Portland, OR

Layers Of Clothing Key To Beating Oregon Cold

Douglas Pilarski

Keeping The Skin Dry Is A Priority

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SnowshoeingPhoto by Owen Lystrup via Unsplash

Portland is not the coldest place on Earth, but it feels like it sometimes. Braving Portland’s winter weather requires a plan to stay warm and dry. It can be 34 in the early morning with 90 percent humidity. It’s a penetrating cold. You’ll need layers of clothes to beat the chill.

According to Dr. Murray Hamlet, an expert on cold weather physiology at the Cold Research Division for the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine states, "When your body is exposed to cold, it tries to conserve your core heat. You shut off blood flow to your arms and legs slowly. All that blood goes to your core." Dr. Hamlet advises not to wear cotton clothing or avoid tight-fitting clothing in the cold.

How To Stay Dry

You'll need to dress in layers - three or four layers will work. No cotton clothing as it absorbs moisture from perspiration and the elements. Cotton doesn’t wick moisture away from the skin so once wet, you stay wet. Keeping the skin dry is a priority.

Start with a base layer of silk or wool longjohns. Outdoor stores will help you build a stay-warm strategy. The store will show you technical fabrics designed to be your base layer. Wool socks will help keep your feet warm, and the wicking action of wool will help keep your feet dry.

Waterproof hiking boots are essential. It rains in Portland, and even a short stint outside walking the dog can soak a pair of running shoes. It is common for rain to fall for hours, leaving the ground saturated. It feels like walking on a wet sponge. Rubber boots are great for trips to the mailbox. A good pair of sturdy hiking boots are the conventional wisdom. Your outdoor store will stock the waterproof footwear you need.

A Thermal Layer In The Middle

Trapped body heat will insulate you from the cold outside temperatures. The thermal layer should fit loosely to help trap body heat. Your base layer wicks moisture away from the skin. The middle thermal layer will absorb moisture from the base. Keeping the skin dry is critical to staying warm.

The Water-Repelling Outer Layer

Waterproof wind pants and a windproof rain shell with a hood make up the third layer. Portlanders don't usually carry umbrellas. Your shell will serve to stop the wind and keep you dry during rainy periods. A rain shell worn while sitting or riding will soak blue jeans. Waterproof wind pants are essential to help rain from dripping into your lap.

A Hat And Gloves

A wool hat or beanie will trap heat escaping from your head. A beanie will make you feel warmer and prevent you from losing body heat through the scalp. Mittens are warmer than finger gloves. Gloves will get soaked, so materials like gore-tex mittens are essential.

Ask anyone who knows the Portland winter. They’ll tell you about getting out amongst it all. Whether it is enjoying the wonders of the Columbia River Gorge or snowshoeing a meadow around Mt. Hood, embracing the weather is half the battle. They'll also tell you Portlanders know how to stay dry and warm.

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Douglas Pilarski is an award-winning writer & journalist based on the west coast. He writes about luxury goods, exotic cars, horology, tech, food, lifestyle, and workplace issues!

Beaverton, OR
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