When summer ends and the winter months are upon us, it brings with it – ice, sleet, freezing rain and yes, cold. For most people for who staying warm when working outside is important, this means breaking out the coats, boots, snow pants and any other winter gear you can dig out of your closet.
Just the idea and process of kiting up to earn a living while outdoors is akin to preparing for an expedition. At the most basic level, you can’t just rely on your body heat, you’ll need a beanie hat, gloves, parka, boots and that is just to start. Under the coat, you need a base layer that will help you stay warm. If you are destined to be outdoors for a while, then the need for warm clothes only increases.
For some, wishing they could hibernate during the winter – like some animals do – becomes a more and more appealing idea. But what do you do if you work outside and need to be warm while doing it? And for one reason or another, just wearing a thick a jacket you own is not an option? Or what would happen if you are out and about and the temperature plummets without warning leaving you cold and without the proper suggested gear?
This will be addressed in a moment but first, it is important to understand how the body reacts when exposed to cold temperatures, so you can better understand how all the tips, ideas and suggestions below will help you stay warm when caught outside without the appropriate thermal wear.
How the Body helps You Stay Warm in Extreme Cold
Extreme cold can affect all the parts and systems in your body in a number of different ways, as this research on Japanese divers showed. Your body strives to maintain a stable temperature of 37 degrees Celsius but when the temperature in the outer environment drops to freezing cold the temperature receptors in your skin begin to take note. They alert the brain, specifically the hypothalamus, that it is cold and something needs to be done to immediately counter it.
Your brain acts to tighten the vessels in your arms, hands, feet, and legs thus, reducing blood flow to those areas. Instead, it focuses on keeping your body core warm. You also may have to use the gents or ladies more than you would typically go. The constriction of your skin vessels forces your fluids to your body’s core which causes the volume receptors, also in your hypothalamus, to trigger the need to get rid of some fluid.
There’s also a huge chance that you’ll begin to shiver. Shivering is the body’s way of pushing back against cold as it causes your muscles to contract which produces heat.
Eventually, if you stay working outside in the cold too long you can begin to enter a hypothermic state. Your brain and nervous system struggle to function, and you begin to show signs of hypothermia and frostbite because the brain has pulled all the blood away from the extremities to stay warm. Your heart will have to work harder to keep your body warm which could also increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and blood clots.
So, while it is not advisable to head outside in cold temperatures improperly dressed for all of the reasons above (and more) there are ways you can keep yourself warm without a jacket.
If you plan on camping outdoors, then these tips on camping in the winter will help. The tips below will focus on your options when working outside in the cold.
Avoid the Shade and Shadows
Even if the overall outdoor temperature is low, any rays of the sunshine coming through will still be warm and can help to warm your body. If you stay in the shadows of buildings or a shaded area it will feel significantly colder than standing in the sun and you, therefore, will be colder.
There is a 10-15 degree temperature difference between a shady spot and a sunny one so if you are going to head out in the cold without your coat be sure to head somewhere sunny.
Stay Active When Working Outside
If you are outside in the cold and lacking the proper gear to help cope with cold weather, do not stay stationary and remain standing still. Stay mobile and move around! When you’re active, your body’s blood circulation increases, which causes you to warm up.
Try any of the exercises listed below or go for a walk or jog.
- High knee kicks. Place your hands in front of you and kick your knees up to your hands
- Jumping jacks.
- Torso twists. Keeping your elbows lifted, twist your upper body from side to side at a moderate pace
- Dance. If the occasion calls for it, don’t be afraid to dance to the music!
Keep your extremities warm
Due to how the body reacts to the cold your extremities are going to quickly get cold. One of the first reactions of the brain when it senses cold is to trigger the circulatory system to restrict the blood flow to the extremities. It is important to keep your hands, ears, and feet as warm as possible.
Outer extremities are the first to feel the impact from cold temperatures. These are the exposed parts of your body consisting of your toes, fingers, ears, and nose. Extremities don’t have the muscle or blood flow to keep them as warm as the rest of your body once your brain has decided to enter cold weather survival mode. It is imperative to keep these areas warm to avoid freezing injuries like frostbite. Blow hot air into cupped hands and rub them together.
Keep your hands warm
This is deserving of its own heading. Wear some merino wool gloves. Gloves can keep your outer extremities warm to avoid getting frostbite. If you don’t need to use your fingers, mittens are better since they keep fingers together and trap heat more effectively than gloves.
You can purchase ‘hot hands‘ or hand-warming devices to put inside gloves. These will keep your hands warm without getting too bulky. Once your hands get cold or you begin to develop frostbite the skin damage can travel beyond your hands and impact other areas of the body.
As mentioned above, hand warmers are important. Some may consider them to be a bit old school, but nowadays they are made to have a charging option and slowly disseminate heat. They can be little miracle workers when it comes to keeping warm. Place them in your gloves, boots, sweatshirt pocket or even pants pocket. Anywhere where a little extra warmth is desired.
Hand warmers can also very helpful if you are going to be outside for an extended period without the proper cold-weather gear. They are often long-lasting and can keep you warm for several hours. They can be purchased rather inexpensively online, or you can make your own. There are many patterns available online. An added benefit of the DIY version, they are reusable. Most of the purchased ones are, unfortunately, one-time use.
Use a Thermoflask or water bottle to keep a warm drink with you
Get a hot drink when you can. Hot coffee, tea or a cup of hot chocolate are excellent ways to warm your hands and taking sips of the warm liquid will warm your body. It will force you to move around to get the drink, and the caffeine and sugar will give you the energy to keep moving.
If you have a decent thermos flask or hot cup, then you can hold it in your hands like a hand warmer or pop it inside your jacket like a hot water bottle – just make sure the top is on securely first.
- Wear other outerwear – You may have decided to, or fate determined you were not going to, wear a jacket outside but you should wear any other outerwear you have available. In addition to gloves which we have already mentioned you should wear
- A hat and scarf – All parts of your body release heat but, your head and neck are often exposed which causes substantial heat loss. Wear a hat and scarf to keep the heat trapped close to your body. If you can, wear a beanie or a hat that covers your ears. Your ears are one of the first parts of your body to experience damage to cold temperatures.
- Wear a base layer or mid-layer – If you are going to forego a jacket you need to dress in layers. Wear a tank top or thick sleeveless shirt, thermal shirt or vest underneath your outfit. This keeps your core warmer, which can help regulate the rest of your body temperature. On your lower half wear leggings or thermals. A thick pair of thermals underneath your jeans or sweatpants will keep your body focused on warming the exposed parts. Tights can also work as well as high socks can also work.
Just to reiterate, if you are destined to be outside in the cold without a jacket on it is important you do what is possible to keep your body and extremities warm. Base layers can help. Even without a jacket, opting to wear multiple layers on your torso and below it along with a hat, scarf and gloves can go a long way in keeping your extremities warm and significantly reducing the chances of you freezing your fingers and toes.
Hand warmers are also a wonderful, inexpensive option to help mitigate against the cold weather. They may be called hand warmers, but they can help to warm other parts of your body as well, including other parts that are especially susceptible to frostbite such as your toes. You can also use warm liquids to keep your body warm on the inside and outside.
A flask of tea or coffee can warm you internally as you drink it or externally by holding the flask. You can also put the flask in your sweatshirt to help keep your torso warm. If you know you are going to be outdoors for a long time, then you should consider having some extra clothes or blankets with you.
If you are underdressed to begin with, then you are bound to get colder as your time outside continues.
Temporarily warming up in a blanket or adding an external layer of clothes when the temperature becomes unbearable can help you to stay warm as well. The most important take away from this post is to remember that being out in freezing temperatures without the proper protective hear is not advisable.
There are a variety of negative and potentially fatal impacts associated with frostbite and hypothermia. It is best to keep every part of your body covered when out in the cold, especially your extremities which are the most susceptible to cold temperatures.