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Working outside in the winter is brutal. As a mailman, I used to spend up to 10 hours a day — into the dark — trudging through snow and slush. I might also have to deal with wind and rain in the same day. The problem isn’t just about staying dry and warm; it’s about staying cool enough that you don’t get drenched in sweat. Because that is what does-you-in mentally. Once you are both sweaty and cold, there doesn’t seem to be any getting back to normal that day and all you can seem to think about is sitting back in a spa and soaking in some 120-degree-plus water.
I don’t spend as much time outside now, thank goodness. I do plan to to start run this winter, which means being outside in the rain and snow and wind and general miserableness. I don’t feel like shelling out the major cash that I would spend on most name-brand running clothing. I grudgingly pay the price for Brooks Adrenalines. I’m not spending $100 on a jacket that I’m probably stripping off and tying around my waist after ten minutes, anyway. Athletic clothing has come a long way since my teen years when I ran through Southwestern Michigan’s winters wearing cotton sweatshirts and sweatpants from Max-10. Yes, I’ve always been cheap. Back then, I wore a layer of Vaseline on my lips. That was before you could find good balaclavas. This winter, I’m prepared with Refrigiwear fleece.
Refigiwear doesn’t make running clothes. They make working clothes. The guys out working on roads when it’s 30 degrees? They may be wearing Refigiwear clothes to keep them warm. Some of their stuff is the neon green seen on road workers and has the reflective cloth that has to have saved some lives. When you are buying work wear instead of athletic wear, you get the same level of insulation and similar wicking fabric. That means the clothes are heavier — some would be too clunky even for trail running. Carhartt clothing is great for hunting and chopping wood, but it would be a little hard to run in a pair of their overalls. I’ve tried skiing in them before and I thought I’d die from heat exhaustion and from carrying the extra weight of all that denim.
There are some advantages of winter work wear over the soft-as-bunny’s-bottom insulation layers that athletic companies use.
— There are some advantages to workwear for outdoor sports —
The Refrigiwear’s heavy-weight fleece doesn’t have the loft of most 200-weight fleece, but they say it has the same heat retention as 300-weight. The more compact (weave if it were made of a thread-based fabric) is less susceptible to wear because it’s more condensed.
The sizing of most work wear seems to be a bit broader than you might be used to with general clothing. While I’m a large in many shirts and coats, I need an extra-large in coats designed for athletic wear. When I got an extra-large heavy-weight Refrigiwear fleece, however; it had about six extra inches across the chest. I called and, within a day, had a return label in order to exchange for a large.
My Refrigiwear fleece cost about half of what a North Face 300-weight fleece would cost. Granted, the North Face is fashionable right now (at least I think it is. I’m not the guy to go to about fashion, obviously). Until Refrigiwear’s little logo — a dog inside a triangle — is caught on the nape of some Hollywood star’s neck, you won’t turn too many heads with their products. Having said that, I’m in negotiations with my wife to buy one of their rain coats which do look pretty cool (to me).
Fortunately, it’s easier to outfit my daughter at Goodwill. While it is hard to find men’s outerwear at thrift shops that is both clean and rip-free, my little girl can still find some nice running clothes that look like they were never worn.
Now that we’re outfitted comes the hard part… getting off this couch.
Cliff: An accomplished author, in that I drink a lot of coffee, look at obscure websites, own a copy of Microsoft Word and know what an Oxford comma is. Hobbies include mocking Ab Lounger ads on Craigslist and napping. Former Marine, mail carrier and dental chair technician, now I spend my days trying to live up to my wife and dog\'s expectations of me and show my kids how to live life well.