5 Extreme Cold Winter Clothing Tips – You Need to Know

Well, I don’t know about you, but I hate freezing my butt off when it’s cold outside! Now add a worst-case scenario, and you could DIE out there, so it’s important to know how to dress for extended exposure to the frigid cold. Fortunately, it isn’t as hard as it might seem… especially with the addition of new clothing technology and a common sense approach.

Here’s How It Works..

Your body is a furnace that continuously generates surplus heat (when it is working properly), so all we need to do is use scale-able layers of the right clothing to PRESERVE the heat your body creates and maintain a comfortable micro-climate between your skin and outer layers of clothing- adding layers when you get cold and removing layers when you get too warm.

Layer #1: Sub Base Layer

Winter Clothing Kit

Sub-Base Layer Moves Moisture Away from Your Body

I’ve found that a snug pair of briefs and a long sleeve or sleeveless top made of nylon or polyester that is breathable, dries quick and pulls sweat away from your body works great. Short sleeve shirts tend to bunch up and be uncomfortable under thermals.

Under Armour and Exofficio brands are durable and have worked well for me and are great for year-round use, travel and bug-out bags because they wash out easily and dry quickly and can be reused without laundering.

Both brands make great sub-base layer products for the ladies,too.
Under Armour – Boxer Brief:

Under Armour – Sleeveless Shirt:

Exofficio Briefs:

Winter Clothing Kit

Cotton Retains Moisture that Can Dangerously Lower Your Core Temperature

Cotton Clothing Warning

Cotton clothing is terrible for active extended exposure to the cold. Why? Because when you sweat or get wet from snow or rain, cotton absorbs moisture, loses its insulating properties and draws heat from your body instead of retaining it.

That’s bad news…
AND a sure fire recipe for hypothermia!

 Merino Wool is Best - It's NOT Scratchy and Keeps You Warm - Even When Wet

Merino Wool is Best – It’s NOT Scratchy and Keeps You Warm – Even When Wet

NEXT Up… We Need Socks… Wool Socks

AND not just any wool socks… I prefer Merino Wool Socks.

Merino wool is warm and softer than other wools so it’s NOT scratchy…. I hate scratchy wool!

Plus Merino wool is tough, wicks moisture, is breathable and naturally elastic, so my socks stay up in my boots.


Layer #2: Base Layer

We used to call these Long Johns or Thermals… NOT anymore.

Long sleeve top and bottoms made out of breathable yet insulating polyester like my PolarMax Base Layer are lightweight, roomy, warm and comfortable down to almost zero degrees Fahrenheit. But for extreme cold, I pull out my military issue polypropylene thermal top and bottoms.

Winter Clothing Kit

Your Base Layer is Essential to the Whole Equation of Staying Warm on the Coldest Days

Extreme Cold Base – Top:

Extreme Cold Base – Bottom:

PolarMax – Double Base – Top:

PolarMax – Double Base – Bottom:

Heavyweight Merino Wool Base Layer:

Now We Need Some Pants…

Winter Clothing Kit

Wool or a 60%+ Polyester Blend Works Great – But I Prefer Wool

Durable, water and wind repelling pants made of wool or at least 60% polyester work great.

5.11 or Proper Tactical pants work really well over your base layer… but for extreme cold it’s hard to beat my military surplus winter wool trousers. Oh yeah!!!

And don’t forget your belt and multi-tool.

60% + Poly – Tactical Pants:

Surplus Wool Pants:

Fleece Lined Pants:

Paracord Belt:


Winter Clothing Kit

Layer #3: Core Layer

For tops, I layer two 100% poly fleece pullover shirts… a thinner one closer to my body and then a thicker one on top. And tops with 1/4 zippers on the front are helpful for regulating heat.

Fleece Pullover – Light:

Fleece Pullover – Heavy:

Keep ‘Em Loose
Make sure your core layers are NOT too tight because what really keeps you warm is having pockets of warm air between each clothing layer.

Layer #4: The Outer Shell

Winter Clothing Kit

A tough, insulated, water and wind repelling jacket is what you need.

For moderately cold temperatures, my tactical softshell jacket with hood works great and is very durable.

BUT when the temperature goes south of freezing I’m wearing a jacket with an outer shell that is highly water resistant and totally blocks the wind. Your coat must be well insulated to keep your core heat in and I think a hood is essential.

For extreme cold… nothing beats a down parka.

Tactical Jacket:

Free Country Insulated Jacket:

Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System – Coat

Down Parka:

How About Ski Pants?
Although ski or 100% polyester pants may seem like a good idea, they can be pricey and also run the risk of melting when they come in contact with a spark or flame.

Winter Clothing KitBONUS Tip – How to Become Waterproof
To add a tough, scaleable, wind and waterproof outer shell for extreme weather protection… I recommend the Helly Hansen Impertech Jacket and Pants… just make sure you size them large enough to fit over all your winter clothing.

Helly Hansen Impertech – Rain Jacket:

Helly Hansen Impertech – Rain Pants:

#5 Boots / Neck / Headware
To keep your feet happy, I recommend comfortable, rugged, insulated, waterproof boots, that are not super bulky.

Winter Clothing KitThey need to keep your feet warm and dry and be able to stand up to hard extended wear if needed.

My current favorite all purpose winter boots are my Rocky Men’s Core Hunting Boots with 800 grams of Thinsulate… They are tough, warm, waterproof and SUPER comfortable to wear all day… but there’s a lot of choices out there… so you’ll have to try some boots on and find what works best for you.

NOW for your Feet Neck, Head and Hands…

Now around my neck I usually wear a polyester BUFF headwear scarf as a base layer to wick moisture and add a layer of cold resistance… Winter Clothing KitAnd then as an outer layer I add either a polyester neck warmer – like my vintage turtle fur… or a Shemagh Scarf Wrap.

Both are good options… but the Shemagh is my favorite due to the many ways it can be wrapped and used for neck, face and head protection… the downside is that the Shemagh is made of cotton… so it will be useless if it gets soaked.

BUFF Neck Wool Base Layer:

Shemagh Scarf:

Neck Fleece:

Winter Clothing Kit

Goofy Looking and Ridiculously Warm, this Natural Sheep Skin “Bomber” Hat is What Rides on My Head on the Coldest of Days. Nothing Else Even Comes Close

Next… You gotta… Cover your head…

As a base layer for keeping the old NOGGIN’ warm, I recommend a simple fleece watch cap in addition to your insulated coat hood. Together they will offer scaleable protection from the cold and wind.

But for extreme cold… nothing beats my sheepskin bomber style hat.

Fleece – Cap:

Bomber / Trapper Hat

Winter Clothing KitGloves
Last, but not least, we need some tough and warm, water-resistant gloves. For maximum warmth, I can’t find anything better than a durable pair of insulated mittens, but for a versatile, glove made to work AND keep your hands warm, the Carharts Insulated Work Gloves are worth a look. I’ve been really pleased with them so far.

Carhartt Cold Snap Gloves:

Leather Mittens:

Winter Clothing Kit

Sun Glasses

One last final touch are sunglasses to protect your eyes from light reflecting off the snow and from bitter winds. I prefer tactical shooting glasses that provide maximum coverage.

So, there you have it… a simple, scaleable system that can keep you warm if you ever have to survival in the cold. Be Prepared and Stay Safe! ~David


HERE’s a Bonus List of Arctic and EXTREME Cold Clothing Upgrades to ADD to Your Standard Cold Weather Clothing Kit:

Extreme Cold Base – Bottom:

Bomber / Trapper Hat

Heavyweight Merino Wool Base Layer:

Muckluck Boots – Military Surplus (Don’t forget the liners):

Baffin Arctic Boots:

Balaclava – Extreme Face and Head Protection:

Arctic Mittens:

Arctic Expedition Parka:

Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System – Coat

Arctic Expedition Pants

Anti-Fog Snow Goggles:

6 Responses to “5 Extreme Cold Winter Clothing Tips – You Need to Know”

  • shin0bi272

    Great video! You did in under 9 min what others couldnt do in 5 years of vids! Give me a clear, concise, complete picture of what I need to get and provide links to the items! I swear this vid is a godsend. Thank you so very much.

  • My favorite cold weather pants are surplus Australian (circa WWII) 100% wool pants.

    I purchased a dozen of them new 25 years ago, they had been stored in nitrogen filled tubes in the warehouse then forgotten. They are: medium weight wool, 6 button fly, cargo pocket on left leg, 2 back pockets, 2 hand pockets, belt loops fit up to a 2″ belt, waist tighteners, suspender buttons (inside and outside), ankle tighteners,, dated mid 1950s, olive drab/green. Nothing has kept me as warm and comfortable as these pants. They are very long but since they have buttoned ankle tighteners, you close off the ankles to any cold air intrusion and then just blouse down the excess pant leg (they really are longer than I ever imagined). They are so tough that I have been using the same single pair for 25 years, the other 11 have just sat in my closet unused all this time.

  • John Ruckman

    Great article. How about a playlist on clothing. Would like to see an article or video on waterproofing and re-waterproofing after a few washings, what items should be waterproofed or not waterproofed, what type(s) of waterproofing to use and how to use it. For instance, an Australian compact camping trailer company soaks their canvas in waterproofing instead of just spraying it on.

    • Carin

      David: Great ideas! I do have some plans to get back to clothing in 2016 and may be able to incorporate some of your ideas. No promises, tho’ 😉 Thanks for taking the time to reach out! ~David

  • Great post about cold weather survival dress. These tips are awesome, useful, helpful, necessary and taking perfect layer for cold weather survival. I am impressed your great work.

  • Hey thanks man. Its really helpful for all my family mebers because now we are travelling to a colder country , where we need to know how to warm ourself. Your article is so nice, which helps a lot.
    Again Thanks man.

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