Win The ‘Cold War’ With The Right Outerwear
There’s no other way to say it: Cold kills.
When winter comes rolling in, so does the potential for frostbite and hypothermia. In order to battle these bitter-cold enemies, you need to bundle up with multiple layers of the proper protection that allow you to stay dry and warm, keeping Mother Nature’s cold winter touch from reaching you so you can get on with the business at hand.
Help can come from a variety of components, technologies and designs, as we’ve highlighted here. Layering allows you to shed or add layers depending on changes in weather, temperature and activity level. Think of layers as a sort of personal “thermostat”: Add protection to protect from cold winters, wind and precipitation; shed clothing when the weather improves.
Whether you go with a ready-made system or create your own, here are some useful choices for covering up and protecting yourself as you venture head-on into the fierce and frigid outdoor world.
5.11 TACTICAL PENINSULA HYBRID JACKET
This amalgamation of an insulated jacket and a lightweight, agile cover-up offers both harsh element protection and advanced, modern tech conveniences. It features an internal storm flap and zippered hand pockets with RAPIDraw pass-through for access to your CCW. A hidden left chest pocket sports an internal media port for phone or radio earbuds. Its balance of just the right amount of insulation with total freedom of movement makes this jacket ideal for the active outdoorsman.
- 100% polyester front and upper back body panels
- Knit terry back, side body and sleeve construction
- Concealed left chest zip pocket with internal media port
- Full front zipper with brushed tricot chin guard
- Insulation with PrimaLoft Black Series 60gm
MSRP: Starting at $119.99
5.11 TACTICAL 5-IN-1 JACKET 2.0
No matter the conditions, this professional-grade jacket not only holds up, it also excels at keeping you warm, dry and ready to move during nearly any activity. The fully seam-sealed, waterproof shell is highly breathable and offers resistance to wind, rain and blood-borne pathogens. Its removable inner jacket has zip-off sleeves and a convenient side zipper for greater access to gear on your belt or in pockets. Both jackets have hand and document pockets, and the external jacket’s hood rolls up or stows in the back pocket.
- 10K/10K waterproof/breathable rating with bloodborne pathogen resistance
- Two-way center front zipper with external/internal storm flaps and chin guard
- Five pockets in both the outer and inner jackets
- Articulated sleeves with adjustable cuffs
- Tech fleece and shock cord keeps warmth inside
MSRP: Starting at $249.99
FIRST LITE SEAK STORMTIGHT RAIN JACKET
When rain, sleet, fog and snow comprise the norm, the Seak Stormtight jacket is for you. Constructed of three and a half layers of rainproof protection, waterproof zippers, adjustable cuffs and 37.5 Active Carbon Technology to maintain optimal core body temperature, you’ll go head-on and worry-free in nearly any environment. This jacket is ideal for the Pacific Northwest, New England, Alaska—or wherever Mother Nature unleashes her chilly wrath.
- Designed for sustained exposure to rain, snow and moisture
- Built-in stretch for total flexibility and range of motion
- 3D Turret hood for maximized field of view
- Biomechanically accurate shooter’s sleeves and shoulders
- Pit zips for maximum ventilation
MSRP: Starting at $340
FIRST LITE MEN’S UNCOMPAHGRE 2.0 PUFFY JACKET
This jacket does it all! Not only is it ultra-resistant to harsh outdoor conditions, it also provides maximum flexibility when it counts and actively transports moisture away from the body for both comfort and safety. Obviously, you can have it all on your next outdoor adventure! Although it’s “puffy” because of its soft, insulated body, the Uncompahgre is incredibly comfortable in its sleeve cut, built-in stretch and field-of-view hood. When the weather improves, it packs up within its own pocket.
- Constructed with shooters’ biomechanics in mind
- 37.5 Active Particle Technology manages moisture and heat
- Exterior jacket shell repels snow, rain and harsh winds
- Zippers, pockets and closures don’t interfere with activities
- Built-in stretch for complete range of motion and flexibility
MSRP: Starting at $200
FIRST LITE KILN HOODY
As mid layers go, this one can’t be beat. Constructed of Merino-X material, the Kiln Hoody resists tears and offers a solid structure to build on when layering in the cold winter climates is a must. It’s so comfortable, you’ll forget you have it on. But when temps drop, or your own moisture level rises, you’ll be glad you have it on to do its job. The Kiln is ideal for all-day use with comfort and functionality. Backpack-friendly, modified raglan sleeves with no shoulder seams have thumb loops in the cuffs for maximum draft protection.
- Constructed of 95% 18.5-micron merino wool and 5% spandex
- Ergonomic, quarter-zip hood for ideal temperature regulation and concealment
- Interlock knit design offers insulation and moisture management
- Flatlock seams provide all-day, next-to-skin comfort
- Machine wash, line dry
MSRP: Starting at $120
ROTHCO CONCEALED CARRY SOFTSHELL JACKET
Concealed carry doesn’t stop when cold weather hits. This jacket allows you to simultaneously wear frigid-weather protection and “pack heat.” Designed to face intense cold winter, blistering winds and wet sleet or rain, this softshell won’t let you down when autumn or winter rolls in. Its numerous pockets are equipped with such amenities as wire pass-through ports, a D-ring for key chain attachments and plenty of room for spare mags and small items. Two morale patch hooks and points, along with five colors to choose from, round out this amazing piece of outdoor wear.
- Waterproof outer shell
- Three-layer construction deflects wind, wicks away moisture and retains heat
- Removable drawstring hood stows inside stand-up collar
- Dual universal firearm pockets with hook-and-loop closures
- Underarm ventilation zippers for increased airflow
MSRP: Starting at $154.99
ROTHCO CONCEALED CARRY HOODIE
When cold winter hasn’t yet hit full force, this hoodie could be your perfect piece of outwear. Designed to wick moisture away from the body and also make accessing your waist-carry firearm easy, you’ll enjoy protection from the elements and peace of mind that your firearm will be easy to access at the first sign of trouble. Its ambidextrous pass-through inside the kangaroo pocket offers a silent and discreet draw. It also makes a great mid-layer for colder situations.
Keeps body cooler and drier with incredible wicking properties
Pass-through kangaroo pocket with quick-access point
Wire pass-through points in both sleeve pockets
Thumbhole cuffs prevent sleeves from riding up
Morale patch attachment point on right sleeve
MSRP: Starting at $43.99
BOMBAS HIKING CALF SOCK 4-PACK
Whether you’re walking around the block or hiking across the globe, you’ll take every step with the utmost comfort in these incredible, cushioned hiking socks. Not only will your feet feel as if they’re walking on air, you’ll also enjoy their other important benefits—moisture wicking, odor resistance and quick drying. Having cold feet can decrease body temperature and could be the precursor to more-serious problems.
- Full cushioned foot and leg
- Honeycomb arch support system
- Airflow venting
- Seamless toe for all-day comfort
- Y-stitched heel for extra durability
SNUGPAK SNUGNUT HAT
Heat loss through the top of the head can lead to problems fast when in the cold winter outdoors. Fight back with this deerstalker-style hat. Using drop-down muffs to protect the ears, this lightweight, yet highly insulated, hat can mean the difference between a comfortable night or a night filled with chills and shivers. It’s soft enough to be stuffed into your bag or jacket pocket so you’ll always have it nearby when a cold snap hits.
- Softie Premier insulation is soft, comfortable and warm
- One size fits most
- Easily stores away in any gear bag or pack
- Weighs only 4 ounces
MSRP: Starting at $59
SNUGPAK SNUGFEET INSULATED TENT BOOTIES
Ditch the hiking boots when it’s time to relax for the night and enjoy both comfort and warmth with the Snugfeet Tent Booties. This footwear allows you to move about your shelter without worrying about tearing up the “flooring” or tracking in snow and mud. Need to take a quick trip outside when nature calls? No problem, these booties stand up to the outside just as well. They’re fully insulated with Softie Premier, repel moisture and are durable enough for regular indoor wear. There’ll be no cold feet in your camp ever again!
- Fully insulated for warmth and absolute comfort
- Soft sole design is gentle on groundsheet
- Water-resistant material keeps feet dry
- Compresses easily for packing and storage
SNUGPAK SJ-3 SOFTIE JACKET
Keeping moisture away from the body is essential while enduring the bitter cold of the outdoors, and the SJ-3 Softie Jacket excels at this. Its outer shell features a Paratex micro outer layer and a Paratex Light inner layer that work together to keep water out and your skin warm and dry through even the worst winter conditions. Its heat-trapping insulation fights hard through the cold winter while providing warmth and comfort inside. The SJ-3’s design features a shaped fit and ditches the bulkiness of other outwear, so insulation efficiency and functionality go hand in hand.
- Water-resistant main zipper for greater insulation and dryness
- Adjustable neck and waist positions for a comfortable fit
- Streamlined, concealed side pockets
- Two-way front zipper
- Elasticized cuffs and thumb loops
MSRP: Starting at $249
SNUGPAK TAC3 JACKET
Ideal for those chilly hunting trips in the fall season, the TAC3 Jacket features Swiss-made Softie insulation, as well as an extra layer of thermal suede lining for additional warmth and comfort. Its hood is fully insulated to prevent heat loss, but it folds away inside the collar when it’s not needed. Various pockets throughout the jacket can hold small items to keep your hands free as you travel.
- Discreet, internal security pocket
- External chest pocket for quick access
- Wind-resistant and water-repellent outer fabric
- Roll-away hood
- Weighs only 23 ounces
MSRP: Starting at $299
KUIU GUIDE GLOVES
You need many things in the perfect shooting glove—dexterity, durability, comfort and a snug fit. These Guide Gloves provide them all. Ideal for early- to mid-winter hunts, they’ll protect your hands from the weather while their breathability keeps you comfortable. Pittards Oiltac leather is used on the fingers, palm and other contact surfaces, and reinforcement patches are added at heavy-wear points.
- Primeflex 274g stretch soft shell on back of hand
- Webbing loop at cuff helps you put gloves on
- Adjustable hook-and-loop wrist closures
- Seamless fingertips improve dexterity and durability
CARHARTT SANDSTONE COAT
Specifically designed for the active man who works, travels and lives in cold and frigid temperatures, the Sandstone Coat offers a rugged approach for battling the elements. Made from 12-ounce, heavyweight cotton duck that’s been sanded and brushed for maximum softness, this coat offers a comfortable and flexible fit. It keeps the cold out and your body heat in. The quilted nylon lining has arctic-weight polyester insulation and makes it easy to don or remove the jacket. An optional hood easily snaps to the corduroy-trimmed collar.
- Triple-stitched main seams
- Full two-way brass zip front with hook-and-loop storm flap
- Pleated bi-swing back for extra stretch across the shoulders
- Four outside and two inside pockets
MSRP: Starting at $129.99
OUTDOOR RESEARCH DEMING SENSOR GLOVES
Your hands are indispensable and vulnerable when you’re out in the cold, so naturally, you need to protect them. Deming Sensor Gloves keep them toasty-warm, offer great dexterity and flexibility for gripping tools, and are touchscreen compatible. They combine high-pile, 550 gram Sherpa fleece with Pittards hair sheep leather to create one of the best cold-weather gloves on the market today.
- Highly durable; feature Pittards hair sheep leather
- Odor-resistant wool palm liner
- Pre-curved design with elasticized wrist
CARHARTT WINTER DEX COW GRAIN INSULATED GLOVES
When your hands get cold, it’s difficult to complete nearly any outdoor task. Solve this problem with these incredible insulated gloves. Sporting a waterproof/breathable shell, moisture-wicking lining and warm fleece insulation, you won’t miss a beat as your hands stay dry and warm all day long. Designed to be functional, and with less bulk and plenty of protection, these gloves will stand tough, day after day.
- Softshell and Polytex base with cowhide palm, fingers, wrap caps and reinforcement
- FastDry technology lining wicks away sweat from the palm
- Neoprene cuff with hook-and-loop closure for a snug fit
- Soft fleece internal insulation
5.11 TACTICAL WOMEN’S PENINSULA INSULATOR SHIRT JACKET
Bridging the gap between a heavy shirt and a winter coat, the Women’s Peninsula Insulator Shirt Jacket provides insulation from the cold, a water-repellent shell and 5.11’s RAPIDraw CCW accessibility. Wear it alone or under another shell in colder weather. It’s light and durable enough for all but the most strenuous activities. Plain-weave fabric overlays at the shoulder and collar provide added weather and abrasion protection. Two handwarmer pockets and a concealed left chest pocket have zipper closures. The jacket has six snaps for the front closure, and cuffs adjust with snaps as well.
- Quilted body and sleeve construction
- 40g PrimaLoft Black Series insulation
- Jacket styling with a regular fit
SNUGPAK ENHANCED PATROL PONCHO
The Enhanced Patrol Poncho is definitely not the typical pocket-sized bit of thin plastic. Instead, it’s an all-over, fully waterproof and adjustable piece of outdoor wear. It fits easily over you and your backpack and has enclosed sides and sleeves, making it more weather-resistant and activity-friendly than standard ponchos. Fully taped seams, an outer shell that’ll stand up to nonstop rainfall, a chest map pocket and an included stuff sack round out this outdoor essential.
- Adjustable hood and thumb loops for a snug and comfortable fit
- 100% waterproof material
- Can be used as a bivy in an emergency
- Easy-access hook-and-loop chest pocket with storm flap
- One size fits all
- Comes with stuff sack
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the November, 2020 print issue of American Survival Guide.