Staying Warm without bulk - active outdoor gear that works with you!

I have spent my entire life in the upper midwest - just a stone's throw away from the Canadian border. The coldest I remember was negative 65 F in the late nineties. I walked 2 miles to school that day. It was cold!!

My main objective has always been stay warm - wearing layers, big coats, heavy gloves, etc. But then this happened:

Part of our 40 acre farm
We bought a 40 acre farm this fall and have spent every free minute getting it ready for production. That means cleaning up debris, scrapping old equipment, chopping down dead trees,building a dock to the lake, and lots and lots of digging as we have planted 77 new trees so far.

We did all of this over the month of November. Not our coldest month, but still dropping down into the 20s. I admit that most of my winter outdoor life has involved walking or short ski jaunts. I have never really "worked" in the cold.

Once you do - you will find out how important it is to have thin layers, ease of movement, and pockets. You would never imagine that you'd want to take your coat off on a 20 degree day, but when you are working hard, it happens! Alot!

Fortunately, I have had the chance to try out two new products while working hard on the land.

The first was the Extreme Sweater Jacket from RefrigiWear. Extremely lightweight, but able to provide comfort down to 10F, this jacket was pretty amazing. I have a teenage son, and this jacket fit him perfectly. There were pockets for your phone, your gloves, your tools, anything. All of them zip closed (and tight) and are in areas that do not interfere with working. Did I mention the jacket was thin? It is - and that is something my boys appreciate more than anything. They absolutely hate the bulk of big ski jackets.Wearing this jacket was no different than wearing a sweatshirt - in feel. But it delivered in the warmth department too.

We spent Thanksgiving at the land, burning down a huge pile of debris - 25 years worth of debris. The fire lasted into the next morning. We had to stay and tend the fire. The temperatures dropped down to 23F. We basically camped outside.....all night long. My son complained about cold feet but that was it. He actually had to repeatedly remove the jacket while we were hauling boards to the fire because he was too hot. But as the fire burned down to center embers, the rest of us felt every bit of that 23F. Do not attempt to stay out all night without wool socks, quality boots, a tent, and blankets/sleeping bags!  - we will not make that mistake again.

Looks can be deceiving. This pit was over 12 feet deep below the surface and 30 feet wide! I only took photos in the beginning because after that I was too busy working!

Starting the fire with a flare.
 All -in-all, I am super impressed with the jacket and am looking at their women's jackets right now. I'm still putting together my Christmas list and I am definitely interested in the "pure-soft" jacket. We have been behind on all "regular duties" while we pull the farm together.

We have accomplished a lot in the last month. Not only did we burn down 2 barns worth of old wood and heaven knows how many branches, but we rebuild the lake dock and were able to plant 77 trees before the snow started falling.

We were always racing against the sun (which goes down by 5pm here!) and didn't finish all the detail work (like untying the trees and covering the stems with rodent protection) before the snow came. So we had to work in the snow to finish.

Walking in snow is hard work. I have snowpants and boots - all the usual stuff. None of that works well when your property is 1/2 a mile across and the snow is a foot deep. Snowpants are bulky. They store a lot of heat while you're walking....and they are horrible when you need to use the bathroom.

So I started looking into better options. I put snowshoes on my Christmas list and ditched the snowpants for a thin legging layer under jeans plus Armadillo LT gaiters over my boots.

Gaiters keep snow out of your boots and off of your pants, but they don't slow you down. There is no bunching in the crotch, no added heat, and no drama when you need to use the restroom.

My husband has gaiters because he's a bird hunter. This was my first experience with them. I've got to say they were quite freeing. Easy to use, they work as intended, and they are also lightweight.

Lightweight - thin layers - are becoming my best friends.

Once we get the farm up and running, we'll be installing a hunting shack near the lake. This type of gear is perfect for hunting. It's perfect for skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, and yes - working in the snow.

Wish me luck as I wrap up our pasture contracts, locate bee equipment, and start ordering trees for the orchard. Winter is a time of winding up to explode with activity in the spring. We are going to be busy!
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