Dressing for FUN Cold-Weather Learning

Posted By David Butcher
January 5, 2015


Winter can be amazing. When the temperatures hover around zero and below the snow squeaks when you walk and those clear azure skies and sparkling white snow can take your breath away. And if you’re dressed right, that breathe will be warm and comfortable.

You’ve probably heard the expression ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.’  Wolf Ridge has been teaching students in the cold for over forty years. We recommend a few habits and tricks so you can be warm, happy and focused on the fun and adventures to be had learning outdoors in winter.

It all starts with what’s in your suitcase….

  • Choose fleece, polypropylene and wool clothing.
    • Cotton, especially next to your skin is asking for trouble because it holds moisture.
  • Pack many layers for top and bottom.
    • This lets you adjust to temperature changes more easily and insulate your body with air that is trapped between the layers. You might start with long underwear, long sleeve turtleneck, wool sweater or fleece and top it off with a warm windproof winter jacket. On the bottom wear long underwear, pants or sweat pants, and snow pants.
  • Bring mittens!
    • Mittens trap the heat of your hands and keep your fingers warmer. Gloves separate fingers and cool them down. GLOVES DO NOT WORK IN SUB-ZERO TEMPERATURES! Check out the infrared picture below to see what a difference mittens can make.
  • Warm hats should cover your ears.
  • Warm winter boots – preferably with removable liners.
    • To dramatically increase the warmth of your boot, add an insole under the liner or your foot. Insoles can be cut out of scrap foam, wool felt or something similar. Make sure the boots are big enough that your toes feel roomy even with extra socks.
  • Bring plenty of warm (NOT COTTON!) socks.
    • Bring enough socks to be able to change into a new pair or two over lunch while the old pairs dry out.
  • Nylon outer layers will break the wind and help protect your from any wind chill.
    • Winter jackets, snow pants and even hats and mittens that are wind-proof will feel warmer.
  • Top it all off with a scarf, face mask or neck gaiter.
    • They’ll keep your whole body warm as well as keep the wind off your face and neck. And it feels heavenly 🙂
  • Check out this infrared image: On the people, blue is warmest, followed by green and then yellow. Red and finally white are coldest. Who is warmer? Is the black mitten or white glove warmer?


Take charge before you head out the door!

  • Dress in layers for every class. Always wear warm hats and/or hoods.
  • Prepare for the wind. Our classes are three hours long and weather can change significantly over three hours.
  • You’ll stay warmer if you drink lots of water every day – even more than usual.
  • Take earrings out, so the metal doesn’t conduct the cold into your ear lobe.

Out on trail

  • Keep active for more fun and to feel warmer. Burning energy by moving literally heats you up!
  • Avoid overheating. If you are hiking up a hill, getting very warm and think you will begin sweating … take off a layer to maintain a comfortable body temperature.
  • Be aware of the classmates around you and how they’re doing.
  • If you feel dangerously cold, tell your teacher.

Dry it out!

  • Take out the liner of your boot every night to dry. Also, doing this in-between classes will help. Damp liners lead to cold feet.
  • Keep all your clothes dry. If you return from class with damp clothing, hang it up to dry.

We are quite confident that if you come prepared and follow these steps, a few days of cold can be a fun addition to the stories you’ll tell from your learning and experiences at Wolf Ridge.