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Tips for how to dress for winter when visiting Fargo

Located in Downtown Moorhead, Nature of the North is here to break down barriers preventing people from getting outdoors, and build our local outdoor community. We do this through a variety of workshops, events, gear rentals, and most importantly… our INDOOR ROCK CLIMBING WALL! Come join us and help us build something truly incredible for our community. – Jon Walters, Nature of the North

Living in the Midwest isn’t always easy. Especially when it comes to Winter… Here in the Red River Valley, we find ourselves dealing with temperatures as low as -50 F without windchill, which is NO JOKE here! These climates are not for the faint of heart, but the incredible people in our community keep us here.

So, buckle up buttercup!!! It’s going to be a wild ride, but here’s a few tips/tricks to keep you toasty this winter.

Change your mindset

First things, first… The key to not only surviving but thriving in winter is your mindset. If you tell yourself it’s miserable outside, guess what? It’s going to be miserable. We have to change our mindsets before we can change our clothing.

Embrace the cold

Another thing that many cold climate cultures do is being intentional with the cold. Learning to breathe through the cold will help your body adjust to those temperatures and prepare you for the cold. This works great when you’re so cold that your body tenses up and you contract all of your muscles in your body to survive. When you notice this happening… STOP. Take a DEEP breath. Then exhale. You’ll feel the shivers disappear and sense your body adjusting to the temp.

Dressing & Layering for winter

Ok… Now what you came for. Let’s talk about Dressing/Layering for Winter!

Before we talk about the layers themselves, you need to know what you plan to do outside. Will you be active most of the time, stationary, or just running in and out of stores? Different situations will dictate how well you need to prepare for the weather.

The more active you are, the fewer layers you will need. However, the more important that moisture-wicking layers become. Wetness is our enemy here, so get that moisture out of your layers!

Ok.. NOOOOW we can talk about layers. 

Let’s cover the basics. You have three (3) main layers to take into consideration: WICKING, WARMTH, and WEATHER. Just remember WWW.staywarmfriends!

Each of these layers can be lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight. This provides you LOADS of options when it comes to layering. So, your goal is simply to find out what works for YOU! The thing to be careful of is Fit. When putting on multiple layers over each other, you want to be careful of how well these layers work together. So, as you move outward towards your weather layer, you’ll want to wear progressively larger fitted items. 

1. Wicking layer

This is your base layer. Our goal with this layer is to simply WICK moisture away from your body. You don’t need to worry so much about warmth here. 

There are a few different material types you can use here, but the most important piece to remember is NO COTTON!!! The expression “Cotton Kills” is heavily used in the outdoor industry. Your options here would be natural fibers such as wool, or synthetics like polyester. I use both, but you’ll want to find one you like and then get like 6 pairs of them!

Personally, I prefer a midweight merino wool baselayer. Great moisture wicking and more importantly ODOR management! 

2. Warmth

Now let’s talk about your warmth layers. This is where you can really start to get creative and find what works best for you. Our goal here is simply insulation and creating air pockets of warmth. 

The best method here is to alternate between natural and synthetic materials. When you alternate these layers, you’re able to make sure that the layers slide in and out of each other easily. This is key when you’re putting items on and off, or need to make adjustments throughout the day. 

Another tidbit of advice I like to give when it comes to layering is to make sure every layer has a full zipper! When you start to warm up inside your little burrito, you’ll want to make sure you’re able to exhaust the moisture and keep yourself from overheating. The best way to do this is to just unzip everything down to your baselayer.

3. Weather

To top everything off, we have our WEATHER layer. This is sometimes referred to as your “Shell” layer. The goal here is to simply protect your nice warm layers against the elements surrounding you. You don’t need a thick layer here as you should already have your warmth layer handled. What you’re looking for is a nice thin layer that is waterproof and wind-resistant. 

A thin weather layer allows you to adjust your warmth layers based on your activity without needing to pack your closet full of coats. In spring/fall, I’ll even just wear a base layer, a thin mid-layer, and my shell. It’s amazing what a well crafted, thin weather layer can do to keep you warm.

The full setup:  

My setup starts with a thin polyester layer that’s able to assist in the wicking properties of our base layer. From there, I add a down puffer vest. This is my GO-TO layer almost every day. It adds warmth when needed, but the vest keeps me agile and I’m still able to keep it on indoors without getting too warm. Depending on the temperature, I’ll just throw my weather layer on and call it a day. For colder adventures around a fire or ice fishing, I’ll add my full down puffer coat or a nice warm wool sweater. Again, our goal here is to create warm pockets of air. 

Bonus advice

The last piece of advice I’ll leave you with is to get yourself a Nalgene water bottle. Whether we’re winter camping, or simply on an adventure, we boil water to put in the Nalgene. You can tie it around your neck to keep your body warm or throw it in your sleeping bag to give you just a little bit extra warmth.

How to learn more

If you’d like to learn more, reach out to Nature of the North to get a more in-depth conversation as well as a personalized layering system roadmap! We want to get everyone outdoors all year round, and helping folks embrace winter is at the core.