What do you wear for cold weather photography?

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In this article, we answer the question,”What do you wear for cold weather photography when you know you’ll be spending part of the time standing in cold water?”

Punch Bowl Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon (OR), USA

This is something Jay and I have to deal with quite a lot. It’s critically important to stay warm when you are out shooting, so having the right gear is key. We wear layered clothing when we’re working in the cold, so we can add and subtract as the weather changes. We recommend fleece as a warmth layer – because it is lightweight, and because it holds less than 1% of its weight in water. When it gets colder, we also carry a down jacket. We always carry waterproof/windproof pants with us wherever we go. You can pile on the fleece to try and stay warm… but if it’s windy, you’ll find that the wind passes right through and chills you anyway.

My standard cold-weather outfit includes the following:

Head and Hands

Fleece Hat, Thin Fleece Glove Liners, Waterproof and windproof gloves (we like the ones with a mitten flap that lets us use our fingers to handle the controls on the camera.) Chemical heat packs – put a few in your pockets to keep your hands warm – and tuck your camera inside your coat when you aren’t using it. The heat packs and your body heat will help keep it warm – which will extend the battery life and keep everything working nicely.

Upper Body

Fleece jacket for inner layer, down jacket, waterproof and windproof outer layer with hood. The colder it gets, the thicker the layers get. I’ve been known to wear 5 or 6 layers at a time.

Lower Body

Quick-dry hiking pants, fleece pants for warmth (yes – I actually put these on top of my quick-dry pants. It sounds weird, but I often want to remove those pants as the day warms up. Trying to get them off if they are under your hiking pants is a total pain.), and a waterproof and windproof pants for outer layer.

As for your feet…

Good, waterproof hiking boots and thick wool socks are critical – but if you are going to be standing in water that will likely go over the tops of your boots, we recommend neoprene diving booties. Yes. Really. 🙂 We actually use the same shoes that divers wear – you can purchase them online or at a dive shop. We spent about six hours standing in freezing water in Utah one year… we broke through three layers of ice with each step, and stood in freezing water that stopped just below our knees. The diving booties won’t keep your feet dry… so that first step was freezing cold… but a few seconds later, our feet felt nice and warm, and we were comfortable for the rest of the hike. Of course, our feet looked like shriveled raisins when we took the boots off. 🙂 We keep a couple of towels in the car, and we dry off carefully and then put on dry, wool socks and our hiking boots. Your boots feel great after that! I let the legs of my fleece pants and waterproof pants get wet – they won’t hold water – and they kept me nice and warm. ALWAYS have a dry change of clothes waiting for you in the car. And be careful out there. Cold will kill you, so be sure you have the right gear, and always travel with someone if you can.

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.