I live in West-Central Georgia and winter does not actually get here until late January or early February. As a L1 Paraplegic in a wheelchair, staying warm can become challenging. My main strategy for staying warm is a four zone approach of layering. I layer from my head to my toes. FULL STORY I live in West-Central Georgia and winter does not actually get here until late January or early February. As a L1 Paraplegic in a wheelchair, staying warm can become challenging. My main strategy for staying warm is a four zone approach of layering. I layer from my head to my toes. If I can keep my head and feet warm, that is 75% of the battle won. Here is my four part strategy.
ZONE 1 – Head, Face and Neck.
When I go out in the cold, I make sure I have what I need to keep my head warm. It starts with a good fleece, or wool, scarf or turtleneck shirt to keep my neck warm. Then I have a variety of hats or wool beanie stocking caps. My hats have earflaps for when it’s really cold. These do not necessarily offer a lot of style or “cool factor” but it’s better than having super cold earlobes for my friends to thump! If the temperature gets very cold, I have a fleece balaclava that covers my head, neck and face to keep the warmth in.
ZONE 2 – Upper Torso, Arms and Hands.
Following the layering concept, I usually start with a thin synthetic pullover against my skin for layer one. Then I add a pullover or button up fleece (or wool) shirt next for layer two. This is how I usually leave my house to get in my van. When the time comes to get out into the cold for hunting, watching fireworks, outdoor concerts, or other winter activities, I bring along a good sweater for layer three and an insulated jacket as layer four. If I have a long distance to get to my intended location, I carry my sweater and/or insulated jacket in my pack or lap, waiting to put it on until I have reached my destination. If I wear too many layers while I am pushing my wheelchair, I start sweating. This can cause a problem once I stop moving. The sweat makes me much colder.
I wear gloves or I use a fleece hand muff around my waist. I have two pairs of gloves. One is thin - allowing me to still use my fingers to manipulate things like zipping zippers, snapping snaps, and buttoning buttons. My second pair is thick and insulated for very cold situations (snow skiing, hunting, etc.). Either of these methods of keeping my hands warm is usually supplemented with disposable hand warmers.
ZONE 3 – Lower Body, Legs from Waist to Ankles
Keeping my legs and feet warm, even when the temp falls into the 50’s, can be a challenge. It is easier to stay warm by staying active and moving as much as possible. However, as a hunter, staying warm can be more of a challenge because I must sit still for long periods of time. I havefound a few things that help in this endeavor. Once the daily average temperature falls below 60 degrees, I pull out the Synthetic Moisture Wicking Thermal Long Underwear as my first layer of defense under my jeans. I find these keep me warmer than less expensive long underwear that may be a mix of cotton and synthetic material. In my opinion, cotton is never a good choice for a first layer garment. After my “long johns”, I put on a pair of jeans or camo pocket pants. Once it gets colder than the mid 40’s, I add my insulated bibs. It is easy to layer on over my jeans because it has zippers going all the way up the side of each leg. Or, when I am hunting or sitting in one place for a long time, I have found it easier to bring along some small fleece blankets and just wrap those around my legs.
My secret way of staying warm that may loose me some “cool points” is my camouflage “SNUGGY”! Yes, a Snuggy like you may have seen for sale on the T.V. in those irritating commercials. Irritating commercials aside, Snuggy’s ARE very warm and wrapping up in one will keep you very warm.
ZONE 4 – Feet
Cotton has no place on your feet in cold environments! Now that I have gotten that out of the way, my layer one in keeping my feet warm is a good set of wool socks. I have found out the hard way that I only need to wear one set of heavy socks. With good boots/shoes, that is all I need. Wearing multiple pairs of socks will usually make whatever shoes I wear fit too tightly, restricting blood flow and causing heat loss much quicker. Layer two in keeping my feet warm is boots/shoes that are appropriate for where I am going. I have a pair of light insulated boots and a heavier pair for when it gets really cold. I rarely wear my heavy insulated boots.
Layer three in keeping my feet warm is a pair of insulated boot covers. These come in many different styles. I have three different sets to choose from depending on how cold it is.
Now you know my strategy for staying warm. Find what works for you and get out there and enjoy life - even when it is cold. No need to stay inside just because it is cold!
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0116/0141