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Why Over-Bundling for Cold Weather Can Be Harmful

Why Over-Bundling for Cold Weather Work Can Do More Harm Than Good

If you’re like us, you get a little thrill when you walk outside and find the temperature has taken a serious dip. There’s just no better feeling than knowing you have the right winter gear to keep you working warm and comfortable on the coldest days. No matter what Mother Nature has up her sleeve, you’ll stay snug and safe in your favorite RefrigiWear jacket.

However, when you’re putting on your warmest work gear for the day, you need to make sure you’re not going overboard. The weather might be well below freezing, but it’s still possible to bundle up a little too much, making the workday difficult and even putting you at risk of fatigue or injury. That’s why we’ve developed this guide to help you find the right level of warmth for cold weather work.

How does it happen and who’s at risk?

Over-bundling happens when you put on more insulating clothing than you need to keep your body at the right temperature. It can be a real problem for people whose daily routines involve multiple temperature changes—like commercial delivery drivers switching between their vehicles, the outdoors and indoor areas of businesses. Over-bundling is also common during those times of year between seasons when the weather can’t make up its mind between balmy and freezing.

People who do a lot of physical activity in the cold are usually at the highest risk of over-bundling because their bodies generate the most natural heat. That includes construction workers, landscapers, refrigerated warehouse workers, forestry workers, transportation workers and any other active workers in the cold.

People who do a lot of physical activity in the cold are usually at the highest risk of over-bundling

What problems can it cause?

One of the biggest dangers of over-bundling is that it might cause you to sweat more than normal, especially if you’re physically active. Turns out, sweat is one of your biggest enemies when you’re working in the cold since it cools as it dries on your skin, lowering your body temperature in the process. Other times, over-bundling can cause overheating, leading to serious problems:

  • Dehydration
  • Heat rash
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Low blood pressure

All of these symptoms can hurt your health and productivity, so if you think you might be overheating due to too much winter clothing, try shedding a layer or going inside to rest for a while—and make sure to drink some liquids.

How can you avoid over-bundling?

There are some basic techniques that anyone going outside in the cold should use to make sure they’re not bundled up too much:

  • Layer, layer, layer. It’s the easiest way to avoid over-bundling, and it will help make your winter gear more comfortable. Remember this general rule of thumb: lightweight base layer, insulating middle layer, weatherproof outer layer. We take a deep dive into layering techniques in our article How to Properly Layer When Working in Cold Environments.
  • On the other hand, consider which layers you actually need. People spending lots of time indoors (or somewhere that rain and snow aren’t a concern) might be better off choosing a warmer insulating layer and skipping the weatherproof outer.
  • Try experimenting with different types of insulated clothing that suit your specific needs. For example, if you struggle with keeping your upper body cool, try a lighter top paired with a pair of insulated pants or some insulated bib overalls.
  • More breathable gear can also help improve air circulation without sacrificing warmth. The RefrigiWear Extreme Softshell Jacket is a great example of how RefrigiWear clothing is built to breathe—the softshell fabric is lighter and gives you more ventilation, but the jacket is still rated to keep you warm all the way down to -60ºF. The Extreme Softshell Jacket also includes a dual front zipper system so you can regulate your warmth level without taking the jacket off.
  • Some gear combines two or even three of the basic layer types into one garment. While this can be an efficient way to bundle up, it’s also less flexible—you can’t just shed layers until you get to the right level. So if you’re looking at a multi-layer garment, look for one that has zip-out linings or other removable and adjustable features.
Don't over layer

When it comes to warmth, make sure you don’t have too much of a good things. By layering the right way and regularly checking in on how your body is responding to the temperature, you can avoid over-bundling and set yourself up to perform at your very best.