Even though I’ve lived on the East Coast my entire life, and in Southern Connecticut for the majority of it, I’ve never gotten used to the cold and bitter Northeastern winters. Winter here is tricky. One day it can be a balmy 37 degrees (Fahrenheit) and sunny and the next it’s ten and snowing with a wind chill of zero. Due to the quick drop in temperature that came along with December I’ve quickly taken stock of my base layers and cold weather gear (that still allow me to move enough to actually get on my horse) and wanted to share my favorites with the other diehard equestrians who aren’t currently enjoying the WEF or Thermal sunshine.
This is what will make or break your cold #ROOTD. You NEED a solid base layer that is not only insulating but also moisture wicking. Riding in layers, even in below freezing temperatures, usually has you working up a little bit of a sweat. These are my favorite go-to’s for the hardest working, warmest bases.
#1: The Workhorse
Patagonia has three weights in their Capilene® line. Personally I like the midweight for my base layer because it’s not too heavy, has moisture wicking properties and is breathable. For colder temps, I would consider their Capilene® Thermal line. Bottom line: Patagonia doesn’t mess around. They make gear for the elements, so you can rest assured if you’re buying something from them it’s going to do it’s job.
#2 : The Basic
This top doesn’t offer thermal insulation like Patagonia’s, but you’ll be able to use it throughout the seasons. It’s fitted, extremely low-bulk and the low turtleneck collar offers a little additional coverage. I like layering this under a 1/4 zip fleece and warm jacket. Grab it at my new go-to online shop, The Polished Rider.
#3: The Multitasker
Not only do I wear these tops as base layers for riding, I love wearing them post-workout and running around town as well. The arms are a little bit longer than I would like, but they offer hand coverage with thumb holes that you can layer under your gloves. The length is long enough to make sure it stays tucked into your breeches to keep sneaky cold drafts at bay. Lulu makes two versions, the original Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve Crew (which is their normal weight) and the Swiftly Wool Pullover ($88.00) which offers added warmth with 30% merino wool.
#1: The Old Faithful
I wear this almost every day. It’s not bulky, is fleece lined on the inside and smooth soft shell on the outside, is the perfect length AND it’s stretchy. Literally everything you could want during your ride and more.
#2: The Fashion Conscious
I get it, sometimes you still want to look halfway cute while trying to stay warm. Lucky for you, Lulu made their Swiftly tops into a great 1/4 zip. Check out their Swiftly Wool 1/2 Zip to stay warm AND stylish.
#3: The Plan B
The North Face is another company that doesn’t mess around. Like Patagonia, they make performance wear that WORKS. Their warm long sleeve 1/4 zip is lightweight and “an essential baselayer for breathable warmth during low-to-medium intensity activities in cold conditions.” Bottom line: it’s a mid-weight, slim fit layer #2 that I wear when my Marmot is in the wash.
#1: The Investment
This jacket is ridiculously expensive. But it is also ridiculously warm. AND weighs practically nothing. Seriously, it’s like holding a plastic bag. It’s that light. I stole my husbands to take it for a test ride, and I was SWEATING wearing my normal layers under it. The next day I wore just a regular long sleeve sun shirt underneath and I was STILL toasty. Whatever magic goes into making this coat, I am a believer. The fact it could keep me warm in 20 degree weather without layers blew my mind. Slim fitting, stretch side panels and guaranteed coziness down to 20 degrees F (without layers) makes this the holy grail of winter riding jackets.
#2: The Tried and True
Sorry to be loving on Patagonia, but their products just kill it. I’ve been riding in their Nano Puff® Jacket for two fall and winter seasons now and it’s a solid stand up citizen. I sized up to a M in order to give myself room for layers since this offers zero stretch, but the warmth factor minus the weight and bulk totally make up for it. Winner winner!
#3: The On-Trend
There is a reason why this jacket is #3 on my list. What it lacks in function it makes up for in looks and color options, but honestly it’s not my favorite for freezing weather. I tend to keep it for the 40 degree F late fall/early spring rides. Just Over the Top, otherwise known as JOTT, is a line by Stratum Brands. The CHA jackets are popular and often seen around WEF and other A shows. It’s slim fitting, a great length and pretty warm, but nowhere near comparable to Canada Goose, Patagonia or other performance brands. It also doesn’t offer any stretch, so layering becomes difficult. If you’re wanting to join the trend, don’t let my review sway you. They’re cute jackets, just not totally practical for seriously cold weather.
Breeches for Layering
I tried the Kerrits Sit Tight n Warm Windpro breeches, and to be honest, wasn’t a fan. Did they keep me warm? Yes. But I need something that doesn’t stretch out during my ride or bunch up under my boots. I couldn’t focus on my ride because I was so distracted by what I was wearing. So my solution? I found the perfect base layer and tested which breeches worked best with a slim layer underneath.
Step #1: The Base Layer
Don’t let the photo fool you, these are super lightweight and thin, so perfect for layering! They offer warmth, stretch and breathability without any of the bulk and are now my go-to when I need an extra layer on my legs. (Usually 25 degrees and under.)
Step #2: The Breeches
Breeches that have extra stretch make layering much easier. My Equiline and Tailored Sportsman’s were just way too bulky with an additional layer. However, my ROMFH Sarafina knee patch breeches work beautifully with a base layer. I don’t feel like a stuffed sausage and can actually move. The micro polyurethane fabric is like a durable yoga pant and allows for smooth layering (no bunching battles!) They’re insanely comfortable yet extremely hard working. It’s safe to say these breeches are taking a year-round beating and holding up to the challenge.
I don’t LOVE these Horze breeches for everyday wear. I like them. They do their job, but tend to lose their shape rather quickly. A quick run through the wash and dryer has them back to normal the next day, but I like a breech that stays put and doesn’t sag. Now… add a base layer under these, and I’m in love! The stretchiness and mid-rise allows for comfortable pairing and functional layering, keeping you warm and your wallet happy. The silicone knee patch is an added bonus!
I can’t say enough about these boots and how they’ve been a total game changer for me. I can ride in normal weight socks and not get cold. They are bulkier than normal boots, but break in easily and now I barely notice a difference. Getting off my horse no longer has me cringing from the sting I used to feel from when my half-numb feet hit the cold ground!
Ok, these are great for when it’s REALLY cold. Like 15 degrees F and under. They’re thick, so you won’t feel the reins like you do with normal gloves. But they keep your hands toasty, and have elastic bands to wrap around your jacket sleeves so you can take them off and let them hang if you need to make any tack adjustments or send a text. (But come on, don’t text and ride!)
These are my go-to when I don’t need to break out the SSG big guns. They’re as warm as I think a glove could be without adding additional bulk.
Some of you saw my recent selfie with Donny and have been asking about my face mask. I took this from Dan (sorry Dan!!!) and holy moly was it life changing. It kept my face warm and easily wrapped around to velcro under my helmet. I put the mask on first (it just wraps around your face and velcros at the base of your head, and then put on my helmet. It doesn’t have a head piece which is great because helmet fit isn’t compromised. Check out all of Seirus’s products here.
Stay warm, fellow cold-weather riders! If I stumble across any additional finds I’ll be sure to post a follow up.