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  1. #1
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    Inexpensive winter commuting duds

    OK, this is my first year that I'm going to try commuting in the winter. I've been reading icebike and here, and would like to ask some advice.

    I'd like to get a few sets of base layer clothing to start with, as all I have now is cotton and I know I won't be able to use it much longer this year. I need to be conservative with the cash; I won't be buying any $50+ smartwool base layer stuff, even though I'm sure it's wonderful. Icebike reviews some stuff that looks great, but I really don't want to run out and spend $500 on a set of winter clothing; I spent 10 years up north where it gets to -40*F and don't think I spent that much the whole time. OK, I'm cheap.

    I've got my eye on some of the moisture control base layer stuff at Campmor. A few questions:

    Background: I'm in S.E. Michigan. Conditions generally are 0*F to 35*F, most of the time 20*F and up. Tends to be damp cold which can get miserable. Roads are generally pretty dry most of the time, but there will be slush from time to time.

    Am I going to need midweight base layer stuff at some point, or should I stick with lightweight and then layer up?

    Campmor has a few different brands, but they all seem about the same to me. Duofold vari-therm, terramar quik-dri, hind thermal drylete, etc. When you get to their midweight, they have Thermax which I think is bipolar fabric; thermax inner and poly/wool outer. I'm sure that's nice and toasty but might be too much if it's "warm" out (like 25* and up)?

    I'd like to pick up base layer stuff for $20 or maybe a bit more a set; I figure I can pick up a couple sets and then see how that goes, maybe try some other stuff in mid-season if I get some more cash (assuming my bike doesn't fall apart :-) ).

    Please help a guy who generally just heaps on some clothes and goes sledding with the kids, and hates to spend money on clothes, not wimp out this winter without breaking the bank.

  2. #2
    Friend of Jimmy K naisme's Avatar
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    What really works for me in the Twin Cities, is hitting a consignment store or used clothing store, and get a couple menora wool sweaters, they are a medium wool, like the old school jerseys. The savings on that allowed me to get a wind shell (Perl Izumi) with zip off sleeves. I was able to go much of last winter with this, and a base layer of poly pro I bought at Marshall's. You can get by on the sly with wind pants with your bike shorts under them. I did that one winter, and then bought the wind front tights by Bell Weather, nice really nice tights. But maybe too much for your area.

    One thing I haven't managed to get over is the cold feet thing. I ride in big oversized sorrel like boots, and my feet still get cold. I have taken to tossing a couple of the chemical toe warms in the boots, and it helps, but it's a circulation thing, not a cold thing, and I've found the best solution is to just get off the bike at about ten miles, and walk a little, helps get the blood back to the toes, and I'm warm again to complete the ride.
    "I will remain the stranger who came from a faraway land." Lance Armstrong

    "The more you drive, the less intelligent you become." Miller "Repo Man"

  3. #3
    Senior Member deathintransit's Avatar
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    Wiggle your toes.

    How tight are the laces? Maybe they are restricting blood flow.

    Twin Cities represent!

  4. #4
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    Walmart has added some of this stuff. OUr local Walmart has base layer garments in the $9 range. I have bought underwear and a couple shirts. I also have more expensive stuff and a lot of stuff in between. I wear a light base layer and then layer on top of that.

    If you are like me you will find that most midweight stuff is to hot for temps much above 20 F. Anything above that and you really just have a base layer and a shell. I also throw in a wind vest at times. Hands have glove liners and heavier winter gloves, feet get insulated wolverine boots down around 20 as well as two pair of wool socks. Head gets lightweight balaclava and possible an earband. ( i bought the boots oversized to accomodate)

    Just experiment and read a lot online to figure out what works best for you.

  5. #5
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    Thanks, Ranger. I had hoped to avoid some level of experimentation, since I don't have the funds to buy stuff if I'm not going to use it.
    I was at a Wal*mart over the weekend (the nearest one to my home is about 25 miles so I don't get there often) and found almost nothing except in the hunting gear, they had thermal sock liners (which I bought one of to try) and wool socks which looked too heavy ("expedition" weight) so I gave them a miss.

    I'm going to place a Campmor order today and get some lightweight stuff. They have lightweight base layer stuff in the $10 range also.

  6. #6
    Burn-em Upus Icephaltus Gojohnnygo.'s Avatar
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    The one piece of inexpensive winter gear I have found was a pair of buck skin mittens with wool inserts. I found at a small hunting store $12.99 + tax. I like lobster claw mitts but they don't preform in sub-zero temps -25 and below. This is what I wear when the temp dips down to 20 below F. At least this is what I have found with lobster claws are a good mitt! They just need to work on the wind protection a bit more. Maybe some leather on the front would do the job.
    Sick BubbleGum

  7. #7
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    a nice heavy parka with double zippers works great, lonhg enough to provide good coverage, plus you can unzip the botom and leave the top zipped for mobility purposes.

    I had a parka like this I used in indiana for a many a years, for playing icefield football and the like. BTW icefield football is only fun when your a teenager that still thinks nothing can hurt them...face to ice sucks

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