My Garden!


Dress for the Weather
(...Or : The Art of Keeping Cool in the Cold)
© 2006

Topics in this article:
Thermal Vectors | Materials | When to shed

Dressing for the weather means taking a moment to ask yourself what you will be doing, how much you expect to exert yourself, and for how long? Overheating is equally dangerous to being too cold. It is important to remember that the morning is typically colder than all the rest of the day, so what is appropriate work attire in the morning will almost definitely be too heavy later in the - especially if you are active. Your thermal needs will be governed by how active you are (generating heat), how much direct sun your work area is receiving (how quickly the air around you will heat up), and the general climate of the day (wet days "feel" colder than dry days, and we all know the effects of the wind!) Dressing in layers affords you the opportunity to shed unneeded clothing as dictated by the changing conditions of your day. This is why it is important to prepare in LAYERS! You will want to be able to adapt to your body's thermal needs in small, frequent increments. You want to remain comfortable; not warm, and not cold.

Consider that you are a mammal. Your body produces heat. Harness that advantage and do NOT start your day cold. I would also suggest you skip the morning shower, if you can stand to do it. (You will want one when you are finished with your "work" day anyway.) Wet mammals lose heat faster than dry mammals!

Under-dressing and being cold put you at particular risks for injury. Your muscles will be tighter than they need to be, and your body's lubricants will be sluggish. This will cause undue wear in your joints and open the window for pulls, sprains, and even pulling your skeleton out of alignment! This is why you need to start the day a little over-dressed, too BEGIN warm...

However, overdressing - and ultimately overheating - will cause you to sweat ...which is the wrong thing for your body to do in the cold!! Sweating is your body's attempt to cool down. If you are wet when you stop working, your body temperature will drop fairly quickly, which can be a dangerous to your immune system. You need to listen to your body and know that you are working toward a sweat before it happens!! (I can feel the pores on my face and back open just before my pits begin to sweat.) I cannot emphasize this enough: it is important to stay dry!

First, choose a light weight, long sleeve garment as your base and pull on a T-shirt over that. This preserves your core heat. Next, choose a light or medium weight flannel shirt or sweat shirt that fits loosely enough to move around in.(I prefer a thin flannel because I can unbutton it as a step before actually removing it.) Last, pull on a "shell":a light jacket or quilted flannel or wind-breaker - something to keep the breeze from wicking away your precious heat.

Keep a spare under-layer available to change into should you realize that your first layer is wet or getting wet.

Your head is important too. You should wear a hat to preserve heat, but I recommend wearing a light weight hat. Just something to keep the air off of your head is enough. Too heavy a hat and you will certainly overheat! A light hat should fit somewhat loosely and afford your head an opportunity to breathe while still governing heat loss. If you have sensitive ears or are prone to getting a chill on the neck, consider wearing a hood with one of your under-layers. A hood can be slipped back a little at a time to precisely accommodate your body's cooling needs. Scarves feel dangerous to me because you have those two loose ends to keep track of- not my idea of making my work any easier.

As you come to the end of your day's activities, your body will respond and slow the furnace within you. It is fairly important to anticipate this since this natural and automatic cooling will likely be compounded by the air around you also cooling down as the sun moves away. If you have completed your most vigorous tasks and still have a few little things to care of outside, start slowly by putting some layers back on. If you are finished/ Once you are finished, I recommend you just grab the heaviest of the layers you pulled off during the day. That should also be the loosest fit of your garments and accomplishes 2 things at once: preserves your waning body heat while allowing your body to breath. Remember at this point your body is not just slowing heat production, but also trying to get rid of what it thinks is excess heat, too!

Your body reacts to conditions. It is up to you to know what it will need ahead of time and dress accordingly. Your body will take these cues happily, and together you two can enjoy what you accomplish in your garden!