HOW TO STAY WARM WHEN WORKING IN THE COLD
No matter how much you love being outside, working through winter in the great outdoors is no walk in the park.
Yes, the cold air around you makes you cold, but that’s only because your body loses heat in more than one way. If you’re prepared to fight against all 5 ways your body loses heat, then you can stay warm in almost any cold environment.
5 Ways Your Body Loses Heat
There are five way the body loses heat, all of which can impact your comfort and health on a cold day or even in an artificially cold environment, like a freezer or walk-in refrigerator.
- Radiation – Heat lost from exposed skin
- Convection – Heat lost from wind displacing a layer of warm air near your skin
- Evaporation – Heat lost when the body loses water from sweating
- Respiration – Heat lost from breathing cold air
- Conduction – Heat lost though contact with a colder object such as cold floors or ground
All of these factors cause your body to lose heat but if one of them, such as convection from cold winds is exaggerated, then you’ll lose heat even faster. For example, you dress differently for a day that is 32°F with no wind than you would for 32°F with 15MPH winds (that’s why the weatherman reports on wind chill).
Cover Radiation and Convection First
Radiation and convection heat loss is what we take the most care to protect against. After all, convection is why we wear insulated work jackets and base layers, while radiation heat loss is why we cover our head, ears and hands on cold days.
To guard against radiation and convection heat loss while working in cold weather, choose an insulated work jacket that is comfort rated to match both the temperatures you’re facing and your activity level. The key is to make sure the jacket traps warm air inside and seals out drafts, because it’s actually the air inside the jacket that keeps you warm. In short, the jacket keeps the cold air from displacing the warm air.
Guard against radiation heat loss by protecting the areas of your body that are normally exposed, such as your hands, head, ears and throat, by covering them with insulated gloves, a wool cap, thermal balaclava or fleece neck gaiter.
Block Heat Loss from Conduction
In almost every activity you do, your hands and feet come into contact with other surfaces. And in the winter, those surfaces are likely to be very cold. From the ground and sidewalks to opening doors and holding tools, every surface you touch can transfer cold to your body through conduction.
Block heat loss from conduction with insulated work gloves and work boots with durable, cold-resistant soles.
Look for insulated work gloves that are comfort rated to handle the temperatures you’ll be working in. You’ll also want to look for an extended cuff that covers your wrist and doesn’t leave a gap of exposed skin between the edge of your glove and the end of your jacket sleeve.
Choosing the right work boot is a little tricker. For example, an outdoor hiking boot that works well in the summer may not be right for the winter if the sole of the boot isn’t tempered against the cold. Most rubber is more conductive than some composites, and some rubber soles will also crack in the cold, leaving your feet vulnerable.
Breathe Through the Cold
Guard against heat loss from evaporation and respiration by staying hydrated and keeping your nose and mouth covered.
Most people don’t think about staying hydrated when it’s cold, but any loss of water inside your body will quickly add to heat loss. If you’re working hard and sweating even a little bit, always keep a bottle of water with you to rehydrate. Even if you’re engaging in casual outdoor activities, remember that a dehydrated body is a cold one.
When you’re working outdoors in the winter, you can’t really avoid breathing in cold air. But as long as you’re keeping your core warm, then you can minimize heat loss through respiration by wearing a mask or balaclava over your nose and mouth. A neck gaiter may also be used, not only to protect your neck from the cold, but to keep your throat warm.
Hang On to Your Heat
Now that you understand the 5 ways your body loses heat, you can take steps to hold on to more of your body heat when you’re working outside in cold weather. Rely on insulated coveralls, jackets, gloves, and boots from RefrigiWear® to keep you warm and comfortable so you can take on any weather.