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Dress Correctly for Your Work Environment Temperature Zone

Having the proper outerwear and protective gear in work environments with low temperatures is vital for staying safe and maintaining high productivity. Some companies offer comfort ratings for their gear as a guide for choosing the proper jackets, gloves, boots and headwear for the temperature you will be in. It is a mistake, however, to purchase solely based on comfort ratings and not consider the other factors at play in choosing the right clothing for your temperature zone. 

Protective Clothing and Activity Levels in Climate Controlled Environments

If you are in a temperature controlled warehouse with the temperature set at 25°F, gear with a rating at that temperature might not be the best for you. If you are very active in your job duties – constantly walking, lifting and otherwise moving and producing more body heat – you will probably need gear rated for higher temperatures so you don’t overheat. 1 Layering will also be key, so you can be warm when you first enter the low temperature environment and adjust as your body acclimates.

If you spend all day on equipment like a forklift or back-hoe, you are creating wind chill that will make it feel much colder than it actually is2. In addition, in a stationary sitting position, you are not moving your entire body as much. As a result, you will generate less body heat. Increased wind chill and less full-body movement means that you may need to choose outwear that is rated for lower temperatures than surrounding air temperatures.

Dressing Correctly for Outdoor Work

Working outdoors means temperature is inconsistent and you are subject to elements like wind, rain and snow that can affect how warm you are. You will want to dress in layers so you can adjust throughout the day, depending on how the temperature changes and how much body heat you are generating. For rainy or snowy conditions, you will also want to choose an outer layer that is water-repellant or waterproof. Any moisture that gets through your outer layer, or gets trapped underneath, will make it harder to stay warm.

All of these factors mean you should choose gear with comfort ratings for what the temperature feels like and not necessarily what the temperature is, which is greatly influenced by wind and the moisture in the air.

Exposure Time to the Cold Matters for Cold Temperature Gear

Did you know that you can experience hypothermia even in 50°F weather? Or if combined with wind and rain, hypothermia conditions can accelerate? The main factor in hypothermia is body temperature and not the temperature of your surroundings, meaning that unprotected exposure time to adverse conditions really matters in protecting yourself.

If you are going to be in cooler temperatures for a long period of time (e.g., more than 1-2 hours), then you need protective apparel. The colder or wetter the conditions and the longer the time you will be exposed, the more protection and insulation you will need. As mentioned above, your activity level always matters, but increased exposure without protective apparel, especially in sub-freezing temperatures, is risky no matter how active you are.

Recommendations for Dressing Correctly for Cold Environments

Here are our recommendations for cold weather protection based on what the temperature feels like for you. Remember to take into account all other conditions – job duties, weather, exposure time and any other factors. These exact products won’t always be the best fit, but they are a good baseline to start from for making your final decision.  

Temperature feels like it is between -60°F and -30°F

  • Winter coats similar to the Extreme Softshell Jacket, Iron-Tuff Bomber, and ErgoForce paired with the proper base layers work when the temperature feels this extreme. If you have minimal physical movement in situations with wind chill, you want to look for added insulation. If you are very physically active, you want jackets that don’t hinder your movements.
  • Work boots similar to the Extreme Freezer Pull-on, Extreme Freezer Boot, or Pac Boots offer protection from the cold as well as anti-slip and electrical hazard compliance. Pair with socks that offer moisture wicking capabilities to protect against sweat.
  • For headwear, concentrate on items like masks and balaclavas that will protect as much of your head and face as possible.
  • For gloves, mitts are great if you don’t need much dexterity as mitts are warmer than regular gloves. When dexterity and warmth matter, hand protection similar to performance gloves are your best bet.

Temperature feels like it is between -30°F and 0°F

  • Warm jackets and pants similar to our Insulated Softshell Jacket and Insulated Softshell Pants work great in subzero temperatures. Softshell materials are stretchy and less bulky, meaning you get a higher level of flexibility than in other materials. It is water-resistant (sometimes water-proof), exceptionally durable and very breathable, all key features for hard-working cold weather gear. 
  • Boots similar to the Platinum Leather Boot and the Tungsten Hiker not only offer insulation to keep you warm, they also offer ankle and toe protection, anti-slip soles and waterproof uppers, among other features.
  • Leather gloves offer warmth and durability.
  • Knit caps paired with gaiters offer head, face and neck protection.

Temperature feels like it is between 0°F and 30°F

  • Temperatures below freezing don’t require as much insulation as subzero temperatures, but you still need something insulated. Stylish, warm jackets similar to the Extreme Sweater Jacket, Diamond Quilted Jacket, or the Artic Duck which offers the additional protection of a hood, are great options for when it feels like it is below freezing.
  • Work boots similar to the Barricade, Classic, and Ice Logger offer durable leather uppers, anti-slip soles, plus insulation to keep you warm – in addition to other features.
  • Knit caps keep your ears and head protected.
  • Liners help gloves provide additional warmth. If your job requires additional safety, there are also options like impact protection and cut resistance offered in many insulated gloves.

Temperature feels like it is above 30°F

  • It might be above freezing but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still cold. You still need protection, but layering and not over insulating is key. Moisture makes you colder, so sweating from overdressing makes you colder. A moisture wicking base layer paired with a sweatshirt or fleece, with a rain and/or wind repelling jacket for backup against the elements if you work outside, work great at these temperature levels.
  • Make sure your boots don’t have too much insulation – sweaty feet are uncomfortable feet, and uncomfortable feet means the rest of you is uncomfortable and productivity plummets. Choose boots similar to the Rally Athletic or the Rustic Hiker.
  • Knit gloves, especially those with added grips or coatings, keep your hands warm without overheating while still allowing you to maintain performance.
  • Headbands keep vulnerable areas like your ears warm without overheating.

  1. “Winter Fitness: Safety Tips for Exercising Outdoors.” http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20045626

       2. “Wind Chill.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_chill