Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Staying Warm While Staying Light

Just last week Portland's temperature hit a record low: a whopping 22 degrees Fahrenheit. While I was waiting at a bus stop freezing my butt off, I began thinking about how difficult it is to go through chilly weather while still not having to pack an extra backpack just to hold your jacket and winter clothes. Here's how I try to pull it off.

Dress in Layers
This is number one on anybody's “keep warm” advice column. I wear three tops at all times when it even gets slightly cold: a tank top, a t-shirt, and a long sleeve shirt. It keeps you mighty warm, light, and stylish to boot!

Warm up your core
Although it can be mighty uncomfortable to have freezing legs, you should mostly be concerned with your core (that's where your organs are, dummy!). Keeping your head warm is also very important since your brain can be affected by the cold as well and breathing in too much cold air could be hazardous so invest in a warm hat, jacket with a hood, or a scarf.

Quality Counts
Since you're not carrying a lot of stuff, then be sure to get the best quality item you can buy. I spent over a hundred bucks on a thin jacket but it kept me warm far better than any thick jacket could ever do. Make sure to look for something that not only protects you from the cold but also preserves heat that your body already generates. If it is temperature rated, look for something that is at least 20 degrees below zero. Also, if you're going somewhere where snow isn't just what your grandpa mentions when he talks about the old country, pick up a pair of thermal leggings and/or a top--they're light as can be and immediately increase your core warmth. Lastly, don't forget some thick socks! Wool is out, but special blends of fabric designed to keep warm and dry are definitely in.

Seek Shelter!
If you're walking around, stop in a coffee shop and grab a hot cup of joe or step in to a store and act like you care about what they're selling. Take the bus or rail as much as you can. By doing this, you can step in to a nice warm area and prep yourself for the rest of the way.

Block the Wind
Portland is a very windy city, which makes it seem even colder than it actually is (thus the term “wind chill”). Fortunately a lot of the buildings near bus stops have little wedges or coverings to shield yourself from the biting wind. Taking advantage of these can make a significant difference in changing your body temp.

Be Popular
People produce body heat and you can use that to get warm. Whether it's a long hug from a friend or throwing a massive party at your house, people warm you up very quickly.

More importantly having someone around can ensure that you don't get too cold and don't notice it. One time I was shivering uncontrollably and a friend of mind pointed out that I should get inside before I freeze to death. I was so cold I didn't even notice!

Skip the Vodka
Although you may think you're getting warmer, alcohol actually lowers your body temperature and can make it more dangerous when traveling in cold weather. If you have a long walk home from a party, plan on crashing there or catch a cab if it's going to be dangerously cold that night.


With record temperatures all around this season (it snowed in San Francisco!), be sure to keep yourself bundled up and warm. If you're a minimalist like me, this can often be quite difficult. If you're smart about it, though, you can easily find new ways to keep yourself nice and toasty. If you bring a couple day's worth of clothes, a very high quality jacket, a scarf that matches all your clothes and possibly a wool hat you can easily keep yourself very warm and still have enough room in your bag to pack the rest of your necessities.

What are some clever ways you've kept yourself warm in the winter?

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