held while letting moisture dissipate.  To achieve that, you need to layer with breathable fabrics -- Not Cotton, which will hold moisture and take away heat. 

The best base layers (my opinion) use wool, usually merino, which isn't itchy and is lightweight.  They come tight or snug to the body.  The higher the % of wool, the warmer.  Some systems like Icebreaker  (current favourite) use a number weight system.  The higher the number, the heavier the weight of wool, the warmer.  Some brands like Helly Hansen  makes things simple by naming their baselayer system "cool, warm, dry".  Big names like Under Armour use synthetics as their material of choice. 

A good base or mid layer won't come cheap.  You will be able to find lessor priced alternative at a hardware store, a camping store, a department store.  The main difference I've found is the breathability. 

If you try on a jacket that is a waterproof shell for example and pretty much start feeling like you are going to sweat, it isn't very breathable, no matter what the label says.  Don't think that it will be fine because you are using it in the cold.  It will trap moisture and you'll get cold.  If you are just looking for something to cover you up while working around the yard, it will probably be fine. 

But if you are thinking of hiking or skiing or anything extended, then I would encourage you to invest in something better -- Try getting a deal on last year's model of a better brand.  And if you are not picky about colour, you might just get lucky.  My first set of Helly Hansen baselayer is a bright salmon colour! 

I agree that some brands aren't worth the money but many are well known because of the research they've put into developing their products for real world use.  So don't discount them because you don't wish to be known as someone who is just label flashing.  When you read the histories of how some of the best gear companies in the world came to be, you'll often find that the company was developed to fill a very real need -- To survive in some of the harshest conditions on earth. 


  1. I like the idea of Merino wool, but every time I've tried it always shrinks on me. That's after washing it on gentle/cold and drying flat. Synthetic base layers are my favorite.

  2. Would recommend you give Icebreaker a try. 100% merino and their 150 weight feels lighter than a sheet. They also have a pretty great refund policy.

    I own 4 pieces from their line from 150 - 320 weight and wish they could shrink just a little as I cannot fully use their thumb loops because my arms are just a bit too short. D owns a sweater that is 260 weight and repeated washing has been no problem (cold water flat dry, as well as hand wash and wringing).

    My Helly Hensen is 50% Merino and after many years of use still looks and feels the same, no fading even.

    I was concerned when our Dale of Norway sweaters went into the wash for the first time as they were the most expensive and is the thickest and heaviest of anything we've ever owned. Ended up no problem either. I'm sure I would have freaked out if they had shrunk.

  3. I have an app on my phone that displays the current temperature for a number of places we like to visit. The numbers coming out of Lake Placid over the last few days have been astonishing. I can only imagine what it's like in Canada!

  4. We are coming out of it now as a Colorado low is pushing its way through. Because our temps are going up, we are in store for ice pellets and freezing rain next. Lovely...

    Ahem, Mr S.B., an app on your phone?? You are going to have to turn in your luddite card...

    Do you tend to visit Lake Placid in the winter (Whiteface?) or the summer?

    1. Yes, my Luddite ways are slowly coming to an's kind of sad.

      Lake Placid is a summer thing for us, although I was there once in the winter a very, very long time ago. My whole family LOVES Lake Placid.

    2. It is really sad. But what to do? Technology is so pervasive and in my opinion, doesn't necessarily free up time but pushes us to do more in the same amount of time.

      That's why we need to go back to nature and be reminded of how simple beauty can regenerate us in a way that nothing that comes at us from a screen can.