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Construction site in the winter
Construction site in the winter
How To Dress and Layer Winter Construction Gear
6 minute read
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Tim Forestell
September 15, 2022

How To Dress and Layer Winter Construction Gear

Winter is fast approaching and it's soon going to be time to layer up in your winter construction clothing. One of the most dangerous seasons to work in, especially for those working in primarily outdoor conditions like construction workers and those in the oil and gas industries, getting the right wardrobe is incredibly important. With an increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite, making sure you dress appropriately in the best winter gear will help you reduce the chance of injury.

When filling your closet with winter construction clothes, there are a few things to be aware of:

Why Layering Your Construction Clothes Is Important

While staying warm is the more obvious part here, staying dry is just as important. When layering up in the winter, you might find that you're warm, but becoming too warm might make you sweat, which can increase the risk of hypothermia. Because you don't want to sweat, you'll want to approach layering in a smart and resourceful way.

For the most part, you'll want to dress in clothing that is loose-fitting. This is because the more breathing room there is in those layers, the more heat that is trapped but also will allow you to remove layers throughout the day if you get too warm.

If you're sweating but not very active, your body will start to cool down and instead retain the cold which could become a recipe for disaster if you're in a winter climate. Your goal is to wear just enough clothing that you stay warm and don't sweat and the moment you feel you're getting too warm, you can remove a layer.

These are the most important layers:

  • The wicking layer: This is the first layer removed from your skin. The goal of this layer is to remove any moisture from your skin meaning that it is extremely breathable and doesn't trap in too much air.

  • The light insulation layer: Immediately following the wicking layer, this could include a light fleece, non-cotton flannel, or thin sweater.

  • The heavy insulating layer: This would be a light jacket that traps heat into the body but gives enough space for it to move around freely.

  • The windproof and waterproof layer: The outermost layer, this is the heaviest layer, often feathered and protects you from strong wind, rain, and snow.

Now let's talk about which materials are best for each layer.

The Best Materials for Winter Construction Clothing

First things first: Avoid cotton and goose-down jackets at all costs. While cotton clothing might be fashionable, it is terrible for winter. The reason is that if it gets wet from rain, snow, or sweat, cotton actually removes the heat from your body.

While it may feel like it's warm when you're sitting at home, it actually might increase the risk of getting injured on the job site. This is because if you get cold wearing cotton, you're most likely never going to become warm until you remove it.

The no cotton rule is for any part of your body, including socks, and especially not for the wicking layer. Gosse is similar in that, when dry, it will protect you from the cold really well, but as soon as it gets wet, it has no more insulating power, making you susceptible to the colder weather.

The best type of materials for winter clothing when working outdoors are synthetic, like polyester and acrylic, polypropylene, fleece, and merino wool. Anything that is 70% wool or more is the best option. These materials do a great job of letting heat move around your body while not retaining sweat or dampness, making it much easier for your body to regulate temperature on its own.

The Best Clothing Options for Winter Construction

Any shirt, pants, and jacket made of the above materials will be the best option to add to your winter closet. Ideally, these articles of clothing will allow you to maintain movement and mobility on the job site. Nothing is worse than having clothes that restrict you from getting the job done. You will also want to look for clothing that provides functionality.

Whether this means buying winter construction pants or ski bibs with knee pads or ones with pockets is up to you, but make sure to keep that in consideration when making your purchases. You will want to ensure that your jackets and pants have reflective components to them as well as safety is still first priority during winter and vision can be obscured during the season.

On top of the normal layers of clothing, you'll want to find proper boots, gloves, hats, balaclavas, socks, and hand warmers. While owning a good pair of winter boots is important, having great socks is just as important that help keep your feet warm and feet dry. That's really where the warmth is created and maintained.

The best solution to the sock and feet problem is typically double-socking and picking ones that are at least 70% wool, as mentioned above. Heated and thermal insoles are also a potential solution but should be a last resort.

Read about our best work boot brands for construction workers. It includes brands like Timberland PRO and Red Wing which are some of the best winter boots for construction and help protect your feet with their insulated work boots. Most of them are also slip-resistant and steel-toe.

For hats and balaclavas, it's important to recognize that most of your body's heat will be lost through the head as it's typically the least likely to be covered. Toques and hats are important, as long as they can fit under your construction helmet, but facial protectors like balaclavas are just as important. Facial tissues can get very damp making them susceptible to frostbite. Finding a great face covering for the winter will really help you reduce injury and risk of injury.

Lastly, you'll want to have winter work gloves and hand warmers. For construction gloves, you'll probably want a pair of insulated gloves that help you avoid those cold winter conditions on your hands too. You don't want to take your gloves off to grab screws from your pocket because they don't fit and you don't want to be restricted from using your tools. One way to go about this is to wear mitts inside of your gloves.

This allows you to have the nimbleness of mitts when working on more technical things while also having the potential for warmth when moving bulkier items. You probably will also want gloves and mitts that separate your fingers to give you more mobility as well. If that's not enough, you can purchase heat packs to hold in your gloves to help keep them warm.

Other Winter Clothing Safety Tips

Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Known to dehydrate the body, hydration is incredibly important for maintaining health on the job site.

Have a buddy system. With hypothermia and frostbite risk increasing during winter, you should be checking with your group repeatedly to make sure everyone is comfortable and protected. Both injuries are most treatable when diagnosed earlier and it's important to stop the problem before it gets worse.

Provide clothing discounts for your employees. If you're a larger employer or have good connections, having a referral system for your staff to buy appropriate clothing can help them prepare for the winter. Construction clothing and gear can be expensive so any help can go a long way.

We hope this advice has helped you in figuring out how to layer clothes for winter and pick the right work gear. Whether you're working consistently in cold climates or need to adjust for winter, taking the approach above to layering, clothing, and building your closet of construction clothing can help keep you safe from seasonal injuries and risks.

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Tim Forestell
Tim Forestell is one of DOZR’s co-founders and CCO. Tim got started in the industry as VP Operations for Forestell Landscaping before founding DOZR with Kevin and Erin. Aside from the amazing team at DOZR, his favourite thing about DOZR are the customers. Working with DOZR renters every day gives him a peek at the evolution of different projects and hearing stories about projects being developed from start to finish.
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