When Jesse and I decided to start our off grid homestead in the Pacific Northwest, we knew that we would have to prepare for colder winters than what we were used to! I grew up in Southern California where the weather is always 70 degrees and sunny, so moving to a cold climate was somewhat of a shock to me. One of the things I had to figure out quickly was how to dress warm in winter and colder climates. I am warm-blooded through and through, but I’m finally learning how to keep warm in this Northern climate and thought I’d share my winter clothing items tips and tricks!
In my past, I didn’t really know how to keep warm in winter… I simply cranked up the heater up in my home or apartment.
While this may be a viable solution to some folks, it’s not a solution when you’re living off the grid or are working outside all day!
We frequently work outside all day in all types of weather. Just recently, we demolished an entire house in exchange for salvaging the materials, it was cold, and we had to take the opportunity.
Whether it’s 70 degrees outside or 20 degrees and overcast, we work outside often!
Also, as we’re living in a travel trailer, we do have propane heat but we try to use as little as possible because we don’t enjoy spending every last dime on propane. We also have a wood stove in our small cabin that attaches to our portable RV garage, but it really doesn’t get warm enough to wear t-shirts; warm winter clothing is still required to stay comfortable.
The only solution I’ve found to keep my core body temperature up during all points of the day is to learn how to dress for winter weather and cold climates, which has involved overhauling my winter wardrobe, but that’s okay because all of these clothing items last a long time and they keep a big smile on my face because I’m toasty!
Disclaimer: I am only recommending these products because I wear them every, single day and can personally say that they work awesome for me!
Steps to Dress Warm in Winter
I’d love to share with you my favorite warm winter clothing that have been lifesavers on this journey of starting a homestead from scratch.
If you can only wear three or four layers, the layers you pick will make or break you in terms of how warm you are. Here are my favorite buys within the past two years.
1. Wear a quality baselayer.
If you don’t already wear a baselayer in cold weather, this is the #1 thing you can do to increase your overall body temperature.
I wear a baselayer 95% of the time in winter (even when not working outdoors) and it truly helps. The brands I love are listed below.
Smartwool Thermal Long Underwear
Growing up in Southern California, the only time I wore long johns was when we went skiingg in Mammoth Lakes! My mom would buy my sister and I each a set, and they fit terribly! We hated wearing them!
Somehow as an adult, this terrible experience with long underwear seemed to haunt me. I gave up hope in long underwear and thought they were all uncomfortable, bulky, unflattering, annoying, and something I simply wanted to avoid at all costs.
Then, in 2014, Jesse and I took on a year-long house rehabbing project. The house had an inefficient pellet stove in the worst location in the house, which meant that the house was rarely above 50 degrees. I was cold and miserable for over a month before I got desperate enough to go long underwear shopping.
They fit so perfectly, the crotch was where a crotch should be, the waist was where a waist should be, the waistband was wide which mean that muffin top was nonexistent, and they fit great under my jeans!
They are also modest enough that I can comfortable and confidently walk around in my long johns, without having immense fear that an unexpected visitor will stop by.
I bought the pair immediately even though they were more money than I was hoping to spend ($160 for the set… eek!). I wore them daily for about four months, and here I am again in the Pacific Northwest wearing them again… daily.
I wear them while outside working, and I wear them to bed. I actually just bought a second set because I refused to go without them for a day while we did laundry!
Cuddl Duds Long Underwear
Okay, so I know I just went on a long underwear rant. but my mom recently sent me those long underwear I had for skiing (the ones I thought I hated) and they were Cuddl Duds. I tried on the pants and tossed them immediately.
The waist encouraged #severemuffintop, the crotch was between my knees, they didn’t have adequate butt crack coverage, and it would simply be self-punishment to wear them. Sorry Mom, I still love you and appreciated your care package!!!
However, I was pleasantly surprised when I tried on the Cuddl Duds top.
While I am still madly in love with SmartWool, I do like the Cuddl Duds top for some variety.
The Cuddl Duds are 100% polyester rather than merino wool, so they are a little bit thinner and more silky on the skin. I’ve been wearing this top under normal long t-shirts when I spend the day indoors or working at a coffee shop.
2. Layer on top a t-shirt or long-sleeve shirt.
Next up on the list of how to dress warm… I wear a layer over my long underwear but under my jacket.
Some of these tops I don’t always wear long underwear over, but I’ll include them here anyways since they aren’t technically a base layer either.
T-shirts seem pretty easy for me to come by and this may be the same case for you. In all honesty, I usually do most of my t-shirt shopping at Goodwill because I can get decent shirts for $2-6/piece.
Jesse has found great name-brand shirts at Goodwill (LL Bean anyone?) and I’ve found shirts from GAP, Mossimo and even Old Navy that have fit.
This waffle-knit t-shirt is a new item in my cold weather arsenal as well.
While I have many long-sleeve t-shirts that I love, especially when I don’t feel the need for an additional baselayer, this is marketed as a “midweight” long-sleeve t-shirt instead of lightweight.
I do notice the difference… it’s just a little bit warmer than a normal long-sleeve shirt. I think the waffle knit has something to do with that. This shirt fits perfect and is fitted without being tight. It’s great to wear alone, under a sweatshirt, or even with a vest over the top.
I only ordered one of these just to try it out but I wouldn’t be shocked if I order a second down the road, hah!
Long-sleeve tees are great as a winter baselayer. Even indoors, I’m not usually too warm if this the maximum I can strip down to.
I ordered one of these long-sleeved t-shirts and as I suspected, it fits perfect.
This comes in a crew neck (what I ordered) and a v-neck. I ordered the crew neck because most long underwear has a crew neck, so I thought this would be better if I wear anything under it.
This is a lightweight shirt instead of a midweight like the one above… so one or the other may be better for you personally depending on your cold-weather needs.
Flannel Long-Sleeve Shirts
I love flannel… and I suspect you do too!
In summer, I use a flannel as my outer layer because it’s not as thick as a sweater but helps keep my arms warm if a breeze shows up. In winter, I know many folks love flannel because it’s somewhat durable, versatile, and can be worn alone or can be worn over thermals with a vest on top to keep the core toasty but keep full range of motion in your arms.
I don’t have any winter flannel yet but I have some sitting in my Amazon shopping cart. There are lots of flannel shirts at Goodwill but I personally have found that finding them isn’t consistent. They either aren’t in my size, fit weird, or have odd patterns.
In looking online there are three flannel shirts I recommend and that are on my wishlist… these from Legendary Whitetails (a hunting brand), these from Carhartt (I’ve tried them on in stores and they fit great and consistent in size) and these from LL Bean (haven’t tried these on yet but I know it’s a hugely popular brand for women’s flannel).
If you look hard enough, you may be able to find flannel shirts that are fleece-lined! This is also on my wish list because I can’t imagine how warm that’d be with long underwear underneath and a vest on top. Golden. But again, this isn’t as common in flannel for women as it is for men.
3. Add on a warm sweatshirt or fleece.
Pullover (Or Even Zip-Up) Fleeces
Lately, I’ve been wearing this pullover fleece non-stop, on top of my long underwear!
I don’t know where these have been my entire life, I guess I was too busy wearing cotton sweatshirts, but this layer is also critical to my warmth and happiness.
I don’t know that I recommend any one particular fleece layer over another, but there are lots to buy online or even at Goodwill! We stop by Goodwill frequently and if there are any fleece pullovers that fit, I snatch them up.
Zip Front Sweatshirt
Lately I’m loving anything Carhartt, including this zip front sweatshirt.
The material and design feels quality and I feel the sweatshirt is versatile enough to work in yet is also casual and comfy enough to wear lounging around the house in my pajamas! In the end, I got this because I wanted an option to wear something other than fleeces.
I can wear a t-shirt under this, long underwear, or even a non-thermal long-sleeved t-shirt.
I bought this sweatshirt specifically because it doesn’t have a hood. Generally, I prefer to wear beanies and if it’s really cold, then I’d rather just have the sherpa-lined hood on my jacket, otherwise I’m fighting too much fabric. If I never planned on wearing a hooded jacket over the sweatshirt then I probably would have opted for one with a hood instead.
4. Add a quality jacket to your wardrobe that’s built for winter.
As if a quality base and mid layer aren’t enough, the cherry on top of the sundae is a quality winter jacket. Here, I really go for function over fashion because being warm and happy is totally worth it.
Sherpa-Lined Sandstone Sierra Carhartt Jacket
The most recent addition to my winter wardrobe is this womens Carhartt jacket.
Prior to getting this jacket, I was rockin’ out in a Northface jacket. The Carhartt jacket is nice because it’s more durable than my Northface, it’s really meant to be worked in where my Northface jacket is better for hiking, and the jacket alone is both thick and warm, where my Northface jacket is simply a fleece with some sort of light windbreaker shell on it.
Before I bought this jacket, I was wearing my SmartWool long underwear, a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt, and the Northface jacket, and I was still chilled to the bone when working after sundown.
Now, I wear my long underwear, a simple fleece pullover, and the Carhartt jacket. I have yet to be cold, and I’ve worn it in single-digit weather.
Sherpa-Lined Weathered Duck Carhartt Vest
This is also on my wish list, and this vest specifically, for a few reasons. One, it has the same sherpa lining as my jacket and if my jacket is warm, this vest must be too.
I like the brown color because it will look good over just about anything (I’m kicking myself a little bit for getting a bright pink jacket for this reason, but hey, it’s all good).
Second, it has a hood and a hood that is detachable. Many other vests have no hood or one that is attached. I think I would use this hood often as it’s a way to add a little warmth without adding an extra layer, but then I love having the option of removing it as well.
Why aren’t all hoods removable…? Seems like an easy feature to add to me!
5. Wear a lined pant or jeans on the bottom with thermals under.
Prior until this year, I had no idea there were options for my bottom half aside from thin jeans and snow pants.
Luckily, as time goes on, I’m learning that there is such thing as a lined pant or jean which adds extra warmth over something that’s unlined. Pair that with a baselayer and I think we’re golden!
Women’s Fleece-Lined Pants
I was browsing through our local feed and outfitting store when I stumbled upon these fleece-lined pants from Carhartt. I immediately felt like my prayers had been answered!
I tried them on, they fit perfectly, and I rushed to the cash register and then kept an eye on the forecast for an opportunity to wear them.
My problem with all of my jeans is that they are super thing… the actually aren’t even jeans, they are a thin, stretchy, denim-like material, so they have zero insulation to them whatsoever.
I feel that I can wear these pants alone and stay warm, OR for extra warmth, wear some long johns under them, and be happy as a clam.
I’m on a continuous hunt for quality work jeans that are comfortable. Many of my jeans are more like “jeggings” (jean leggings) and while they are stretchy they are incredibly thin. And, most womens’ work pants in my experience are like a tent for my body… large and unflattering.
Okay, it should be function over fashion, but can we at least try to find work jeans that are both??
First on my list are the Carhartt Slim Fit Nyona Jean. I was fortunate enough to try on many styles at a Carhartt store but these were my favorite.
They are stretchy yet feel durable, and I feel that it will be easy to wear thermals under them. According to their size chart online, the size is true to the chart at least for my body. I’d say I have an average to slim build and I like the slim fitting jeans.
The original pants are just a little more roomy, and the relaxed fit (the baggiest of all) I don’t like the fit of even in my size. For the record, the fleece-lined pants above are an original fit and they’re certainly more loose-fitting but that’s okay.
I also love that these are pretty low-cost for a quality jean (most jeans I like are in the $80 category).
If anyone else has QUALITY work stretch jean recommendations, please let me know what they are! LL Bean seems to have jeans that look pretty good, including flannel-lined jeans, but I’m certainly not ready to splurge on them just to test them out.
I’ll wait until I’m really desperate or until all of my Goodwill jeans kick the bucket, hah!
6. Keep the feet warm with wool socks and quality shoes.
Merino Wool Knee-High Socks
Back in 2014, during the year-long house rehabbing project, I also purchased this pair of SmartWool socks during my winter shopping spree.
In the past, my winter socks were always for snow boarding or skiing, and they never fit properly so I was happy that I only had to put up with them once a year! They were always too big and the calves were always stretched out!
SmartWool socks are made with merino wool so they’re incredibly soft and provide a lot of warmth. They also come in many fun patterns.
I don’t wear these daily because that would just be gross… but I really do need to buy a few more pairs of them to rotate through.
I really notice the difference between my SmartWool socks and my cheap, cotton socks from Target.
Have you ever heard of down booties? They are the BEST invention ever! Why wouldn’t you want your feet surrounded by down!?
I went on a snow camping trip back in 2011 or so and the woman that led the trip (also known as the pro snow camping) whipped out a pair of these after a long day of snow shoeing. She was the only one with warm, toasty feet.
I wear these almost always when I’m in the travel trailer in winter. Even if the air is 60 degrees in the trailer which is pretty warm, the floor is always cold. My down booties have a thick sole which gives some air insulation between my feet and the RV floor, and the down really helps to warm up the bootie.
If you don’t yet have a pair of these and you frequently suffer from cold feet, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to some! Or, if you have a special lady (or man? hehe) in your life that gets cold feet, I’m sure it’d be the perfect gift.
On the Wishlist: Bogs
My winter footwear is seriously not up to par right now, but I’m not ready to splurge on a bunch of new shoes. Bogs are one thing I think I’ll end up buying. I see lots of hearty folks wearing these because they’re waterproof, great as muck boots, comfortable, and lined for cold weather.
I can see myself wearing these as an all-around boot during winter, although they certainly aren’t classy or fashionable necessarily.
On the Wishlist: Sorel Snow Boots
I have a snow boot right now, but I really, really don’t like them because they are ugly and cold. I’m looking to upgrade and so far, these Sorel boots are the ones I’m keeping my eye on.
They look warm, durable, are a well-known brand, and I’d certainly wear them more than I wear my current snow boots.
On the Wishlist: Twisted X Work Boots
I’m trying to decide which work shoes to get next as my hiking boots are starting to fall apart. This is a serious decision for me so I haven’t made it yet, but I’m leaning towards these boots.
I was looking at Justin and Ariat work boots but when I tried them on in stores, they felt a bit stiff and I’m unsure how they’d feel after breaking them in.
Then I found these boots by a brand I’ve never heard of before and the boots felt like walking on clouds when I put them on.
The boots in stores were a bit too garnished and wild for my personality, but they do offer a plain work boot. I like that these are pull-on, have a round toe, great traction, and are versatile enough to wear not just for work but day-to-day as well (some work boots are pretty ugly and monsterous to wear when work isn’t happening).
I don’t know if these are technically waterproof, but they do look like they can handle the winter mud without a problem.If anyone has experience with these please let me know, or if you have another day-to-day work boot recommendation.
7. Keep the head toasty so heat doesn’t escape.
You’ve heard the saying… keep your head warm and the rest of your body will stay warm!
Well, this isn’t exactly true, but if you’re trying to stay warm, it’s best to protect your noggin’ too. I frequently wear beanies all day long during the colder months because they really do keep me warm, and also because if I wear it in the morning, I can’t take it off because my “hat hair” is pretty terrible! Good reason to wear the all day long!
Wool Visor Beanie
My #1 favorite beanie is this one by Pistil.
Honestly, I like it because it is somewhat stylish and I feel less like an abominable snowman. I love the little visor on it! It also does keep my head toasty, or I wouldn’t wear it!
Carhartt Acrylic Watch Hat Beanie
I got a second beanie to have some variety and wasn’t sure how much I’d actually wear this one compared to the visor beanie, but I’m loving it! I guess I just like variety.
It’s kinda odd, but the first couple of times I wore this beanie my ears were a little sore after many hours, but after the third wear or so the soreness went away. It isn’t tight or anything, but I guess my visor beanie is much looser.
This one covers my ears a little better than the style visor beanie I have.
Wrapping It Up
If you’ve never lived in a cold climate, then the best thing I can share is to dress in layers, and that the quality of the layers matter!
Not all layers are created equally! You can wear two different sets of layers, and one will keep you toasty while the other will leave you shivering.
By investing in high-quality layers and warm winter clothes, they will last for years to come, keep you warm on a daily basis, and most of all, increase you mood as you can spend your mental energy on things other than keeping warm!
I have a lot of personal challenges on this off grid homesteading journey so being cold is the last thing I want to worry about.
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