Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Winter Plein Air Painter’s Gear I–Clothing (Inner Layers)

I thought I would blog a primer on how to gear up for comfortable winter outdoor painting. The next few posts will take on clothing as well as painting gear for winter.
Let’s start with the clothes since you will want to get these right if you are going to enjoy painting outdoors. There are three layers that we will need to address.
  • Inner (next to skin) layers
  • Middle Layers
  • Outer layers (including gloves, hats and shoes)
Clothing: Inner layers, also called next to skin layer.


This is perhaps the most important layer to get right. It is also the one that most people get wrong. The most important function of the inner layer is to keep your skin dry by wicking away any perspiration and humidity from your body. Cotton, the most common inner layer that we use daily is the worst inner layer for being out in the cold. It absorbs moisture and keeps it next to your skin. As the moisture cools, it pulls away warmth from your skin and brings your body temperature down. Great for summer, but not exactly what we are looking for in winter.
What you need is an inner layer that pulls moisture away from your skin and then releases it forward to the next layer. This will keep you warm and dry adding comfort and reducing the risk of hypothermia. There are many modern fabrics that are designed to do just that, but I simply use a very thing and soft merino wool sweater. Wool is excellent in wicking away moisture and merino wool is soft and does not itch like rougher wool.
For hikers and active outdoors people, one inner layer is enough, but since as plein air artists we are not moving much when painting, we need to double up on every layer. We are not burning nearly as much energy as hikers, so we will have to build more protection from the cold.
My next inner layer is an old cashmere wool vest. It is too old to use for normal wear, but as a second inner layer it is perfect! It continues the wicking process and both woollen layers are excellent also in keeping the warmth in.   


Hockey players have a secret they are too macho to admit. They wear pantyhose over their briefs. Yes common nylon pantyhose or better yet woolen pantyhose is the best first layer after your briefs of course. These should be followed by either wool blend long johns or common cotton long johns. The reason I don’t worry too much about using cotton long johns below is that we normally don’t sweat much from our legs unless we are exerting ourselves.
Follow those with thin woolen socks (dress socks are best) and you are good to go on the first layers. But before we go, lets make sure we tuck everything properly. You want to alternate tucking as you build the layers.
  • The merino wool first layer goes under the pantyhose,
  • The woolen vest goes over that but under the long johns.
  • The woolen socks also go over the long johns.
By alternating the tucks (Shingling) you assure that the heat is trapped and that wind and cold can’t travel directly in towards your skin.
There you have it! The Inner Layers for Painting Outdoors. Next up, the Middle Layers…

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