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‘How To Dress For Extreme Cold’

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The surface of Mars, it was reported earlier this month, was warmer than parts of my home state of Minnesota. But as January winds whipped and the mercury dredged to historic lows, I tried not to let it slow me down.

One morning, temps hit minus-23 F in my neighborhood. I geared up and went outside anyway.

It was nippy, no doubt. But Despite a media frenzy about exposed skin “freezing in minutes” or death by cold air, I was fine. Here are a few tips for dressing right and staying comfortable when temps drop and the air becomes literally out-of-this-world cold. —Stephen Regenold

Insulate Your Core — You’ll look pudgy, but don’t be shy. I counted five layers on my core this week outdoors. This was for a hike along a frozen creek. For more active pursuits, like running and snowshoeing, I’ll take off a layer or two.

Many Layers, Little Bulk — For moderate activity in extreme cold, I wear several thin layers (as opposed to just a couple thicker layers). From the skin, I start with a tight-fitting, breathable T-shirt then a long-sleeve polyester top over it. Next is a mid-weight synthetic fleece shirt, and finally over it all I wear a light, down-stuffed puffy jacket. If it’s truly Mars-level cold out there I add an insulated vest under the jacket for “space suit”-level warmth.

Less Layers For Legs — My legs require three layers on the coldest days. This starts with thin polyester or merino wool long-underwear tights. From there, I pull on light fleece pants for some insulation. Wind-proof shell pants go over the top.

Head And Neck — Seal out cold at the neck with a scarf, balaclava, neck gaiter, or (my preference) the Original Buff. Then pull a thick, heat-trapping hat over the top. As noted, I prefer an elongated polyester neck gaiter called The Buff. Its thin, stretchy fabric hugs the neck and head to block wind and keep warm air inside.

Frozen Eyes — My ski goggles come out in the worst weather. But more often face-wrapping sunglasses do the trick to block the wind. I wear glasses with springy bows that do not rest on my ears but instead “stick” to the outside of my head, keeping the wind out as it attempts to swirl into my hat through any gaps.

Mittens, Not Gloves — Dexterity goes out the window as the temps sink. I wear gloves to around 15 degrees F then switch to mitts. Fingers kept close together are far warmer than those held apart.

Sock Debate — Wear plush socks to insulate your toes. But adding another pair of socks on top only keeps feet warm if your toes can move. A foot wedged tight in a boot because of doubled-up socks is colder because there is no room for warm air to insulate. Make sure to keep some wiggle room for maximum warmth.

—Stephen Regenold is editor of GearJunkie. The Associated Press interviewed Regenold last month about staying active in the winter months.

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