Podcast: What to Wear in Cold Weather

What I’ve Learned about Layering for Cold Weather

I recently had a chat with Amy Bushatz of Humans Outside where we unpacked our best tips for how to dress for outdoor activities in cold weather. As Amy and I talked about, winter layering can be really intimidating! We both feel passionately about helping to lessen this barrier and helping folks feel more confident outside in winter. That’s why I’m so excited to share this conversation with you.

Amy has spent at least 20 minutes outside for more than 5 years. She believes fully in the transformative power of spending time outside, even in small, simple ways. She encourages others to build the habit through her Humans Outside Challenge, which creates structure to help folks spend at least 20 minutes outside for one full year.

I was born and raised in Alaska, and Amy has been here for several years now. With our different backgrounds, we both offer our perspectives on winter layering, which helps highlight how individual preferences and bodies can vary in their approach. We also talk about the things that are pretty consistently true that serve as a good starting point for you to figure out what works best for you.

Amy and I cover a lot of ground in our conversation, and I bet you’ll find a helpful tip you can apply in your own life. We talk about our favorite pieces of winter gear, common mistakes with winter layering, and some unexpected tips and fun facts! Below is a summary of the time markers for each discussion point.

Topics covered include: 

  • (4:59) My personal story and how cold weather is a learning experience for all of us
  • (11:48) The first thing to know when you’re learning to layer for winter weather
  • (15:11) The basic rules for cold weather dressing and staying warm outside
  • (21:55) How to make warm winter gear more affordable - link to the blog post we mentioned is here
  • (25:38) An example of the layers I wear for cold weather
  • (32:15) The #1 mistake people make with winter layering
  • (36:10) Why we love puffy pants and puffy skirts
  • (42:21) Dealing with discomfort and making things easier for yourself
  • (45:23) Wrapping up: my favorite outdoor moment

I hope you will have a listen and that you enjoy the conversation! If you have thoughts or any of these topics resonated, I'd love to hear from you! 

Where to listen: 

You can also read the full transcript of the interview below! 



Amy Bushatz 00:02
No matter who you are or where you go, heading outside even for just a few minutes is well worth it. Welcome to Humans Outside where we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life habit around spending time in nature while learning from fascinating outdoor minded guests. I’m Amy Bushatz. I’ve let curiosity be my guide as a journalist for 19 years. But life, including my husband’s injuries from military service had us looking for a better way to live. So we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if an outdoor focused life was the answer. Since September, 2017, I’ve spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day no matter what to explore how nature can change my life.

Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same? Let’s go.

It’s a question I get all the time and a topic people are really nervous about getting right when they first start to head outside. How do you dress for cold weather? How can you get outside without being miserable when temperatures are absolutely fridged?

Staying comfortable outside in cold weather is about so many things. It’s a safety issue because getting too cold really can be dangerous, and it’s a mental health thing because if heading outside is safe and comfortable, you’re likely to do it more often. Both experts and those of us who live in cold climates will confirm that getting outside regularly in the winter, preferably in the daylight hours, is not just a nice to have. It’s the secret to winter. Finally, knowing how to dress in the winter is also going to make it easier to try new things in cold weather, things like skiing or winter running. And when you feel like you can try new things, suddenly life gets a lot more interesting and fun.

Okay, That’s my pitch for learning how to dress in the winter and getting outside, no matter the weather. But what I haven’t done is told you how to do that. How the heck do you dress for cold weather? How do you know what to wear? How do you avoid having to experiment with 1000 different types of jackets? I’m not gonna tell you any of that, but today’s guest, Sarah Histand, is she’s the owner of Mind and Mountain, where she’s a mental health informed, adventure fitness trainer and founder of the wildly popular training program, Ski Babes. She’s focused on women specifically, but through her work also focuses on this core value we all share. Getting outside is for everyone. Sarah is from here in Alaska originally and has focused a lot of her work on helping beginners get outside. That makes her pretty much the perfect person to talk to about the nuts and bolts of dressing for cold weather.

Sarah M Histand 02:53
Hmm, thanks so much for having me. What a great introduction.

Amy Bushatz: 02:56
Well, I am just really honored to spend some time with you this morning. You are a busy lady. You’ve got ski babes. Just as we’re recording, this has recently rolled out. Of course it’s still available for people to check out. But why don’t you kick off by telling us about your favorite outdoor space? We kind of like to imagine ourselves hanging out wherever our guests really love outside, as if we’re just there having a conversation together. Where are we with you today?

Sarah M Histand 03:22
Well, I’d love for us all to be at this beautiful beach in outside of Valdez Alaska. I don’t live there anymore. I live in Anchorage now, but Valdez is where I was living before this, and it’s a really beautiful ocean town, and from my house in Valdez I could take a trail out the back door and either in the summer walk down there or in the winter, skate ski down to the ocean and end up in this just gorgeous 360 view of mountains all around and like beautiful ocean, sometimes some seals, definitely some birds. If the sun’s out, you can see mountains from the ocean all the way up to like 5,000 feet. And it’s just like so beautiful everywhere you look.

Amy Bushatz 04:16
Valdez gets a lot of snow, and unrelated Fun fact, they have a lot of bunnies. It's like a bunny. Random. It's very random. I bet no one anticipated me saying that. No, it's like it's almost like a rabbit infestation. Except they're adorable because they're rabbits.

Sarah M Histand 04:35
Yeah, somebody apparently had like a pet rabbit that got loose and then multiplied and now they’re like feral and they’re just everywhere.

Amy Bushatz 04:43
Yeah. Little Valdez lore for y’all today. Okay. So give us a little bit of background. How did you become someone who likes to go outside, and then how did you get into this work of blending mental health and outdoor adventure focus fitness for women.

Sarah M Histand 04:59
Yeah, well, so I grew up here in Alaska, in Soldotna, and my family’s from the Midwest originally my parents ended up up here after they got married kind of randomly. And uh, so we grew up spending time outside doing kind of mellower, like canoeing and little hikes and things. But when I, so like, I definitely grew up appreciating the outside and being in a relationship with nature, sledding and all the kind of stuff we would do as a kid.

And then as I started to grow up into adulthood and wanted to try some of the more ambitious outdoor stuff that I saw people doing, I was always pretty intimidated and like Dealt with a lot of imposter syndrome and in some ways still do. It’s like a part of stepping into more challenging things outside.

And when I was living in Valdez actually some of that, that there’s a lot of uh, a lot of skiing there in the winter cuz of all the snow. And I was learning to backcountry ski at that time. And while I was learning to backcountry ski, I was working on my day job at the running the gym there and teaching fitness classes to people in town.

And I was also finishing a master’s degree in social work, so learning a bunch of mental health stuff and these three worlds just kind of intersected all at the same time. So the learning to ski. The fitness, I could tell that the fitness classes I was teaching was really helping my skiing and my success on the mountains and learning to ski without getting injured.

And then I was also working really hard in the mental health world and seeing how helpful the mental health skills were for the ups and downs of learning how to ski as an adult and how humbling that whole experience can be. So just kind of all came together in this idea that like mental health and physical health and outdoor time, really, like they all support each other and there’s really like separating them out. I feel like so much of fitness is just fitness and so much of mental health is just mental health, but for outdoor time, we’re using it all.

Amy Bushatz 06:59
Yeah. And when you mention this connection of like learning to ski as an adult, that reminds me of just like learning to be outside at all as an adult. If that’s not something that’s core to you in your background, it can be very daunting to, to get out there and make this a part of who you are and mean appropriate for today’s conversation, when it comes to knowing how to dress, I think that’s just like this huge mental block. If nothing else.

Sarah M Histand 07:28
There’s so much of an our adult lives that we spend doing things that we’ve learned we’re good at, and it can be quite awkward and uncomfortable to take on something where you’re on a learning curve again. Whether it’s just like physically uncomfortable because you’re like, Trying out new things, and especially winter, like has a bunch of discomfort with it as you learn how to dress for the conditions that you’re in and for your body. And then there’s also like the humbling factor of just being like, Gosh, I’m just not that good at this right now, and this is not so much fun all the time.

Amy Bushatz 08:00
Yeah. Yeah. And we’re gonna get here into the nuts and bolts, but I wanna say two things. First of all, you and I are in Alaska. It’s cold here. That’s sort of like famous Alaska fact, right? If anyone knows anything about Alaska, they know that it’s cold, or can be very cold. But cold and the experience of temperature is really relative to where you are and what you have experienced until this point.

And so if you’re listening to this and you’re in Texas and you’re thinking, Oh gosh, This doesn’t apply to me or I’m not as cold as they are and doing maybe a comparison thing. Stop doing that. Don’t do that. Cold is cold. This is relative to where you are and what you’ve experienced so far.

And you and I were talking just before we started recording about how there’s that week every year where maybe it’s a lot warmer than it’ll be in the depths of winter, but colder than it has been. And we’re still adjusting and we are busting out the big jacket..

Sarah M Histand 08:59
Totally. It’s so interesting how this time of year we’re recording this in October and it was just summer. I mean, I guess it’s been a couple months now since it was really summer, but we just got sort of our first dose of cold weather up here recently. And it is a shock to the system when you’re used to more comfortable temperatures and something that like any drop in 20 degrees below what you’re used to is. That takes some, Takes some really getting used to. And then like, at least for my body, once I’ve experienced it for a few days and then it gets a little bit easier each time. And we were talking about how by the spring these temperatures won’t feel that bad. We’ll be in like t-shirts cuz we’ll be so excited that it’s up into the twenties finally.

But this time of year it feels really cold and it is so relative and our bodies are so incredible about calibrating to what they’re in. But it takes some time to get there.

Amy Bushatz 09:52
Exactly. So don’t be like, Oh, my cold’s not that cold. And then the next thing is, stop, if you’re doing this, stop comparing yourself or judging yourself or shaming yourself for feeling cold or having a hard time with this. This is a learning experience, everybody, I mean, Sarah, you and I have both learned how to dress in the cold. Uh, I learn how to dress in the cold once a year. Like, it’s like it’s a whole new thing for me every October. I’m getting a little bit better at it as we go the longer I live here.

But you know, I just, I, it’s like going out and doing a sport you haven’t done for a long time. Like, do I remember how to ride a bike? Let’s find out.

Sarah M Histand 10:33
Isn’t that funny? I have that too this time of year where it’s like I for sure grew up doing that. I’ve done this all my life, but still this time of year, I’m like, Oh, right, gloves, I forgot about gloves.

Amy Bushatz 10:43
Maybe that’s why we’re so cold in October. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So I just wanted to make sure people know that, that y’all are listening to us and knowing that we’re not sitting here judging you for being cold anymore than we judge ourselves for being cold. And this is just like a super learning experience for everyone.

Hey humans, if you wanna build your own outdoor habit, the Humans Outside 365 challenge is a great way to get started. You can even score some really cool and exclusive challenge swag, including a finisher, decal, and metal in the process. All you need to do is visit HumansOutside.com/challenge. You’ll also get an outdoor challenge guide written by me for you, an exclusive challenge tracker and insider info all year long. You don’t wanna be left out of this. Go to HumansOutside.com/challenge to learn more now. Okay, back to the show.

Amy Bushatz 11:48
So Sarah, can you maybe start by talking to us about the basics? You teach people how to go outside in all weather. You teach people how to be fit and mentally strong for winter sports here in Alaska. What is the first thing you tell people who are just learning how to do this? What is the first thing people need to know about dressing for cold weather?

Sarah M Histand 12:12
I would say the first thing would just be the skill of experimentation and just feeling like you can baby step your way into whatever it is you’re trying to move toward. And like this is even, I do trauma informed work and we use the term “titration” a lot for and this works in fitness too. We’re just like trying to take baby steps toward challenge and give ourselves breaks in between so our body actually knows that it’s safe as its approaching challenge. And I think about that same thing with cold temperatures and dressing. It’s like, you’ve gotta do, go through some trial and error to find what works for you and the the way to do that without it being like overly miserable or something that makes you like never wanna do it again, is to try it for a little bit for a walk around the block for if that works, go a little bit longer next time. Just go really easy on yourself and. And baby step your way.

Amy Bushatz 13:11
Yeah. That’s so good. No, I’m unaware. I mean, if there’s a prize let me know, but I’m unaware of a prize for like being the coldest or dressing the best in cold weather. I’ve never heard of this.

Sarah 13:23
True. Nope. There’s uh, there’s nothing to be gained for pushing it too fast.

Amy Bushatz 13:29
Yeah. Okay, good. Cause I like to win prizes, so if there is No, I’m kidding.

Sarah M Histand 13:34
I feel like when I was a teenager here and we were like showing off how tough we were there was a little bit of ego prize there, but yeah, I dunno after you’re through that stage.

Amy Bushatz 13:44
knowing was a prize for shortcutting the process, take your time. I love that experiment. Go with what you know, follow your own path on this and take it easy and make sure that you feel comfortable not that you know what you're doing but like you feel comfortable with what you're doing before you go towards the next step. This is in direct contrast to what my husband wants me to do which is like skip to the end and go it's camping a snow cave and I'm just like, No, we're not going to do that. So

Sarah M Histand 14:15
whenever like a million steps between like getting out of the door and camping a snow cave. You have to like build your knowledge base about what what layering works for you and what actual gear is like the best for your body for that situation. And also your nervous system comfort with the experience of being more and more exposed. The further we get away from the house or the car or whatever the like heat source is, the more exposed we are to the elements. And so there is some like you said this is a safety thing. Like you get too cold and there is some risk there. So it makes sense that like your body would be a little bit freaking out when you get a little bit further away from that safety net. And we have to build up both the skills of dressing and also the nervous system capacity

Amy Bushatz 15:02
to know that something we can handle. That's so good. Okay, so that will be level set on that, what you're where it's going to depend on where you live and how cold it is, in your experience, like we just talked about. But there are some pretty universal truths, just like basic information for staying warm outside. So talk to us or for getting dressed outside. Talk to us about what are they?

Sarah M Histand 15:25
Yeah. So the basic rules for winter, which we can go for, and then I’m gonna tell you how we sometimes can break them all too, but the like kind of go-to rules are to avoid cotton, because cotton will hold moisture close to your body. Like winter stuff is moisture management. So if you end up with moisture on your skin, that gets cold, that’s gonna cool your body temperature down really quickly and make you cold. So we’re looking for, so we like avoid cotton, avoid getting sweaty or wet close to your body. And then my other big rule is to care for your fingers and your toes, cuz those extremities can be easy to lose track of when you’re moving. And those tend to be the things that get coldest the fastest. And then those are the basic things as you’re building up the comfort with getting outside in the winter as you get into more complex or bigger trips. Sometimes we do get wet, sometimes we wear cotton. And then you’re working on building the skill of drying that stuff out in a way that still, that lets your body heat still stay at a comfortable enough temperature.

Amy Bushatz 16:35
So what I hear you saying is naturally your body works to keep itself warm. This is what bodies do. We produce heat and then it keeps our core warm, our cell, our internal engine, if you will. Then we have the outside factors. So in this example, cold weather, right, which is working to not keep us warm. And so now our bodies have to work harder. And what we want to do is aid our bodies in staying the warmth that they are already producing. And one way to do that is by not exasperating that cold by being wet, cuz that is not gonna help us stay warm.

Sarah M Histand 17:17
Right, right Yeah. And so then that, then your choices with your layering or your winter clothing is going to depend on how much, how active you feel like you’re gonna be. So if you can, if you’re, if what you’re up to is something where you can keep, like you can move without getting sweaty. If you’re going at a mellow walk or the kind of thing that is like you can keep yourself from getting wet, then you can wear layers that lots of warm layers that keep the heat inside. If you’re doing something more aerobic, that’s gonna where you might get a little sweat going on, then one of the mistakes people often make is they’ll have a bunch of puffy layers and be sweating on the inside because we think, well, it’s so cold outside, not gonna need all these puffy things.

But actually your body is gonna create some quite a bit of heat when you’re moving, and that is one of the things that really is one of these skills that you have to be building is like, how warm am I gonna get on this thing? And can I take some layers off so that I’m not so sweaty, that I am soaked and have to deal with the moisture situation?

Amy Bushatz 18:24
When we say layers, what are we talking about here?

Sarah M Histand 18:28
Typically we’re talking about some cozy base layer on your both your top and your bottom, like long underwear. Maybe they’re wool or synthetic, something that’s probably not cotton.

Amy Bushatz 18:40
Again, because of the wetness, cuz you, we wanna like pull that, take that away from our skin.

Sarah M Histand 18:46
Yeah, Yeah. The wool or the synthetic does a better job of letting the moisture, when it like, comes off your body, like moving it away from your body and out into the air. So, and cotton tends to like hold the moisture just kind of in, in the fabric. So then that’s gonna make you colder. So it’s called wicking is the term for that, where it like takes, moves the moisture out away from your body. So we’ve got that like cozy base layer on, like close to your skin. And then depending on what you’re doing for your outside time, maybe you’ll have like a mid layer with like some fleece or something that is a little bit of like a warm sweatpants sort of layer in between. And then there maybe is something outside of that that is more of like, something that does like some wind blocking or like a hard shell would be one of the terms for that. So that’s kind of like a raincoat, sort of plasticy layer on the outside, especially if it’s snowing and there’s some actually moisture coming down that you wanna also keep that moisture from getting through into your layers.

Amy Bushatz 19:51
Yeah, yeah. And how many of these you're wearing again, depends on where you are in the temperature and what you're doing. So I'm envisioning somebody who's running in cold weather, right? So if I'm out on a run, I might have just on tights, which really, that's all I'm wearing on the bottom in many instances, right. So that's, if you're thinking about in terms of layers, that's a base layer. And if I was to get cold, or it was to be really cold, or if I was like hanging out at the start line, or buy the car or something, you know, at a point around a run, you know I'm not gonna go be active, I've got another layer on top of that, like, a wind pant or something to keep me or sweatpants to keep me or that base layer warm before I go out and start moving.

So you know, I use that example cuz it’s like, okay, that’s one activity, but maybe two different parts of it. And I would strip down to what’s really on the bottom, just that base layer to do the activity. And on top of it I’ve got, you know, the back of my car is just silly because it’s full of just a million layer options because this is the situation, right? Like who knows when a hike’s gonna break out? Right? And so I, but I’ve got all of these layers in the back of my car and then I can take them on or put, take them off depending on what the weather is and what I’m about to do.

Sarah M Histand 21:20
Yeah, that’s such a good example cuz you’re using, in that example, your body heat while you’re running is gonna be pretty high. So you’re not gonna need a lot of extra, the base layers, maybe all you need. But then the minute you stop running, you usually, our trick for that is like to let some of the moisture move out for a minute. Like try to get to just spend some time in your base layer while the moisture moves away from your skin and then throw a bunch of puffy layers on top so you can keep as much heat on at the same time, once you’re done with the aerobic and your body temperature starts to drop.

Amy Bushatz 21:53
Exactly. Exactly. So before we dive further in here, we’re talking about puffy, we’re talking about base, we’re talking about wool.

These are big dollar sign words. uh, there’s the thing you see in your mind, maybe when you think about winter gear, which is probably like some picture out of Patagonia catalog or Lululemon or REI you know, these people wearing these extraordinarily expensive things and I, I do think to some extent you do get what you pay for, but does going outside in cold weather have to be really expensive?

Sarah M Histand 22:30
Yeah, this is real and it is true, like it’s real different than summer where you maybe just need shorts and a t-shirt and you can get by with less. So there really are some costs to getting the clothes that will keep you warm. I don’t think it has to be as high ticket as like maybe eventually you want, if you’re gonna to go like climb a mountain or something like that, you really might want the lightweight, high quality just right gear. But for most purposes, there are a lot of options for doing this on a budget, and we just actually just wrote a blog about winter sports on a budget that we can link up in the notes here. If you wanna check out, like we did a bunch of crowdsourcing in my community for people’s suggestions and how they grappled with this.

The big themes of that were that used stuff is amazing and a lot of people kick off used gear if either any like consignment stores or thrift stores around. I tend to love Costco and they’re like pretty cheap gear options if you ha if you have a Costco membership , and, and even for some of the more technical sports and trips that we’re doing, I’ll often get some of that, quote unquote cheaper gear because if all the stuff wears out and sometimes those lower price tag items tend to be the most durable and can be pretty awesome. So they’re there’s, and you know, there’s no need for a different jacket for your hiking and a different jacket for winter. These, there’s a lot of. You get multi-use gear items so you don’t have to buy a new thing for every season necessarily. Definitely take some creativity and some looking around, maybe some shopping around, but I wouldn’t point people right to the high ticket items on those big name gear stores, especially as you’re learning, there’s a, there’s a lot of good stuff at lower price tags.

Amy Bushatz 24:21
Yeah. And I find that if you think about it in terms of layering. If you start with layering on the mind, now you’re thinking about gear and how it stacks on top of each other. Like if you were going to organize your Tupperware drawer or whatever, or your grandma’s Tupperware drawer, right? Everybody’s grandma had a giant Tupperware drawer. Don’t tell me you didn’t. So, if you’re gonna organize that and stack things, now you’re thinking about clothes in that same way and how they fit together. And so when I buy some ba like a base layer, I’m thinking about it in terms of like, how many things can I wear this under specifically or I’m thinking about you know, running tops. I actually just like those those like synthetic, long sleeves that you get from a race um, and it’s part of your registration? That’s what I wear as my base layer. And I wear that to run and I wear as a base layer when I’m skiing. I mean, that’s the starting point for all this stuff. These super cheap, you know, cuz it’s included in the registration tops and man, are those available at thrift shops?

People get rid of those like crazy, right? And so you think about things in terms of how they nest with each other. You may not always look like a fashion icon, but you’re gonna be warm.

Sarah M Histand 25:30
And those, all those things are under everything else too. Right? Yeah. So they don’t even, who knows if anybody will ever see ’em.

Amy Bushatz 25:36
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Exactly. So, speaking of layers, layer it down for us. I know it’s a dumb joke. Okay. But walk us through how to get dressed on a cold day. Go layer by layer. Let’s pretend we’re going out in the Arctic tundra and people can use their imaginations and stop where is appropriate for them.

Sarah M Histand 25:56
Okay. Yeah. Good. So I’m gonna start, I’m gonna put on some some kind of thin wool socks first. Put them on, like, underneath everything else. Also I have wool underwears and a wool sports bra that I like really in close to my body. You know, typically those are cotton too, for most of us. So, might wanna think about even below the base layer, what you’re doing with the stuff that’s the closest to your skin. Then I’m gonna put on a long underwear legging and same thing on the top, like a long sleeved shirt of some sort. I have a wool one that I like that’s my go-to.

And then on top of that, it’s gonna really depend if, okay, we’re going on a walk in the Arctic Tundra, I’m gonna be putting on a few other like, cozy things. If I’m going for a ski on the tundra that I think I might get a little bit sweatier on, I’ll probably just put one shell on side and I’ll carry a puffy in my backpack.

So if I take a break, I put that on. But if we’re going for a slower walk, I’m gonna put on a a mid-weight, a kind of like a sweat pant that, but it’s not a cotton one, kind of on my over my legs. Um, You lose a lot of heat through your legs, surprisingly. So, some extra, an extra warm layer there is nice.

And then I’ll put a shell, like a windproof uh, layer on top of those on my bottoms. And kind of same thing on the top. I’ll put a fleece on my torso. And then on top of that, maybe a puffy jacket or maybe a shell if we think it’s gonna be windy. And then I’ve got gloves. I’ll have a hat. I’ll also wear a buff. I really love a wool buff for going around my neck, and I’ll wear that in a bunch of different fashions. And that is probably about my layering system.

Amy Bushatz 27:42
I’m with you. I swap out the gloves for mittens. My hands get very cold. I’m a cold handed lady, so , so I swap out mittens and I often use those little chemical heaters too, those hot hands in, in my mitten as well because in fact I have an intricate three layer hand system where I wear a running super lightweight running glove. Brooks makes them, they wick sweat, and then I put a hand warmer in my mitten So between those two things and then I, my mittens also have like a shell, like a thick mitten top. And I put that on and it’s not sexy, but I’m warm, so , but to, to touch anything, I have to take off three layers, but I’m warm.

Sarah M Histand 28:26
That’s good. Yeah. The liner gloves is a really good point. I love that. Like a lightweight liner glove, and then either a warmer glove on top or a mitten with some insulation in it. Yeah, that’s really nice.

Amy Bushatz 28:34
But I wouldn’t recommend this for everybody, right? Like I’m doing that because I know that my hands get cold. So if you know that your hands get cold, maybe mittens are something to try instead of gloves.

Sarah 28:46
Yeah that’s some of the skill of that requires trial and error to figure out really what, where are you? What body part is it for you?

Amy Bushatz 28:58
Yeah. I also love a vest. I am a vest fan. And so I do in addition to what you mention, I’ll do a vest on top of that fleece layer as just like an extra core situation. I don’t know if this has to do with having maybe a larger chest or something like that as a woman, cuz you do, women do lose a lot of heat through their chest. But I find that a vest is a secret to my success. And again, like if I’m hot, I can take it off. So that’s just awesome. Yep. More stuff in the, more stuff in that backpack. But you know, like I said, if a hike breaks out, I got my vest. I’m good.

Sarah M Histand 29:40
This is such a good example too, of how it’s really different for different people and for me, my torso’s always pretty warm.

And for me it’s my extremities that are gonna get cold. I feel like, I feel like a vest for me is just like gonna make the part of me that’s warm, extra warm and what I need is the hot, hat and the neck and the arms and legs. So, so it’s just, it’s really individual. Yeah. Which is kind of frustrating I think when you’re getting started. You’re like, Wait, well, tell me what to do and that’ll make it a lot easier, but we’ve gotta do this experimentation process and Yeah.

Amy Bushatz 30:11
Exactly. You also mentioned a buff, and I wanna circle back to that because it can be such a broadly utilized piece of gear. You said you like to have it around your neck or use it in various ways. I often wear it around my ears, or pulled like up again. This is the sexiest look in the land guys. So pull up to your chin and then pull up the back of it. The buff for those who don’t know is like a long tube of fabric and you can actually get one through Humans Outside. If you check out our shop or register for the, the challenge, but it goes around your neck and then you can just do all sorts of fun things with it. And so I either wear it tucked over my chin and then up around the back of my head, especially if I’m skiing, cuz you don’t want wind coming up your neck.

It can keep snow from going down your neck, which let me tell you, spectacular. You do not want snow coming down your neck, whew. That’ll wake you up. Or you can use it like as a headband, and I use it as that to, to pull my, keep my hair back and just keep my ears covered because especially when I’m being very active outside, I don’t wear a hat.

I get really hot if I wear a hat. And so I take a hat off, but I, my ears then, or my cute little ears get cold. So, there’s just no easy solution. But I love the buff because it is so easy to use for a lot of different things. You can use it as a handkerchief if you want to.

Sarah M Histand 31:31
Wow. They’re like this amazing multitool. I feel like I never leave the home without them. And like easy if you, and if you don’t need it, you just take it off, wrap it around your wrist. It’s really small in the, super cold. If there’s wind, you can wrap it up above your nose and mouth even and help warm up the air before you’re breathing it, which if you ever, if you have asthma or sometimes just breathing in cold air can be really intense for your lungs.

Having a fabric layer to help warm up the air on its way in can a Buff can help with that in the summer. I wear it as an eye cover when I’m camping because it’s light all the time up here. And you need something to make it

Amy Bushatz 32:10
Yeah. Yeah. Like around your eyes, like you’re blindfolded is what I’m trying to say.

What do most people get wrong about dressing for cold weather? When you see somebody saying, Oh, Sarah, I’m like, I’m having a hard time. I’m cold. I can’t crack the code on this. What are they most often doing wrong or what are maybe some of the most common things they’re doing that are not helping them?

Sarah M Histand 32:32
I’m gonna say to this one that the most common thing I actually see is people overdressing. , which is like so counterintuitive, but it’s really hard to wrap your brain around the fact that like when you’re outside moving your body heat is going to create some heat and moisture on the inside.

And then once you get sweaty it’s, and the chill seeps in. It’s really hard to get warm again. So I think the tricky thing is to have the layers with you, but maybe take them off. At the right time so that we’re not overdressed for cold temperatures, creating heat on the inside and then making ourselves cold because we’re getting sweaty when it’s cold and then we can’t, It’s hard to recover from that.

Amy Bushatz 33:19
Yeah. Yeah. As you’re talking remembered, the a tool that I often forget is in my pocket for keeping warm, literally in my pocket, which is snacks. Do you find like people don’t eat and then they’re, or don’t drink enough and then they’re cold? Because I’ve just like learned from myself if I hydrate more than I thought was necessary, which isn’t a lot cuz I’m cold, right? So in my brain I’m like, I don’t, I’m not thirsty. Or if I eat, especially like a Jolly Rancher. Like this secret to success because it’s just sugar and it’s not gonna freeze. It’s already hard.

Sarah M Histand 33:54
Yeah. I’m really glad you brought it up because that is so true. When it’s cold out and we’re feeling a little bit like guarded, like clenched against the cold. It can be, some of that shuts down digestion. It’s just harder to feel like we’re getting thirsty cuz the, in the summer it’s like you’re sweating in the sun. It’s real obvious that we need some water. But when it’s cold out, even cold water doesn’t sound that good, so you’re like, Oh, I don’t wanna drink more.

But the, so it can be really hard to get the body cues that you need. Water and snacks in the same way when it’s winter, but you absolutely do. And just like you said, the sugar and the calories of a snack and the hydration on in your muscles is what helps your body turn on its internal source. And I think that’s just like such an underrated and really important thing to keep in mind.

I sometimes, if you’re, if you’re new to this and realizing that might be something that is a factor for you. Sometimes setting it like a tool I’ve used in the past is spent to just set an alarm on my phone to remind me every hour to make sure to eat something. Maybe it’s more often than an hour even, but sometimes an external factor we need to help remind us if we’re not getting the cues from our body.

Amy Bushatz 35:10
I am always looking for an excuse to have Jolly Ranchers in my car. So this is like, bring it on baby .

Sarah M Histand 35:16
We're in the winter. Yeah, sugar is such a good cue to the body to like, okay, it's like an instant glucose, let's get to kick out some heat going on. As your body wakes up and burn some bread, some of those calories, it's a great way to get some warmth.

Amy Bushatz 35:31
The other crazy thing to me is that if you have to pee, it is harder to stay warm because I guess I’m told this is because your body is using a lot of its blood flow and you know, we’re dedicating some of that circulation that you otherwise am using to stay warm to your bladder. And if I take care of that problem, then suddenly I’m having a much easier time staying warm. And to me it’s like, well, why would I go do that? That’s gonna mean I have to take off the layers, which we are keeping on.

Sarah M Histand 36:07
It’s so bad. It’s, yeah, it’s like short term pain for long term gain. But it really does make a difference. And actually reminds me of one of my favorite layers that we haven’t talked about, which is the puffy skirt.

Amy Bushatz 36:18
Ah, the skirt. Perhaps this is your not. Favorite Underappreciate, underappreciated, staying warm piece of clothing.

Sarah M Histand 36:26
Yes, it is. It really is because, and I, you know, I was skeptical about them for so long thinking they were just sort of like a fashion statement. But I got, I was gifted one for Christmas a couple years ago and it’s totally changed my life. The, you know, our hips like speaking of the bladder, but like there’s a lot of good muscle in area that needs to stay warm in the hips, especially for women. But man, I have some guy friends who wear puffy skirts and swear by them too, so I can’t speak directly to that experience. Non-binary folks. I think we all have a lot of tissue around the hips that it’s so nice to have some extra comfort there. And I wouldn’t have, it’s pretty wild how much heat you lose through your hips and legs and that skirt is just like an extra easy layer to throw in on the outside and you can keep the skirt on while you pee.

Amy Bushatz 37:17
That’s right. Now listen for people who I’ve, I was in a Facebook group and somebody said something about a snow skirt, and then it became apparent that most of the people had never heard of this, and I hadn’t heard of it before I moved here to Alaska. But guys, we are literally talking about a, could be like a minis skirt. That’s the one I have. Could be knee lenght. Could be to the floor, and it is literally an insulating layer skirt that is often, I mean, it depends on what brand, but can be like a puffy jacket, but in a skirt. And it’s like, I mean, it’s a blanket for your legs that you’re walking around in. And you know, I saw a meme that it joked about how people wear like 17 jackets on top and then on bottom jeans. And, well no wonder you’re cold, right? Because we forgot about our legs again.

Well, as you’re saying, there’s a lot of goodness hosted down there, and so we should probably keep it warm and you’re losing a lot of heat through your legs in a way that we just don’t think about. People who listen to this podcast know how much I love and I just call them The Pants because that’s how important they are to me. I’m just gonna assume if I say The Pants, you know what I’m talking about. But they are a puffy pant, and it’s the same concept as the skirt, but in a pant. And man, I do not hesitate to put those bad boys on. I wear them in the summertime. They live in my car most of the year. We camping? I got on The Pants, we’re in the cabin, I got on The Pants, you know, we had the windstorm, my powers out. Guess what I was wearing? So , you know, I don’t, I like use them all the time because I learned by going outside, like I am losing heat through my, the bottom and surprising amount of warmth, oras, my, my friend would say surprising instant warmth, so by putting on The Pants.

Sarah M Histand 38:59
That’s so true. Yeah. I love that. I have some puffy fans that Yeah, I agree. They’re incredible. And that’s like, I don’t know if you’re really concerned about budget, that might not be the place to start, but if I was gonna say extra enjoyment or like ease of getting outside with just a little bit less feeling that you’re fighting the weather.

Amy Bushatz 39:11
Yeah, Puffy skirt. Put it on your Christmas list.

Absolutely. Yeah. And I think that comes to a very point, point, circling back to what we talked about earlier, which is this is an experience of understanding what works for you and then making it happen over time, and that’s not something that you like, do not go out to your favorite outdoor retailer today and buy all of their array of cold weather gear. Right?

Start with easing in and figuring out what it is that is working for you and not right now. And then, add to it over time, I bought myself these glorious pants you know, and my, I, the miniskirt I have after experiencing cold and understanding that, okay, this part of me is colder than it should be. What can I do about this?

And then, because I live in Alaska and I spend so much time outside in the cold It made sense for me to make those investments, but that was not a day one situation by any stretch of the imagination. Day one, I swear to God, I was wearing the pictures of me going for a run in Alaska in the winter.

The first year we lived here are glorious because I am wearing. Running tights with honest to God, just regular sweatpants on top of them. A fleece that I had, a vest that I got from a thrift shop in Idaho with like faux fur on it. And gloves that were by no stretch of the imagination warm enough cuz they were what I wore in Tennessee, and a hat that was too small for my giant head and only covered the very tips of my ears.

Sarah M Histand 40:49
Oh my goodness, that’s yeah, but it worked, Right? Like it worked.

Amy Bushatz 40:51
Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. And I, you know, the parts of it that worked, like the sweatpants? That worked. You know, I don’t, I’ve since changed what I’m doing because I do so much winter running now that it made sense for me to get like one piece of gear that check that box. But man, if that was something I wasn’t doing very often, that absolutely worked. The gloves didn’t work. Why? Because they weren’t warm enough. You know? But if I had layered them, those gloves under a mitten, that would’ve worked. And so I learned those things. I think actually I went for a run with socks on my hands once now that we’re mentioning it.

Sarah M Histand 41:23
Totally. They’re mittens, working with what you have, and then like through that experience, you realize what the issues are or what the top problems are. You tackle one of those at a time and slowly but surely you get closer to comfort and to building up your kit. Like it’s kind like a winter gear kit that takes some time to build up.

Amy Bushatz 41:49
Exactly. Exactly. And I, you know, the vest that I just described, my Eddie Bower faux fur vest is a great example of too many layers. Right? Then I was like sweaty in the wrong places , because I was wearing this, you know, monstrosity of a piece of clothing that didn’t work for me because it was not, it was too warm in that one spot, and then I wasn’t warm enough in other spots. This is the experience of going outside when it’s cold, guys, like you’re gonna be hot on your head and cold on your toes at the same time, and you’re gonna figure it out. It’s gonna be fine.

Sarah M Histand 42:19
Yeah. And we know what that speaks to is just how much of this like effort is the experience of dealing with some discomfort and, now like with this nervous system lens that I have on this, being uncomfortable physically is a stressor to our nervous system.

And that’s not always something that we’re up for. If we have a lot of other stress going on in our lives, this might not be the time to tackle like a lot of discomfort. And you might wanna attend toward the, the extra puffy, so you’re just like plenty warm. Or to the smaller scale outings, just make it really easy on yourself. As you get more comfortable, the stuff gets easier to tackle. And then I also think about how like we can experience cold as kind of a threat. Sometimes it feels like it’s like trying to get you and it can feel kind of like you’re under attack outside. And I know for myself when I’m in like experiencing it like that, I can feel my body tensing way up and feeling really guarded. Kind of like you’re fighting against this cold. And I really notice when I’m like feeling that and I can actually like relax into it a little bit more and let that cold kind of in, I don’t know, it’s like a weird way to describe it, but there’s a way where you’re in sort of just a little bit softer body position with the cold and almost letting, like trusting that if it, you let a little bit of it in and they feel a little bit of it, it gets a little bit easier somehow to be with.

Amy Bushatz 43:47
Yeah. Oh, that is such a good point. It goes back to what we were talking about earlier too, about how we’re always extra cold in the first cold couple weeks of the October. And I wonder if, just kind of based on what you’re saying, part of that experience of getting used to the temperature change and the season change and for people who are maybe experiencing a cold snap where they are, and then it’s gonna go away is coming to terms emotionally with what’s happening. Like, okay, this is what we’re doing now. I’m going to accept that my nervous system’s going to accept that. I’m going to pair that with the tools I have, whether those are things you’ve heard in this episode or things you just have to remember that you already know. And then I’m gonna move forward in this discomfort. And then when it becomes overwhelming, I’m gonna take a step back and breathe. And then when I’m ready, try again.

Sarah M Histand 44:39
Yeah I think that’s so, it’s such an interesting thing to explore cuz I like the, we just call that the second arrow. There’s one arrow that’s gonna happen. It’s the cold is cold and then there’s the second arrow that’s you fighting the cold and hating it the whole time. And that maybe makes the experience harder on our bodies and for sure on our minds than it actually is. I think there is some level of acceptance of it and releasing of the tension in the body that fights against what truly is, and that allows our body to actually realize that this is uncomfortable, but maybe we’re still okay, even if with a little bit more discomfort instead of feeling like we are, This has been uncomfortable and we’re fighting it the whole time.

Amy Bushatz 45:22
Oh, so good. All right, Sarah, we are going to leave this episode so packed with gear and ideas and even a little bit of therapy right there. I think that’s so like unexpensive, unexpected dose of mental health, I think that’s so important when we’re talking about this too. And I’d love to walk out of this just imagining ourselves in your favorite outdoor moment. If you were to close your eyes and see somewhere that youd just really like to go back to and be in mentally, where are you and what are you doing?

Sarah M Histand 45:54
I’m imagining a incredible moment that I had on a winter wilderness ski classic race, which was one of the really intimidating and challenging outdoor winter adventures that I did early on and really thought I was like out of my out of my league. And there was a moment during that during that race where we were at the top of a pass and there was a whole group of people who were in the race with me and we had all gathered up there and I realized that actually I was one of them.

And it was, it was just a gorgeous location, beautiful mountains on either side and we had just topped out so we had worked our way up and now we got to go down the easy fun part. And so there was so much accomplishment and such a feeling of belonging and realizing that the kind of like the glass ceiling that I had set for myself on my ability to be outside, recreate with other people was like, actually I was there too. Really empowering. And that’s some of what I feel like is possible as we step our way into these challenging environments that we realize our capacity is much more than we knew, and we can feel really empowered, and that feeling can carry over into all different parts of life outside of the mountains too.

Amy Bushatz 47:20
That is a perfect way to end this. Sarah, thank you so much for joining us on Humans Outside today.

Sarah M Histand 47:26
You're welcome. Thank you so much for having me. What a great conversation.

Amy Bushatz 47:32
Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Humans Outside. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, take a second to leave a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts. That makes it easier for others to find the podcast too. Your positive review makes a huge difference. Now go get outside. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.


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