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Winter is coming!

Very quickly in Belgium actually, much faster than I'm used to. It's also the first year where I spend a lot of time outside. Soon, that could be a lot of time outside... freezing.

I have plenty of layers to keep my upper body toasty. But I'm still shivering because my legs are way too cold in that jeans.

My plan is to spend the full day outside, or an evening after work, far from any building where I could re-heat myself. Most probably in the forest, and likely to be in a cold/dry or cold/snowy weather. I'd avoid rain, although it can still happen above zero degrees. I'd be partly on the move, partly static to look at stuff and smile, or cook food with my gas burner. I might even spend a night out, at some point, but that's not my priority.

I realise that's a lot of options. Let's make this the priority:

  • cold and snowy (between 5 and -10 degrees celsius)
  • full day outside
  • move half the time, stand the other half, with the occasional cooking.

Is there anything I could wear (which hopefully looks OK to be in a city with it) that will prevent my legs from freezing me to death?

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Welcome to the great outdoors! There's some information that you could provide us with and that might help with answering question: How long are you typically going to stay outside? Are you physically active when outside or only standing around? Which temperatures do you expect? Are you exclusively outside or do you have the possibility to get to a warmer place very now and then (regularly or only by chance?)? – Benedikt Bauer Oct 16 at 8:10
Winter is coming :) – WedaPashi Oct 16 at 14:35

8 Answers 8

up vote 21 down vote accepted

One thing you can look into are long-legged thermal underwear - this wouldn't effect how you look on the outside as they go under your clothes and create an insulating layer to help keep you warm. Women can get away with this in everyday life with a nice pair of tights. So for city life, as you stated, this should mean no difference in your every day appearance.

You have mentioned keeping your core warm, and that's great - as your core is warmer the blood that flows from your torso will be warmer, helping to warm your legs, arms and extremities. This is relative but I often find I feel better in general with a nice toasty torso, even if it's just a placebo effect.

Another option that's useful for women (sorry guys, you might not be able to pull this off!) is knee length fur / wool lined boots - this is something I tend to do all winter, when not actually hiking. When hiking and wearing my ankle length hiking boots I'll often wear a long pair of socks under my trousers, and my thick walking socks over these (with my trousers sexily tucked in!) - but again this is mimicking the effect of thermal undies, just up to my calf.

TL;DR because Ara is waffling...

Thermal long legged underwear would do the job.

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Running/(non-padded) cycling tights under normal clothes also work well and can be (marginally) more acceptable if they're worn on their own than thermals. – Chris H Oct 16 at 9:40
Panty hose add an ultralight layer with a lot of warmth. But the OP may recoil at the idea of wearing panty hose..... And you need to lose the jeans -- or anything cotton. – ab2 Oct 16 at 18:59
@ab2 panty hose are what we in the UK call tights :) I did mention these – Aravona Oct 16 at 19:03
@aravona Thanks for the lesson in UK English! – ab2 Oct 16 at 19:14
@ab2 no problem ;) good comment for those unfamiliar! – Aravona Oct 16 at 19:18

Long thick socks will help in 2 ways -- they'll reduce heat loss through your feet/lower calves and reduce draughts up your legs. Even 2 pairs of normal socks would be better than nothing. There are special thermal socks (sold as heat-holders for example) but they may not fit in your shoes.

This could be regarded as in addition to thermal underwear.

If it's actually snowing, you're walking through snow on the ground, or there's spray from the road, your jeans (not ideal in the first place) will get wet and hold on to the cold water. Consider waterproof overtrousers in that case. They actually (like any layer) add a fair bit of warmth.

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@Aravona, good point, I read that as a minor extra to the boots. – Chris H Oct 16 at 9:46
I recognise that jeans isn't the best choice. In summer, I used synthetic nylon pants, ripstop stuff. That's great for summer, indestructible really. Would that be fine for winter (+ socks, warm underlayer and possibly waterproof outer) or not the best? – aspyct Oct 16 at 10:47
@aspyct, that's what I'd recommend. Cycle commuting down to -5°C for an hour, I find cycling leggings under hiking trousers (tucked in to thick socks) good. When it's that cold round here it's usually dry, so the waterproofs weren't needed. They would still have given extra warmth. It's a little longer since I've done much hiking in really cold weather but again more thinner layers works well. – Chris H Oct 16 at 10:56

Your criteria: a full day with a decent chunk of inactivity, cold but not frigid, with some precipitation.

Normally when active outdoors in such weather I wear softshell pants (schoeller-type fabrics, such as Arc'teryx Gamma LT or Marmot Scree pants) and a lightweight or silkweight baselayer. This provides wind and water resistance, won't make me overheat, and will still breathe far better than "breathable" shell materials such as GoreTex.

Large amounts of inactivity will call for more insulation, which can easily be increased by using a thicker baselayer (e.g. Patagonia's Cap3 or Cap4 materials), eventually moving up to fleece (e.g. Patagonia's R1 bottoms). If switching between intense activity and rest, I would use a lighter baselayer and bring insulated pants that I can throw on over everything else (or wrap up in a light down quilt).

The temperature range of -10° to 5°C allows for melting snow and liquid water; thus water-absorbing fabrics such as cotton (e.g. jeans) become a particularly bad idea. If there's significant rain coming down I'd wear a waterproof shell, but once water stays in solid form such shells are much less useful.

Regarding style, if you cannot find softshell pants in a style you'd be comfortable wearing around town, wool or waxed cotton (such as Fjällräven sells) are other alternatives to consider.

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Another option is flannel-lined jeans. I find them more comfortable and simple than thermal underwear, and they are very warm in the winter. You also have the option of adding the thermal underwear if you are still too cold.

What kind to get is a matter of personal preference, and what kind of jeans you would typically wear. Amazon lists a selection of many different types available.

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I had no idea those existed. Do you have any recommendations? – Dan Oct 16 at 19:55
If you can't find any, you can always sew some flannel pajamas to them. :) – Shule Oct 17 at 2:19
My husband and I love flannel-lined jeans! LL Bean sells them in many different types and sizes. Comfy & warm! – Sue Oct 17 at 18:41

You could try wearing a pair of sweats under your pants. I've done that before, and was quite warm, and comfortable. Pajamas are also an option.

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Sweat pants / jogging bottoms are usually rather bulky so this will depend on what you want to wear them under. Most jeans are a bit tight for this? Especially with skinny legged jeans. – Aravona Oct 16 at 11:19
Sweat pants are also (typically) cotton, so if you sweat and get these wet, your going to get cold! – Liam Oct 16 at 15:20
I wore them under jeans, but it might not work well with women's jeans, which though stretchier are probably a lot tighter, too. It is bulkier, but it's still warm and comfortable. It probably wouldn't work if your jeans aren't very loose, regardless of what kind of jeans they are, though, and body shape probably matters. @Aravona – Shule Oct 17 at 2:09
But yeah, you could always try something less bulky than sweats, like maybe pajamas. – Shule Oct 17 at 2:22
@Shule now that I have done... Add it in :) – Aravona Oct 17 at 4:49

You could wear clothes that cover up your chest portion and if you cover up chest portion then it will be warm.Chest is the most sensitive part to sense cold.So cover up your chest as much as possible.Apart from this you can wear socks that are not made up of cotton but maybe wool or any other.Then for body warner or sweater or thick jacket and thermal inner wear and a cap to cover up your head and scarf and last a jeans on top of legging.

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I live in an area where temperatures of -20C or colder is a normal winter day, and can go down to -40C at times. A good pair of long underwear and a pair of flannel lines jeans sounds like it would be perfect for you. I'm not sure if Cabelas delivers to Europe, but they have a great online selection of these and other cold weather items, and are a big "go to" place for good, effective outdoor gear.

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Believe it or not, we have companies that sell outdoor clothing in Europe, too. Paying intercontinental shipping and then import duty for something as completely routine as clothing for temperatures around freezing doesn't make sense. – David Richerby Oct 18 at 11:46
@DavidRicherby While I'm in agreement with the intention and content of your comment, I would ask you to soften your tone a bit, especially when talking to users who are – according to their reputation count – rather new to the stackexchange network. – Benedikt Bauer Oct 19 at 7:50

You can get thermal reflective liners for your boots - I find that keeping my feet warm usually helps with keeping my legs warm as heat tends to be lost through extremities (Feet, Hands, Head so socks, gloves and hats are always the best available).

Thermal tights work wonders as well under trousers - they may not look brilliant but they do the job. You may also look at getting a pair of waterproof/windproof trousers as these will help in case you do get damp when moving around - nothing chills like being damp in a cold wind.

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