Keeping warm
Written by Rachel

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North East

In the North East of England the temperatures can easily get well below zero. Even if you drive a car frequently, it is prudent to wear seasonally appropriate clothing.
What if your car breaks down?

Be smart

Other countries dress very sensibly in the Winter time. They are not vain or paranoid. They are smart.


As people age, they become more vulnerable to the cold. Tai chi will improve circulation and strengthen your body, but you can do more.
Addressing your clothing and living environment can make you warmer. It is important to put fitness before vanity and wear clothing that fits the season.

Can't feel the cold?

It is minus 4 degrees and you are wearing a T-shirt and shorts because you want to show off your shin tattoo... You claim that you cannot feel the cold. Is this some sort of boast?
It does not bode well medically.


When it's cold, move around to stay warm.
When it's hot, keep still and stay cool.

(Lao Tzu)

Old-fashioned clothing

Old-fashioned clothes cannot compare to the innovations in thermal insulation; if you avail yourself of modern fabric technology, you may find yourself much warmer.
Outdoor pursuits, such as hiking, have been the focus of warmth technology for decades now and some of the products are really effective.
With insulation, you get what you pay for. A real fleece will cost more than a cheaper one, but the difference in warmth is undeniable.

Wrong season

It is very common to see people wearing a lightweight hiking jacket in winter time; and believing that it is effective. This is foolish. The brand name will not keep you warm.

Base layer (technical)

Companies like Helly Hansen produce thin, lightweight long-sleeved undershirts and long johns that are really warm. A thermal base layer is essential; it allows the skin to breathe and reduces odour.
Just make sure that the product says 'thermal'.

Base layer (traditional)

A cheaper, more traditional alternative is a vest and merino wool long-sleeved undershirts and long johns. Marks & Spencer's sell this sort of insulation at a reasonable price.
It looks far less sexy than a technical base layer but it will do the job.

Mid layer (insulating layer)

Three main mid layer options are available: fleece, pile or wool. All insulation fabrics operate by trapping warm air pockets and holding them next to your body.


Fleece is a synthetic fibre invented by Polartec in the 1980's. It is usually numbered: 300, 275, 100... the higher the number, the warmer the product.
There are a vast number of imitations; some are very warm whilst other just look warm. You can buy pullovers, jackets, trousers, hats, gloves, scarves and even blankets.


Berber pile is a variation on Polatec's fleece; it is very warm and looks almost woollen in appearance.


Wool can be warm if it is thick enough. If you want it to keep you warm, the type of wool and knit must be taken into account. A thin sweater will not be any good for winter.

Jacket (outer shell)

There are two obvious considerations for a winter coat: will it keep you dry and is it warm? Not all coats offer both and most coats are woefully inadequate on both counts.
A coat is not just a piece of pretty cloth; it must provide effective protection against the elements.


Waterproofing and windproofing can be a question of fabric and of design: Driza-bone produce waterproof oilskin coats that are designed to keep the legs dry as well as the upper body.
This is perfect for torrential rain. The coats are stitched and cut to offer protection to the vulnerable areas such as elbow joints.
Other companies offer waxed-cotton variations that are equally waterproof but may not protect the legs.


Gore started a revolution in protective jackets with their Gore-Tex fabric.
You can purchase a massive range of water-resistant clothing manufactured using Gore-Tex or similar fabrics produced by rival companies. There are countless alternatives.
Bear in mind that Gore-Tex coats tend to be designed for hiking, so if you're not walking up a hillside, it won't keep you warm.


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Page created 18 April 2007
Last updated 17 September 2019