Rosy red cheeks, lightly falling snowflakes, and mugs of homemade hot chocolate…
When most people think of winter, I imagine those are some of the first things to come to mind.
Well, let’s just say the visions dancing through my head tend to lean towards boots caked in slushy manure, a mudroom with mountains of coats and gloves, and perpetual brown puddles on the tile floor… But that’s just life when you live in a climate with heavy-duty winters–
I’ve had a number of you email me and ask what exactly we wear during our subzero winter days, so I’ve decided to break down our winter chore “uniform” today. It’s not exactly stylish (unless you’re a penguin… or a giant marshmallow…) but after spending eleven winters working and surviving here in Wyoming, I’ve figured out some tricks to stay (mostly) warm.
(If you’re curious about our severe Wyoming winters, check out my blizzard preparation post. It has some jaw-dropping pics from our first year here on the homestead. And this short video will give you a glimpse of a ground blizzard. When it comes to snow, Wyoming doesn’t mess around.)
Best Winter Chore Clothes for Homesteaders
Lots of Layers
My least favorite part of winter chores is how long it takes me to get dressed before going outside… However, layers are your friend when it comes to staying warm during barn chores, so it’s worth the extra time it takes to layer up.
I wear hoodies pretty much from September through May (so glamorous, huh? At least it saves me time on clothes shopping…), and they always make up my foundational layer. I prefer heavier Carhartt or Underarmour hoodies, as they tend to be a bit warmer.
Over that I often wear a quilted duck vest (like this one). In the fall or spring this is usually all I need. However, if the wind is really blowing, or it’s the dead of winter, I always add the next item on the list—>
AKA the farmer/rancher uniform. I’m pretty sure every single person I know here in Wyoming owns a variation of the Carhartt work coat. There are a bazillion different styles, and you just can’t go wrong with them. (You can often find generic versions as well– if you don’t want to pay for the label.)
I prefer the kind with the hood, as I usually put up my hoodie’s hood, and then pull the coat’s hood over the top of that. The other handy aspect are:
a) These coats have ample pockets for carrying stuff (just don’t put your eggs in there– it never ends well).
b) The outer material generally resists tearing when you snag it on a barbed wire fence. (I’m not saying it’s impossible to tear them, but they much tougher than shiny ski jacket material)
I don’t wear these every day, but when the weather calls for them, they are seriously the best thing ever. When it’s 20 below and the wind is blowing, you’ll feel like someone is stabbing your legs with a knife while wearing regular jeans. And if you’re doing something especially muddy, they do a wonderful job of protecting your clothes underneath.
While you can get uninsulated coveralls, I recommend investing in the insulated versions, since they are much, much warmer. (That is, unless you want a pair for spring/fall, and another pair for winter. That’s totally cool too). These are the ones I have (I’m not a Carhartt Sales Rep– promise. I just love their stuff!)
I still have the first pair of overalls I bought when I moved to Wyoming, and they are still going strong. Mine are well worn and display a lovely collection of manure stains, blood stains, and cattle tattoo ink from my days as a Vet Tech, but that just adds character, right?
I know there are all sorts of cute knit scarves floating around these days, but I will forever be loyal to silk scarves. Also known as “wildrags” by the buckaroo crowd, these are an absolutely necessity from keeping the wind from blowing down your neck. (And they don’t add a lot of extra bulk). I wrap mine around my neck twice and tie it in a rather unceremonious knot, but here’s how to tie it like a real cowboy.
You can grab them in a ton of beautiful colors and patterns. Just make sure you’re getting the 100% silk ones.
A Good Hat
Of course, you can always opt for a beanie or watch cap to keep your head warm during chores, but I’ve never been a huge fan of them (I’m just weird, I guess).
I usually just wear a regular ball cap (mostly to keep my hair out of the way) and then throw my hood up over the top.
My hubby prefers a wool cap like this one— the fold down flap adds extra ear protection if you need it.
I have sort of a love/hate relationship with gloves… Warm fingers are definitely a good thing, but I often feel like gloves just get in my way… I like to feel what I’m doing–especially when working with animals.
Here are a few of the options I keep in my glove arsenal:
Basic knit gloves/Roping gloves: Cheap and decent enough during the spring/fall, however, forget about it if it’s really cold. And if you pick up a flake of hay, it’ll stick to the gloves like velcro which is super annoying.
Basic leather work gloves: I like these for digging in the dirt, fencing, or doing any other heavy work that might result in torn skin or splinters. The down side? They aren’t super warm, and if they get wet, your hands will freeeeeeeeze.
Latex dipped knit gloves: My hubby introduced me to these, and I love ’em. They are especially handy if you are doing anything outside that requires getting your hands wet (like draining hoses, etc).
Insulated leather gloves: These are the ones I reach for when I need extreme insulation, or plan to be outside for extended periods of time. They are a bit bulkier than I would like, but it’s worth it.
Wellies, gumboots, wellingtons, muck-a-lucks, bogs… Regardless of what you call them– tall boots are a homesteader must-have. I’m always sort of bummed in the summer when it get’s too hot to wear my boots, since they are SO handy to pull on when I need to run outside (which is approximately 1.5 billion times per day). Everyone seems to have their favorite brand, but I’ve been super happy with my Bogs so far. They offer more support that the ones I had previously and always keep my toes toasty.
While uninsulated rubber boots abound, I recommend seeking out an insulated boot if you are homesteading in colder climates. The plain rubber ones are fine for rainy days, but will NOT be enough when the snow starts to fly.
Last but not least… if you tend to be a bit more cold-blooded, you’ll probably want to invest in a pair of longjohns or thermal underwear. I generally opt for my overalls when I need extra warmth, but always have a pair of longjohns tucked away in case I need a bit more mobility. (Because insulated coveralls kind of make you feel like a walking marshmallow).
Your turn! What’s your #1 favorite piece of gear for homesteading in the winter?