Tuesday, January 7, 2014

An Acreage Couple's Guide to Surviving the Arctic Vortex

As the past few days have been littered with school cancellations and dire weather warnings, we thought we would do a first for our blog and write a post together.  Yes- this is both Megan and Andy!  The weather in our new home in Iowa is generally the same as our previous home in Illinois, minus lake effect snow.  However, wind speeds get very crazy and we have noticed it is often up to 10 degrees cooler out in the country then in town.  In addition to this, our lives in the winter don't just include walking from the house to the car; from the car to work and back again but consist of doing chores around the acreage and getting in and out of the house with no shoveled side walks or driveways.

Andy: We also have to think about what happens if our car breaks down and are stuck out in the middle of nowhere for any length of time. Which... happened to me recently... stay tuned.

Megan: Before moving here, our typical winter attire was jeans, sweatshirt, basic boots, coat, gloves and scarf:

Megan:  I had a nice down coat from a department store that had a useless hood which would flop over my eyes constantly...

Andy: Including while driving!

Megan: Eh. My boots were from Title Nine and while they held up fine for walks on shoveled side walks were not insulated and left my toes cold.  Notice, I was anti-hat in my previous life.

Andy: I was fairly stylish in my 2.5 mile drive door to door to and from work and could bear wearing a t-shirt for that amount of time.

Megan: So, now we are getting smarter.  This was not just spurned on by the recent drop in temps (we saw -50 here the past few days) but has been a process we started last winter when we realized our "city" clothes wouldn't cut it.  So, follow along with us on our daily journey of getting dressed to go anywhere.

Feel free to collect, share and trade all Peterson winter attire action figure poses with your friends and family.

Layer 1:  The Core

Megan:  I am modeling the Smart Wool line of under gear.  Seriously, you will realized by the end of this post that I am in love with Smart Wool...

Andy: Thanks to ME!

Megan: (Stop interrupting!) and should consider attending Smart Wool Anonymous.  But this stuff is great!  I have Smart Wood socks, striped Smart Wool leggings and a teal Smart Wool top.  Andy purchased these leggings for me a few weeks ago and I was doubtful (not just by the $100 price tag, OUCH!).  I worried they would make me hot when I was inside and they would not sit right under my pants which are generally pretty tight as is the currently style.  Well, rest assured ladies, these bad boys are fantastic!  I can even get them comfortably on under my jeggings.  It was so drafty in the house yesterday that I actually wore them under my yoga pants all day and they were super comfortable.

Andy: I like to spend most of my money on my beautiful wife... I am rocking some tactical cold gear Under Armor that I have had for years now. I, like Megs, am in a loving somewhat stalker-ish relationship with both Smart Wool and UA. Add some moisture wicking silk sock liners and heavy wool boot socks and you have a good base to build on. A good base layer makes all the difference.

Megan:  Makes all the difference in showing your skinny chicken legs.

Andy: Jealousy is a stinky cologne...

Layer 2:  Lightweight Wear

Megan:  Here I am sporting my everyday jeans (leggings under them) and a henley from Eddie Bauer.  I purchased 3 of these in November...

Andy: Again you are welcome...

Megan:  and have been rotating them daily since.

Andy: You are now looking at my weekend wear, and I mean every weekend.

Megan:  ALL weekend.

Andy: I do sleep in this outfit as well, much to Megs dismay, sans boots, I'm not an animal. My custom sewed (by me) combat trousers with reinforced fleece/ Gore-Tex knees, and one of my many 1/4 zip tops. My unwashed bed head increases in awesomeness throughout the weekend and I feel keeps me warmer by some form of mystical magic. I bought these Wetland series Muck Boots a few years ago and I would never trade them in. They truly are waterproof and manage to stay on and in comfortable fashion all day through miles of walking even though they are slip on boots. On the coldest of days I stick on some chemical toe warmers and they work great.

Layer 3:  Heavy-duty Wear

Megan:  I have added my First Ascent fleece from Eddie Bauer (another favorite) and a pair of Smart Wool gloves.  These gloves work fine for my everyday activities of carrying kids to and from the car but when I am outside for a long time I put on a more serious pair of gloves.  Finally, I am now wearing my new Columbia Minx Mid Snow Boot.  These boots are fantastic and probably my favorite purchase this year (though the leggings are a close second).  The laces loosen and tighten really easily so I can get them on and off quickly and there is enough calf room to get my pants tucked in very easily.  The soles have serious grippys on them so I feel confident in icy conditions and the boots themselves feel like warm sleeping bags on my feet.  I would highly recommend these boots!  My old pair wouldn't have lasted a day with this winter but these have kept my toes toasty even on the coldest days.  I purchased them for $100 on Amazon which I thought compared to other options- Teva and Sorel- were really reasonable.  (Bummer- they are now listed at $118 but I think they are still worth it)

Andy: Wells brand polar work bibs are where it is at. Megs makes a big stink about how nerdy they are but I hear her lick her lips every time I turn around.

Megan:  No.  These things are ridiculous.

Andy: Denial... it's not just a river in Egypt is it? On days where my viking-ly large nose doesn't freeze in under a minute I combine my beloved bibs with a heavy Irish wool sweater or Eddie Bauer shag pile fleece top that you see here and call it a day. Recently though, I have had to step it up a notch. I also mostly wear my Manzella glove liners for all season activities and UA silk lined skull cap, a must have.

Layer 4:  Coats

Megan:  My final layer is a coat, neck gaiter and hat.  The coat is a Canada Goose Down coat Andy picked up off the black market on his last trip to China.  Not really, but that is what I like to imagine.  In Shanghai, there are several knockoff markets that Andy has gone to during his travels.  He says the negotiating is crazy.  This coat is a knockoff but in China, the authentic merchandise is generally manufactured in a plant adjacent to the knockoff plant.  He was able to get this coat for $70 (~550 RMB)- it sells for $700 in the US.  It is a fantastic coat and feels like the best hug in the world.  My neck gaiter and hat are from Smart Wool.  While the hat still makes my head itchy, I have gotten over my initial aversion due to necessity (and realizing my hair still looks ok when I take it off- a deal breaker otherwise).

Andy: My similar jacket comes from the same outstanding 4 foot 1 inch Chinese lady and her even more slight daughter. I even snapped a group selfie the last time I was in the country and plan to visit them on my next trip. These coats are not only like being hugged but hugged by your favorite sleeping bag that is slipping you happy pills. Everyone has a collection of something... shoes, trains, plates, purses... handbags, sorry ladies; well mine is gloves. I have searched the globe for the BEST pair of gloves that provide latex type dexterity with Mt. Everest warmth. I still haven't found them, but I wont quit, I am not a quitter! Anyone in the market for like 10 pairs of semi-used gloves? Anyways, my current favorites are full deer leather insulated work gloves and Gore-Tex line fleece jobbers. I top it all off with my camo bomber hat. Awesome-sauce!

 In Conclusion...

Andy: I work with a guy who once uttered the phase, "It's avoidable". He was talking about eating some undesirable food dish in China, but I took that saying to heart and now use it regularly. There is no reason to be cold when you can be comfortable... it's avoidable.

Megan: Suck it arctic vortex...we laugh in your face!!!

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