Monday, January 9, 2012

Need an Extra Layer for Warmth?

If you are a person of size and a "cold" person ─ that is, strongly affected by cold weather and in need of lots of extra layers during the wintertime ─ then you know how hard it can be to find those extra layers in our sizes.  So let's talk about that for a minute.

As frequent readers know, I have hypothyroidism.  It's well-treated with meds, my TSH is in my ideal range, and I'm much less symptomatic than I used to be, but that doesn't mean I am totally symptom-free.

One of the most striking symptoms that remains is how poorly I regulate my temperature.  Within a certain range of temps, I'm fine, but even slightly outside that narrow range and I'm really uncomfortable.  In particular, I am strongly affected by cold.  It really makes me absolutely miserable, I kid you not.

So I'm always looking for extra layers to help keep me warmer in the winter...but I am a bit claustrophobic and hate feeling suffocated by really thick or poufy layers.  And I don't tolerate itchy fabrics like wool very well either.  In addition, even when there's good-quality stuff available, it's usually not available in my size.  Most plus-sized stuff in the athletic brands goes up to 2x or maybe 3x, but I typically prefer a 4x because I like things quite roomy and comfortable.  So it's not easy to find something that suits my needs very well.

Junonia makes exercise and outdoorwear in extended sizes (4x, 5x, sometimes 6x). I've bought from them for years but their quality is spotty.  Sometimes I get something really great from them (so they are definitely worth checking out), but sometimes I've gotten some very mediocre stuff too.  Generally speaking, they don't seem to have the kind of quality and choice of really good outdoor stuff that I could get at REI if I were of average size, like the really high-tech insulation-against-cold fabrics or the ultra-light packable gear, etc.  And I really want the good stuff.

I am not overly outdoorsy because of my cold-weather intolerance but I do have times when I do outdoorsy stuff.  I like to take walks in my area, and we have been known to camp or hike. I also volunteer at my kids' school, which regularly has "farm days" (for environmental education), no matter what the weather is...raining, windy, snowing, sleeting, you name it. That can be pretty brutal.  So I definitely need some layers and good outerwear for these activities.

Even around the house at night, it gets a lot colder than I am comfortable with, but I'm not willing to crank up the heat for the whole house that far when I'm the only one really affected. So, given how cold I tend to be, I need some good-quality layers for lounging around or working at home. I'm looking for lightweight but very warm layers ─ in my size ─ that I can add and subtract as needed.

Last year, I discovered that Columbia Sportswear carries good-quality sports and cold-weather clothing/gear in plus sizes.  They have women's sizes up to 3x, but their men's sizes go up to 4x and sometimes 5x.  This gives more choices to those of us who need/prefer extended sizes. (The men's sizes also have an option for "tall" sizes if you need that. I, alas, am very far from needing that.)

It frustrates me to have to shop in the men's department in order to get really good-quality sports and outdoor clothing in my size, but hey, at least we have some choices, even if it's in menswear.  So last year I invested in a whole bunch of winter gear from Junonia and Columbia, and have been testing it this year to see what's best.

I've fallen in love with the following item and wanted to let you know about it before it's all gone:

http://www.columbia.com/Men%E2%80%99s-Mountain-Tech%E2%84%A2-1/2-Zip-%E2%80%94-Big/AX6565,default,pd.html#

It's a lightweight polyester half-zip sports shirt for wicking away moisture while running or biking.  However, I've found that it does an amazing job of keeping me warmer, much better than a wool sweater or a cardigan.  I just wear normal clothes underneath, and put this on top whenever I start feeling chilly.

That's usually enough for hanging around the house, doing chores, driving in the car or for short jaunts outside if the weather's not too bad.  For longer outside jaunts in nasty weather, I wear them for layering under my winter coat (the soft shell coat or the Bugaboo parka from Columbia) as needed.

Sometimes if I'm really cold I will put on two of these zip-up sports shirts.  They are so lightweight that I don't feel like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, and they really do add a nice layer of extra warmth.  I haven't found this combination of warmth and thinness of fabric with any other product, so I wanted to be sure to let you know about these before they are all gone.

These little zip-up sport shirts have made a MAJOR difference for me in staying warmer in and out of the house.  I still have cold moments, but these have really helped. They come in several different colors and pack really well, so they'd be ideal for trips too.

I'm buying some more to have on-hand.  I was hoping they'd be on sale after the holidays, but no such luck. So they're not cheap....about $40.....but well worth it in my book!

If you need some more stay-warm options, you might want to check them out.

9 comments:

Jamie Longstreth Fritz said...

Wool is not always itchy. Good wool is usually not itchy. If you have time to knit, I highly recommend knitting your own layers if possible. A nice warm shawl does wonders when you're a bit chilly and they can be works of art as well.

If you truly can't tolerate wool, give alpaca a try. Alpaca is ridiculously warm, something like 10x warmer than wool even. A very lightweight alpaca wrap or hat or socks will keep you toasty.

Lexi said...

I REALLY need a pair of snowpants. Cold doesn't bother me much, but wet does, and it (usually) snows a lot where I live. Anyone know where to get plus sized snowpants or maybe even -gasp!- plus-sized maternity snowpants??

Well-Rounded Mama said...

Jamie.....Oooh, alpaca, what a nice idea! Given their native climate, I bet alpaca fur is a great choice!

Alas, I do not knit. I did get a good wool sweater from LLBean last year, but even as less-itchy as it is, I still find it a bit itchy. And not nearly as lightweight as these zip-up shirts I'm loving so much, yet about the same in warmth.

Lexi, Junonia has snow pants. It's very pricey, though. I got the soft shell pants....some protection against wet but also lined for warmth. Does nicely for warmth but not as great as I'd hoped for wet. Really long too.

I bought Junonia's rain pants and was not impressed. Never know, you might like them. But I find them uncomfortable and not that protective against the wet.

Columbia's big and tall men's section has snow pants and rain pants that look quite promising, but they aren't available in short lengths so I haven't ordered them. I'd be swimming in them, I'm sure. Could have them shortened I guess, but that adds even more expense. I'm still mulling this over.

Keep the suggestions coming, folks.

Janie said...

I know this may sound trite, but I'm a little jealous - I am the EXACT opposite I'm always warm and almost always sweating no matter what I do I sweat - drives me nuts.

O.C. said...

I bought a couple of Land's End's "heavenly fleece" half-zip pullovers and they are wonderful! Cheap, comfy, and super soft! The last time I looked most of their nice colors were sold out, but I'm sure they'll be back. I'm also sensitive to the cold, so these are good for doing things around the house, or running out on errands if the temp is high 40s and up.

Jennifer Todd said...

how do the Columbia men's sizes compare to women's sizes. if i wear a 2x in women's what men's size would i pick? looks like a nice shirt. i really need to find long clothes as i am very tall, so i will check out their other clothes. thanks!

Jamie Longstreth Fritz said...

Not fur, fleece. It's sheared and spun into yarn like wool. :)

Jill said...

Lexi,
I found great snowpants at the JCPenny.com website- they definitely didn't carry them in store that I saw. They are men's but they have plus sizes and also they had tall which worked great for DH.

A side note- Well-Rounded Mama,
I couldn't find an email address so I will just tack this along with my comment. I have been a LONG time lurker on your website. We have been trying for 18 months to conceive and just found out I have low AMH. I was wondering what, if any research you knew of that talks about AMH levels and (severly-ugh) obese women. We started at a new fertility clinic and seems to be big girl friendly but I am still nervous/self conscious. I would appreciate any info on this topic. Thanks!

Well-Rounded Mama said...

Jill, my email addy is on the left sidebar of the blog, in the "About the Author" bit. Feel free to email me, though I'm not always able to get back to people in a timely manner. This month I am particularly busy but I'll try.

By low AMH, do you mean low Anti-Mullerian Hormones? I have no experience with fertility issues, mind, but in researching about PCOS, I've seen them mentioned several times recently. They seem to be connected with PCOS...have you been checked for that?

Other than that possible connection, I really don't know much about them. Readers?