Living in the upper Midwest you might think that dressing for the weather is second nature but, in fact, layering is an exact and necessary science for any outdoor winter activity...even if it's just walking to your car.
But often in Fargo and other Northern cities, you'll see a lone man in shorts strolling across a college campus; a group of three girls on a night out with high heels, little black dresses and tights; or a person scurrying in swim attire attempting to snap an epic Kardashian-esque Instagram,
Despite these outliers in the community, the majority attempt to find ways to minimize the weather's affects on our bodies. The first rule of protection against the elements is shelter, but shelter starts at your closet.
Last winter Jon Walters, Fargo native and founder of Nature of the North, a community organization dedicated to promoting outdoor adventures, interpersonal connection and character-building experiences, shared his layering knowledge. During this week's record-breaking lows - temps dipping to - 27 degrees Fahrenheit and - 59 degrees Fahrenheit wind chill - use Walters' tips when braving the frigid air.
"Your outfit is the first shelter and layer you have,” Walters says.
Layering is a technique to moderate body temperature as you move about camp and the weather changes throughout the day.
“Moisture is your enemy in winter. As soon as you start to produce moisture inside your layers, you are going to freeze,” he says. “The key is being able to expel moisture and heat quickly.”
Three layers will usually maintain a safe temperature and allow for heat dissipation during most of the winter.
1. Base or wicking layer
The first layer and keeps water-retaining material like cotton away from your skin.
“The base layer holds in the heat and is able to keep moisture and heat away from your body into the other layers and eventually out into the world,” Walters explains.
Sometimes called the wicking layer to refer to its absorption properties, Walters says this layer is primarily for moisture management. Synthetics fabrics or Merino Wool is best for your base layer clothing.
“After the base layer, I usually wear all zippable clothing so I can expel heat quickly when I start to feel myself warm up,” he says.
2. Warmth layer
This layer traps heat by keeping air close to the body.
This layer insulates through heavy duty jackets, vests and pants.
3. Wind-blocking or shell layer
"This layer doesn't need to be very big or bulky and it doesn't need to create heat,” Walter says. Lightweight rain jackets and pants are usually used to block weather like snow or wind. “These three layers should be adequate until about zero degrees,” Walter says.
4. "Monster" layer
In subzero temperatures like Fargo is experiencing this week and weekend, Walters recommends don't forget a thick jacket nicknamed "Monster" over the wind blocking or shell layer.
“Sometimes I have a wool blanket around my shoulders like a cape,” he says. “It just helps to keep the moisture out.”
☝️I would call this layer the "big puffy coat" layer that most girls avoid. (Don't want to ruin your lewk, or give the illusion of extra weight.) But as a recent convert to the bulky coat crew, I can attest to the fact: It's worth it.
Like this resident of Boston, Mass. says, "No one can tell who anyone is anyways with the hood up."
Lastly, Walters recommends being prepared.
"You should always bring extra layers in your backpack," he says.
So your mom was right. You do always need a blanket in your car when it's this cold out. (Thanks, Mom!)
In all seriousness, these severe temperatures demand care and attention. Prolonged exposure to the cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and become life-threatening. Add an extra sweater, jacket, flannel. Wear two pairs of socks. Don't opt for the cute pea coat. Give into the puff. Love your fluff and take time to layer up.
Nature of the North regularly hosts workshops and partners with area businesses to encourage others to get outside in any temperature. Follow Nature of North on Facebook.