How I stay warm as a vegan in winter
Maybe some of you missed the memo but I live in Norway now! I bet I’m not teaching you anything when I say it can get very cold over here. As I write these words, it’s minus 10 but as the Germans say : there is no bad weather, only bad clothing! Considering I walk to work every day, that saying takes all its meaning. Not only do I rarely feel cold, I almost get too warm! But hey, how do I stay warm as a vegan?
Let’s start from the beginning. Why is it so hard for vegans to find warm winter clothes?
To keep it short, it’s all about the materials; wool in particular. Wool is hard to replace because of it’s properties (natural, warm even when moist, antibacterial, low static…) but it’s also hard to avoid. Even ultra fast fashion brands sell wool blend clothing. Now the purpose of this post is not to talk about what makes wool so unethical, but if you are curious, you can read about it here and here.
Let’s move on to our topic: how to stay warm as a vegan.
Step number one: a good jacket.
It may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don’t own a proper jacket that keeps them warm and protects them from the elements. Meaning water and wind proof outerwear. My top picks? A long puffer or a parka, with a hood of course! Look for materials like recycled polyester or aerogel and always buy fur-free and down-free brands.
Step two: good shoes.
When I say good shoes, I mean waterproof shoes with a thick sole. Emphasis on thick sole, because that’s how your feet lose most of their heat. All the fluffy lining in the world won’t help much if you don’t keep your toes far enough from the ground. You may also want to size up (slightly) in order to fit thicker socks. This will also let the excess moisture evaporate and create warm air pockets. Bonus points if your shoes contain Gore-tex.
Step three: a good sweater.
There are two types of people in winter: the ones who layer like onions and those who wear chunky knits. I’m sorry onion people, but wearing one chunky sweater over a regular top will keep you warmer than multiple layers of thin knits. The reason for this is once again warm air pockets. It will also feel more comfortable as you will be less constricted. As for materials, you can look for recycled polyester or acrylic knits and good old fleece. Unfortunately, these synthetic options are the only fibers that will keep you as warm as wool. The good news though is that natural alternatives from cocoa, hemp and even soybeans are coming. Until then, I’m comfortable wearing my old wool clothes or even vintage or recycled wool but I know it’s not the case for everyone.
Step four: hats, gloves and scarves.
Should I even mention those? I do have a preference for blanket scarves and beanies but shapes and materials will matter so much here. The point is simply to create a protective layer between your extremities and the cold air for some extra snugness. Cotton, hemp or bamboo will do just fine.
Step five: thermal underwear
Thermals (aka. long underwear) are a base layer you wear under your regular clothes. I discovered their beauty after moving to Norway. I didn’t need them before because even if it could get cold in Belgium, I would not spend hours in sub-zero temperatures… for fun… ever. Since I started doing that, thermals have been a real life saver. Most are merino wool (big surprise, right?) but you can also find vegan alternatives, like these omni-heat baselayers from Columbia, that turn out to be more comfortable and way less itchy.
Step six: stay active and hydrated.
I don’t think I have ever felt colder than when I was a student and had to sit for hours at a time to study. The heat in my apartment was up to the max but it didn’t matter, I had to wrap myself in my duvet. Whenever we move, our body produces heat and that will keep us warm. Besides, to maintain its temperature, the body needs to have enough water. But in cold weather, it might be a little more difficult to notice how much fluids we lose. So remember to drink regularly.
It’s actually this easy to stay warm as a vegan, but the best tip I can give you is to learn how to enjoy winter. Yes it’s cold, but once you start appreciating the small things like snow, winter skies or crackling fire, the cold won’t bother you as much.