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Wrap up warm this winter!

Issue 1

In Scouting for Boys Robert Baden-Powell suggested that a "...scout's clothing should be of flannel or wool as much as possible, because it dries easily. Cotton next to the skin is not good unless you change it directly it gets wet..."

Wise words indeed that are as true today as they were over one hundred years ago. Yet much more science has gone into what we wear these days and synthetic materials have been invented and adapted to keep us warm and dry, as well as cool at other times of the year. They may not always be as hard wearing as good quality woollen products but are just as effective in the right conditions. So let's wrap up warm this winter and don't forget the wind and rain protection either.

Which material?

Wool. Great for keeping warm. Not a great outer layer when it's raining or as a base layer when exercising as it absorbs moisture even though it stays warm when wet. However it's an excellent fabric for trapping the warm air layer next to your skin. Treat yourself to an Aran sweater and you will be warm in the winter (and cool in the summer) for years.

Silk. Expensive but great as a base layer because it is moisture-wicking. This means that it moves (wicks) sweat to the outer surface of the material and dries quickly so that the sweat doesn't then get cold and chill the skin.

Polyester or polypropylene. Moisture-wicking like silk. Despite being formed from strands of plastic it can feel soft to the touch as the strands are very fine. Good as an outer layer for keeping warm although not completely waterproof.

Gore-Tex. Gore-Tex is a branded and patented stretched polytetrafluoroethylene material that is waterproof, windproof and breathable. This makes it an excellent choice for outer layer jackets and hiking boots.

Nylon. Good as an outer layer as it's designed to repel water.

Cotton. Save it for the summer when you may wish for a bit of moisture next to your skin to keep you cool when you're awake. However denim jeans, denim being a heavy cotton material, are a complete nightmare if they get wet so should only be worn in the rain under waterproof trousers. This is not a pretty sight if you're going shopping.

Which body part?

Head. "Half our body head is lost through the head" is now considered to be an urban myth. A British Medical Journal report in 2006 stated that at most ten percent is lost which is not much more than the area of the head to the rest of the body in adults but there's quite a lot inside the head that needs to be kept warm. Furthermore, if your head is the only thing exposed to the elements you will lose more - ask anyone who's slept in a sleeping bag on camp without a hat or built-in hood - so invest in a thick woolly hat that covers your ears. If you have fabulous thick hair earmuffs may suffice.

Hands. Gloves. There are also hand warmers that after they've been used once can be reused by heating up in a pan of boiling water. Alternatively try a metal version that uses lighter fuel and stays warm for up to twelve hours. Zippo do a version that is described as a pocket-sized furnace. Zippo also now produce a rechargeable electric version that includes a power bank for recharging your 'phone.

Neck. Scarf or neck warmer / scarf tube. A snood used to describe a hairnet that gathered long hair in a bundle at the back of the head but is now interchangeable with a neck warmer or scarf tube. As well as a neck warmer it can be used as a hood, a balaclava, a head band, a beanie, a wrist band and, of course, a face mask - unless you're a footballer as the International Football Association Board has banned them. At the time the then FIFA president, Sebb Blatter, said, " can be dangerous, even like hanging somebody." So wear them, but only after having completed a risk assessment.

Chest. Think layers. The correct material will trap warm air and wick moisture. This is how a sleeping bag works as your body heat will warm up the thin layer of air between you and the bag Aim for a base, middle and outer - vest (not cotton), fleece / sweater and jacket with hood will do just fine. The layers need to be comfortable and not tight-fitting. If you're standing around outside an electrically-heated jacket is a great option. These use standard batteries or plug into a power bank.

Legs. Possibly it's not vital to keep the legs covered, especially when using them, i.e. walking, as muscle movement and good blood flow will enable one to more easily tolerate cold temperatures. As for shorts in winter we would suggest that they're only recommended if it's raining and the alternative is jeans. Ugh. Have a long woolly jumper or waterproof trousers over some polyester leggings.

Feet. Socks, but don't worry about having great big thick ones as it's the air between sock and shoe / boot that will keep you warm. It is worth taking some time to find a good sock as you have only two layers. Silk is good unless you are walking. Synthetics can dry quickly but can become smelly very quickly, cotton becomes damp and stays damp and wool may not on its own withstand the constant gentle rubbing of foot in boot. Socks that contain a high percentage of wool with a synthetic mix will be hard-wearing, breathable with a great moisture-wicking performance as well as keeping you warm and dry when combined with a Gore-Tex or leather boot with Thinsulate (being another synthetic thermal insulator with fibres thinner than polyester) lining.

While on the subject of keeping warm...

My friend keeps borrowing her boyfriend's lovely warm jacket and he's always happy for her to have it. And they say that shivering is dead.

My friend's going to the Andes for a holiday. He said that he would have to take loads of warm clothes because it's Chile.

Luke: A glass of water please waiter, cold or warm - it doesn't matter.

Waiter: Of course sir. Here you are sir.

Luke: This water is neither cold nor warm. What would you call it?

Waiter: How about waiter-warm?

Luke: I have a better idea.

Two scouts light a fire in their boat to try to keep warm. However, the fire burns completely through the boat and so it sinks. This proves that you can't have your kayak and heat it, too.


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