Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Dressing Warm for Outdoor Work

It’s good the holiday season is in the winter.  We eat without consequence and exchange gifts, some to help keep us dry, safe, and warm.   The benefits, and challenges, of working in the trades is being outside, then inside, then outside…you get it. The warmer months can be great, but the winter offers a special challenge to deal with the ins and outs without sweating or freezing.  So here are some insights to getting the right gift to warmth and comfort.



I hate being cold.  One day early in my career I didn’t dress warm enough.  Like many recollections from long ago, it was about 20 below with 50 mph wind gusts.  We were far away from home.  I didn’t drive, so I couldn’t run out or home for more stuff.  I froze.  My boss and colleagues thought it was funny, like many teachable moments back then.  But it was an important lesson.  Always have a spare layer or two in your vehicle.


Layering is the key to comfort.  I pretty much put on long underwear in November and don’t go back until spring (except this year, I am totally thrown off).  Doesn’t matter if I am in the office or outside, I dress the same since I almost always end up outside.  Theory is: you can take layers off.


Long Underwear

I do have a preference, as many do.  I prefer a good, tight fitting upper and lower body, a soft inner layer that wicks moisture and keeps you warm.  A recent new pair has an inner liner of 100% polyester, and an outer layer of 30% wool and 70% polyester.  You can do wool, but it is all about texture and fit.  Some prefer silk, but it is delicate and requires special care when washing, so it’s out.



The second layer is the durable layer that works from fall to spring. Good pants are an important investment.  There is a well-known manufacturer that is about $75 for a pair of pants.  Bottom line: you get what you pay for.  If you know you will be outside all the time, wool lined pants work great too.  If it’s wicked cold, coveralls are a great way to stay warm, although you move around like the robot in Lost in Space.


Upper Body

Shirts are another variable.  Switch from long sleeve to short sleeve.  Heavy or light.  And it can be any kind of material, since it is on top of the long underwear layer.  They can be a bit looser.


The layer over the shirt is what gets left around the site as you warm up.  This layer is all about style and preference.  A sweatshirt made of cotton, fleece, or wool works great.  But they key is being sure it is loose enough to move and fit over the other layers underneath.  It should also be durable, since this is the sacrificial layer, meaning it can tear and be stained easy.


The jacket is what takes the bite off from 6AM to 9AM, then after 5PM.  It can be hard to work with if it is real bulky.  If you can do it with layers, then do it.


Shoes and Socks

I never put much into shoes and socks when I was young.  Yet age does something.  You feel pain in new spots.  A good friend of mine is a podiatrist.  When I met him I never saw a podiatrist, all was good.  But then things changed and I needed him, badly.  I have learned that your foot comfort and support affects your whole body.  A bad shoe can lead to a bad back, make your spine go out of line, or even make you tired quicker.  Shoes are another case of you get what you pay for.  A good shoe should lasts only about 6 months, longer if you rotate.


Shoes should be replaced at the first sign of wear, sloppiness, or broken stitches.  They should support you, with your foot snug in the shoe.  If you are on a ladder a lot, get a shoe with a hard base or steel plate in them.  High top boots do not prevent a twisted ankle, they just tell you brain you are about to do it. In my humble opinion, waterproof boots are more important than insulated ones, since the socks do most of the work.  Get a boot dryer, it keeps them dry and stink free.


Socks are very, very important.  Your feet should be dry at all times.  Wool is king.  Cotton holds moisture, wool wicks it out. Thick socks keep you warmer than thin ones, so thicker is winter and thinner summer. I put a few puffs of body powder in the sock first.


The practical gift should not be wasted on boxers and cotton socks.  Step up for you outdoors guru, get some gift certificates, or just do it, buy it, and keep them warm and dry!

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