Dressing For Winter Chores

Reader Contribution by Starry Hilder
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Does it sound like something too simple to even talk about, dressing for winter? I thought, perhaps this was an area that people just didn’t care about, because they already knew how to dress for winter. But it wasn’t until I met a young lady who told me her story about moving from New Mexico where she knew nothing of winter that I realized the usefulness of speaking on this topic.

Her first year was spent on her off-grid homestead wearing jeans and a very impractical jacket. She shared how cold she was that first winter and how she now relishes in her layered polar tech and new, lined pants. So, I got to thinking about those out there who may be looking at relocating to a wintry state and have never had to ponder what to wear when it gets 20 degrees or below. Now you will know! 

Chore Wear

There are only three concepts you need to know: Close to skin moisture management, mid layer for insulation, then the shell. ?My first layer starts with a light chamois that is wicking. Moisture management is key to staying warm in this first base layer. Materials that work well are merino wool or a brand name material like Patagonia Capilene®. There are other materials you can use for close-to-the-skin base layer, such as silk, but I find the moisture management of some of these brand name companies pretty darn good. I buy all of my active winter wear from Sierra Trading Post. This is an online store that sells brand names at deep discounts.


Your next layer is going to be the mid layer for your insulation. I always check to see what the temps  are to decide how “thick to go.” Polar fleece comes in different weights, so if you buy this material, it is versatile for your mid layer. We also like merino wool. Merino wool is a commercialized wool that is more streamlined than regular wool. You can wear it close to your body and it’s warm, soft, and works well for winter use! In fact, most of the socks we own are merino wool.

Lastly, you will consider your final outer layer, which will vary, also according to the weather. For cold, windy days, I pull out my Goodwill ski jacket from Solomon. It is thick and woven tightly but not so thick that it restricts my movements. Ski jackets usually are not as practical for chore wear, but that is why I use Goodwill. I can buy a brand name ski jacket that will work for my chores and not worry about getting it dirty.

My husband will wear a waterproof shell on windy days when the temperature drops below zero and he finds himself in the woods or on the ice fishing. We also both swear by wool! Wool is warm and is water-resistant. We both have army-issued wool pants that are more than 20 years old, still in excellent condition. In addition, we both have wool shirts and sweaters. Nothing beats wool, and I find myself wearing my wool pants and sweater more then my conventional winter jacket.

Carhart and Skirts

One brand we haven’t mentioned is the workhorse Carhart. This is a tried-and-true brand of many farmsteads and homesteads. We purchase an off-brand Carhart wear that is just a tough and durable. You will not go wrong with this brand but for me personally, as a woman, I find the jacket a little too restrictively stiff and not warm enough. Another Starry oddity.

I do wear skirts and tights during the winter. I crouch and squat and crawl around when doing my chores (I know that sounds weird, but I do) — from picking up wood to cleaning out the coop. I find my winter skirts very useful for these ranges of movement. I then wear winter thermal leggings that keep me very warm and toasty. So, don’t knock the skirts and tights. I can bear weather down to zero with my “Starry” outfits!

Just remember that there are three simple principals you need when dressing for winter: next-to-skin warmth and moisture management, mid-layer for insulation, and then the outer shell. Keep these in mind and you will be able to do all of your chores without being cold this winter.

Watch our newest video addressing winter wear on our homestead!

Starry Hilder and her husband, Mark, live off-grid on a 13-acre self-sustaining homestead in the stunning mountains of Northern Idaho. Unique in their approach to homesteading, they rely on working with nature and utilizing their skills and knowledge with a back-to-basic outlook. From hunting and fishing, to gardening, composting, canning, and trail running, paddling, and hiking, there is never a dull moment on their property. Starry enjoys sharing her journey and all their life skills on their YouTube channel. Read all of Starrys’ MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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