Whether you love to travel to exotic places, like the Arctic, or you just live in an area where the winter weather physically pains you, preparation is key. It’s time to get educated in the world of extreme cold weather gear.
The key to extreme cold weather preparation is layering, but this doesn’t mean just throwing on a couple of hoodies. You need arctic clothing geared towards providing extreme protection and along with utilizing layering.
There are three basic types of layers you need to know: the base layer, your mid layers, and the shell layer. Finally, remember that you’ll need to layer both your upper body and lower body.
The base layer needs to be tight to your skin in order to minimize air flow. Long underwear is typically the base layer for legs. The most important property of the base layer is water resistance. If your inner layer is cold and wet, it doesn’t matter what else you have on – you’ll freeze. Base layer materials have different weights depending on thickness and breathability. Look for a lightweight rating if you will be exercising vigorously, a mid-weight rating for low-intensity or moderate exercise, and expedition-weight if you won’t be exercising much or if you’ll be in the coldest environments.
Up next is the mid layer(s). While it typically consists of a single item, you can wear more than one if needed. Unlike the base layer, the mid layer doesn’t need to be so tight, some air flow is okay. The most important aspect to look for is insulation. The primary responsibility of a mid layer is to prevent heat from leaving your body. Look for thick, insulating materials like fleece or wool.
Finally, the outer shell layer is your first line of defense against the elements. Wind protection is paramount and should be your top concern. Ideally, you want it to be breathable so that water can escape from inside, but at the same time you don’t want water to enter from the outside. This paradox means there is no perfect outer layer, but in general, water resistance is the priority for activities like skiing, but breathability is more important for activities like running.
One last thing, you have to make sure your extremities are well protected. Once temperatures reach below zero it’s really to develop a case for frost bit quickly. Make sure are utilizing clothing like arctic boots, arctic gloves and mitts, hats, socks, and balaclavas are all great ideas. Below we’ve assembled the best extreme cold gear there is to prepare you for any winter situation.
The Base Layer
TCA PRO PERFORMANCE COMPRESSION BASE LAYER TOP LONG SLEEVE THERMAL BODY ARMOUR
The TCA Pro Performance Compression Base Layer ($17) is a high performance, but affordable thermal top. It stretches to stay skin-tight and allow you to maintain a full range of motion. Most importantly, it’s resistant to moisture with its wicking fabric. For an alternative, you can look at Under Armour base layer vests and long sleeve shirts, which also have moisture wicking technology.
PATAGONIA MERINO 2 LIGHTWEIGHT BOTTOMS
The Patagonia Merino 2 Lightweight Bottoms ($90) are the highest quality long johns you can buy. They stay close to your skin, but are incredibly comfortable. The Merino wool base layer that the bottoms are made of are not only light and soft, but highly breathable, which prevents moisture from accumulating.
Rounding out the package, enhanced temperature regulation, moisture transfer, anti-microbe and UV protection up to SPF 50+.
CAPO MEN’S GS-13 THERMAL VEST
One of the more undervalued articles of clothing that adds a major boost to retaining your precious body heat, while not adding yet another layer that has to be jammed down a sleeve, is the thermal vest. Serving primarily to keep the lungs and heart warm, the air and blood pumping through them nicely heated, keeping your fingers and toes nice and toasty.
The Capo GS-13 Thermal Vest ($143), sports an array of features designed to allow for a greater freedom of movement, enhanced support and serve to reduce fatigue through the use of high-gauge muscle compression.
Rounding out the package, enhanced temperature regulation, moisture transfer, anti-microbe and UV protection up to SPF 50+.
A400 MEN’S THERMAL COMPRESSION LONG TIGHTS
With the A400 Thermal Compression Long Tights ($140), both men and women will see a more comfortable fit due to a greater range of leg lengths different body shape selections.
The brushed fabric providing a softer feel as well as an added advantage of trapping warm air against your skin. The moisture is drawn up and away from your skin preventing heat loss.
The SKINS fabric is a high tech blend, combining high abrasion resistance with outstanding breath-ability and comfort. They also sport SPF 50+ UV protection, muscle compression features allowing increases in oxygen and circulation, boosting strength, speed and stamina. Key muscle groups are focused, reducing the movement needed to direct them, causing less vibration and resulting in less soft tissue tearing and soreness.
The Mid Layer
UNDER ARMOUR EXTREME COLDGEAR FLEECE PULLOVER
This Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Fleece Pullover ($45+) incorporates the same stellar moisture wicking technology that many of Under Armour’s other products feature. Most importantly, this fleece sweater is designed to keep you as warm as possible. The added benefit of fleece is how soft it is. While it is best used as a midlayer, it could be worn without a base layer in a pinch.
UNDER ARMOUR STORM ARMOUR FLEECE PANTS
Just like your mid layer top, you want a mid layer bottom that is going to keep you warm. Combining comfort and heat retention once again, Under Armour Storm Armour Fleece Pants ($40+) are comfortable and high performance leggings. It’s a stretchy material that allows some air flow between layers, but not to the point where it hinders insulation.
MEN’S KRESTWOOD FULL-ZIP SWEATER
This alpine-inspired heavyweight knit fleece sweater is built to last. The Bluesign approved fabric and active fit work together to create a sharp looking bit of gear as well as a must have layer of protection against the cold.
The Krestwood Full-Zip Sweater ($99) by North Face incorporates zippered hand warmer pockets and a full zipper, allowing for it to be easily slipped in and out of depending on what type of temperatures you are facing.
NIKE TECH FLEECE PANTS
The Nike Tech Fleece Pants ($100) merge jersey fabric, smooth and comfortable both inside and out, with a synthetic spacer, allowing for body heat to be trapped and adding warmth without adding weight.
The pants sport easy to access side pockets to help keep small items secure, ribbed waist and cuffs for a more snug fit, an internal draw cord at the waist for a more tailored fit and insets in the knees for enhanced range of motion.
The Outer Layer
CANADA GOOSE MEN’S EXPEDITION PARKA
To top off the layers keeping old man winter from ruining your day, the Canada Goose Expedition Parka ($710) is built to stand out and not empty out your wallet.
This mid thigh-length parka, insulated and rated to be good down to -30 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll be able to sports a two-way adjustable tunnel hood with a non-removable coyote fur ruff surrounding it. Coyote fur is used because it never freezes, doesn’t hold water, and the uneven hair lengths create a windbreak that protects exposed skin, reduces heat loss from the face.
It is kept closed by a heavy duty 2-way locking zipper and the fit can be customized with the adjustable waist draw cord.
You won’t lack for pocket room, as it has two lower ‘full-bellow’ snow pockets secured by Velcro, four fleece-lined ‘hand-warmer’ pockets hidden behind the chest, two interior pockets (one a security pocket with zipper closure and a ‘drop-in’ pocket, one utility pocket on the left sleeve and one flap pocket on the right.
MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR NILAS DOWN BIBS
Offering greater warmth and form fitting function than standard ski pants, the Mountain Hardwear Nilas Down Bibs ($364) are lightweight, containing a high quality 850-fill-power goose down.
Water-resistant and windproof ripstop nylon offering total protection from wind-chill without giving up on necessary comfort, this stretchy fleece bib provides added insulation for your core, adjustable suspenders to ensure that they stay where you want them, and a watertight two-way zippered chest pocket to keep your essentials handy.
ARC’TERYX THETA SV EXPEDITION BIB
The Arc’Teryx Theta SV Expedition Bib ($500) isn’t going to win any fashion awards, but it does the job it was made to do. This bib is perfect for activities in the extreme cold, providing a high amount of wind and water resistance, as well as providing you with a solid range of mobility.
MARMOT 8000 METER MITT
Not your run of the mill mitt, the Marmot 8000 Meter Mitt ($192) combine elegant design with rugged function, with their 700-fill goose down and their Gore-Tex, ripstop nylon shells, your hands will be kept warm and safe when the temperatures fall.
Leather reinforced palms provide a sure grip of axes, ropes and ski poles, and cinch down wrist straps and gauntlet style draw cords keep snow, moisture and cold air out, or remove the down mittens when the waterproof protection their outer shell.
OUTDOOR RESEARCH ALTI MITTS
Finding effective mitts in extreme cold weather is difficult, but the Outdoor Research Alti Mitts ($170) are the best we found. They encompass both windproof and waterproof material, while also wicking away sweat from your hands. This incredible set of properties justifies the cost by itself.
CANADA GOOSE MERINO WOOL SHEARLING PILOT HAT
Making use of Merino wool, the Canada Goose Shearling Pilot Hat ($215) is built to last.
Internal reflective tape at the seams for added visibility, an adjustable leather chinstrap and metal buckle to tighten down the ear protection and keep it where you need it, it also has a shearling section that can be positioned via a set of ring fasteners to provide you added protection against biting winds and nasty weather conditions.
MAD BOMBER NYLON FUR HAT
The Mad Bomber Nylon Fur Hat ($39) is as comfortable as it looks. The natural rabbit-fur trim provides a great deal of heat insulation. This is a great hat for low-stress activities and traveling. However, if you plan to be active, you need a breathable hat so that sweat won’t drip down and soak your base and mid layers. The best option for an athlete is a moisture wicking hat.
BAFFIN MEN’S ENDURANCE SNOW BOOT
Go big or stay home. When your talking about dealing with extreme temperatures, you need to go for a boot that handle both deep snow and frigid temperatures.
The Baffin Endurance Snow Boot ($184) features an eight-layer Thermatuf II inner bootie that retains heat, a double-layer metallic membrane that reflects heat and an Open-cell foam and hollow fiber insulation that provides warmth down to an amazing -148 degree Fahrenheit. The Endurance is waterproof above and below and has an integrated snow cuff with an elastic lace and easy adjustment feature you can make use of when wearing your gloves. Add in the pull straps built around the ankle, allowing for one-pull adjustments.
They also feature a shock-absorbing Gelflex midsole, and a Polar Rubber outsole. These two components allows the boot to keep its flexibility in the extreme cold and easily handle deep snow and icy terrain.
KLIM ARCTIC FLEECE-LINED NEOPRENE BALACLAVA
Klim Arctic Fleece-Lined Neoprene Balaclava ($55) is the ultimate cold weather facial protection. It is designed to block out almost all wind, and conforms almost perfectly to any face (both in terms of shape and size). The fleece lining provides maximum comfort and breathability.
Keeping your face protected against the cold, and offering further warmth and protection to your throat and lungs, letting you enjoy your time outdoors longer and in greater comfort.
CARHARTT EXTREME COLD WEATHER BOOT SOCK
A comfortable and moisture resistant boot sock is a necessity for long cold weather outings. The Carhartt Extreme Cold Weather Boot Sock ($12) is an acrylic, wool, and nylon blend to maximize comfort and performance.
SMART WOOL MOUNTAINEERING EXTRA HEAVY SOCKS
Rounding out the protection for your feet against the cold, choosing the right sock to compliment your footwear is a step that is sometimes overlooked in its importance.
The Smart Wool Mountaineering Heavy Sock ($30) is nothing short of a marvel. Using their SmartWool Fit System, both arch and ankle are provided with extended support, as well as the reinforced sole for maximum comfort and durability.