In this article we discuss six different tips that can help you prepare for those brutally cold work days. There are a lot of workwear options for winter work, many of which are neglected by most workers.
Tip #1: Switch to Insulated Pants
Have you considered wearing insulated pants? Typically, pants are either lined with either fleece or flannel.
What’s the difference between fleece-lined pants and flannel-lined pants? Truth is, there isn’t much of a difference. Both types of pants are going to keep you warm and are suitable for outdoor winter jobs.
If you made me give you my opinion on fleece vs flannel, I’d say it comes down to this:
- Fleece-Lined Pants – Warmer. Traps in basically all of your body heat. Isn’t very breathable.
- Flannel-Lined Pants – Warm, but is a bit more breathable than fleece. Not quite as bulky.
Again, that’s just a general definition, and both types of pants are very warm all things considered.
I own flannel lined carpenter pants and fleece lined cargo pants, and I personally like the flannel-lined pants a bit more for active work. Sometimes, even in the cold, I like to have some heat escape and appreciate the breathability.
Some people feel like fleece is bulkier, but I personally don’t notice much of a difference. I own both and wear both, but prefer flannel.
Here’s a look at my flannel vs fleece pants:
It’s not hard to sweat yourself right out of a pair of insulated work pants if you work an active job. And to me, fleece does an awesome job of trapping in heat, but it can be almost too much if you are active on the job.
Obviously, your climate matters too. Some regions need the warmest, and if you want the warmest option, I’d probably lean towards fleece.
And if, for example, you are an equipment operator who sits in the same position all day in sub-freezing temperatures, and you rarely build a sweat, I’d personally go with a pair of fleece-lined pants.
Tip #2: Wear Insulated Boots
Many workers overlook the importance of wearing insulated boots. Most work boots are not insulated, and so you will just have the leather between your feet and the elements. Not good.
Insulated work boots will use synthetic insulation that is thin and non-bulky to line the interior of the boot, which helps trap heat. The heavier the weight of the insulation, the more heat that is retained.
Most work boots will use 3M Thinsulate as the insulation type, but it can vary. The most common weight of insulation in a work boot is 400 grams, but you can find work boots anywhere in the 200g-2000g range.
Anything beyond 2000g is quite rare, and likely used in high country, or in extreme work conditions.
What Weight of Insulation is Best?
For the continental US, 400g boots will often be the best option for most workers, but I must emphasize, there will be exceptions.
For mild winters in the deep south, 400g may be too warm. And for some more extreme US climates, 400g may not be warm enough.
And let’s not forget, insulation isn’t the only thing that will determine the suitability of a work boot for winter.
Other materials on the boot can affect warmth, and of course your own personal comfort level will play a large role in determining what weight of insulation is best for you.
What I wear
Unfortunately, most boot companies (for legal reasons) do not assign a temperature rating to their boots.
Trial and error is the method I used to find a boot that works for me. In Kansas, I use both a 200g and a 400g work boot.
We get moderate winters here, and can have severe conditions. But we also do experience periods of mild winter temperatures.
So I personally rotate from 200g to 400g as the weather turns. I can’t make that a standard recommendation because I don’t know your job, climate, or personal comfort level, but that is what has worked for me.
Here’s a look at one of my 400g boots (Danner Quarry ~4 years old):
Most insulated work boots fall in the 200g – 600g range, which should give you a decent idea of maybe what you need.
Start with 200g if you work in mild conditions. Moderate conditions might need 400g, and severe conditions will probably need 600g or higher.
Extreme Weather Work Boot Options
Once you get to 1000g+, most boots are outdoor game boots (there are a few work boots too). If you are interested in 600g, 800g, or 1000g work boots, visit our articles here:
The main takeaway is don’t forget to insulate your feet. Those cheap work boots might not do the trick, and investing in a premium pair of insulated boots might take some of that brutal winter chill out of your feet. Here are our resources on insulated boots:
The most typical weight of insulation is 400g, but it can range all the way from 200g to even 2000g and beyond. If you want to learn more about insulation, and explore your options, visit one of our articles below.
Tip #3: Don’t Neglect the Base Layer
It’s easy to think only of work jackets and coats when you try to beat the winter cold, but any good winter work wardrobe has to start with the basics. You need a proper base layer
Thermal cotton long johns are popular, but I personally prefer compression shirts and compression pants. I feel like they are less bulky, and trap in more heat.
Some compression base layers will have a micro-fleece lining to make them even warmer. I also like the compression shirts that have a built-in face mask that you can pull up over your chine and nose when needed.
To read more, visit our article about the best cold weather compression shirts.
Tip #4: Use a Heavyweight Water Resistant Hoodie Under Your Jacket
This is something that I like to do when the winter is brutally cold. I own several types of hoodies, that vary in weight.
My warmest hoodie is the Carhartt. It is also water-resistant and can repel light precipitation.
I’ve learned over the years to use this as a layer under by work coat. Yes, using a hoodie as a layer under your work jacket isn’t exactly breaking news. I myself have done that for years.
But what I neglected to consider for so many years was the weight of the hoodie itself. I guess I just assumed most all hoodies were made pretty much the same.
When I tried a heavyweight hoodie for the first time I was actually a bit shocked at how much warmer it was than my regular hoodie.
If you use a heavyweight hoodie on a spring day you will sweat right out of that thing. Using that heavyweight hoodie as a winter layer has helped a lot
To read more, visit our article about the best water resistant hoodies. I like to wear Carhartt Rain Defender Hoodies, including the hoodie that was pictured above. To read more, visit my article about the best Carhartt Rain Defender Hoodies.
Tip #5: Buy Face/Hand Protection
I see so many workers who will be bundled up in a heavyweight jacket, but have no face protection on whatsoever. The face can take the worst beating of all out there in the winter cold.
You have a couple options that are worth considering if you want to add face protection to your winter wardrobe.
- Neck Gaiters – Wearing a winter neck gaiter around your neck that you can pull up over your face is a great idea. I personally like this option because I can pull it down when I don’t need it. Some neck warmers are made to take heat-packet inserts over the ears. To read more, visit our article about the best fleece neck gaiters.
- Helmet Liner – If you wear a hard hat, using a winter helmet liner is a nice way to protect your face. These helmet liners come in several different styles, some thicker than others, and some with protecting mouth coverings. To see our favorites, visit our article about the best helmet liners.
- Warm Cap – You can always consider a Thinsulate beanie hat, but if you are looking for something with a little extra warmth, then I would recommend something like Filson’s Double Layer Mackinaw Winter Cap. To read more, visit our article about the best winter earflap hats. If you prefer leather, consider a leather ivy cap, some of which have earflaps.
- Gloves – Many workers prefer warm leather gloves for winter work. I personally like to use work gloves that are insulated with 3M Thinsulate. I think 3M Thinsulate retains heat better than other options.
Tip #6: Properly Research Your Work Jacket
Not all work jackets are the same. For example, Carhartt offers several different types of linings and insulation, including:
Many workwear brands are similar, and offer several different insulation linings. On the surface, they all sound warm, so how are you supposed to know which is the warmest?
Researching the brand beforehand is critical. And not only does the lining affect the warmth, so can the outer shell fabric.
If you like Carhartt jackets, I’d recommend reading our article about the warmest Carhartt jackets which will give you an understanding of the different options, and our opinion on their warmth.
As far as outer shells go, usually the firmer the better. The firm duck canvas shells will offer some wind-resistance and are often water-repellent. This can vary by brand. Please visit our article about the best workwear jackets for more information.
For more mild temperatures, maybe a shirt jacket would work best. I like shirt jackets because they are also very useful to layer under a work jackets during colder temperatures. To read more, visit our articles linked below: