WHY AND WHEN SHOULD YOU WEAR A VEST FOR WARMTH?
People frequently overlook the value and benefits of a vest when selecting layers for an activity in colder temperatures. Vests are a versatile addition to your cold-weather wardrobe, replacing light- to mid-weight jackets in many situations without sacrificing warmth.
PROTECTING YOUR CORE
Vests provide more warmth than many people realize, and they can even help keep your extremities warm. How is this even possible? When your core temperature begins to fall, your body reduces blood flow to your extremities while increasing blood flow to your core to protect your organs 1. By keeping your core insulated and warm, blood flow to your extremities remains constant, keeping them warm. That is why, in cold weather, a long-sleeved shirt and a good vest (along with the appropriate gloves, hats, and pants) are often enough to keep you warm.
VEST VERSATILITY – THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Vests not only keep your core warm, but they also free your arms from the bulky sleeves of insulated jackets. Vests keep your arms free while still providing warmth when you are engaged in activities that require a full range of motion, such as chopping wood, setting up camp, or stacking boxes in a warehouse. Vests also take up less pack space than jackets, so as the day warms and you can remove layers, storing the vest will take up less space than storing the jacket.
Being overheated can be a problem in milder temperatures or when you are very active. You've generated enough heat to make your jacket too warm, but it's still too cold to wear just your base layer. A vest can solve both problems and serve as a replacement for light or medium-weight jackets.
WHEN A VEST WORKS BEST
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but vests work best in milder weather or when you will be active in colder weather. Vests are ideal for hiking, bicycling, running, camping, and fly fishing. This is because these activities are strenuous enough to raise your body temperature. In such cases, a vest is ideal because it allows your arms to move freely while also keeping your core warm.
Vests serve as a great mid-layer between a long-sleeved base layer and your outer jacket when temperatures are much colder, and they also provide the most versatility. Vests, for example, are a great way to stay warm as a mid layer if your activity isn't as strenuous or physically demanding, such as ice fishing, bird watching, or a casual hike. Furthermore, because they help keep your core warm, you can always remove your outer jacket and just wear the vest for a short period of time to cool off. Also, sleeping in a jacket can be uncomfortable and restricting when camping; a vest is an excellent addition to sleeping attire in a sleeping bag for added warmth without discomfort.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR VEST
Vests are available in a variety of materials, with varying levels of insulation and features such as waterproof pockets, detachable hoods, and more. Consider the temperature, your other layers, and how active you intend to be when selecting a vest.
Your first consideration should be how insulated or heavy the vest will be. Lined or insulated vests provide insulation when temperatures are extremely cold, whereas a lighter-weight fleece may suffice in milder temperatures. The weight and insulation of the vest you choose should also correspond to your level of activity. Choose a lighter-weight vest if your activities will be more physically demanding and may cause you to sweat.
The material of the vest, particularly the outershell, should be your second consideration. For example, while fleece is lightweight and breathable, it will also retain more water if it rains or snows. In those cases, look for a softshell vest or a puffer vest with a wind-tight/water-repellent polyester shell that has a water-repellent or waterproof exterior. You'll be surprised at how versatile and comfortable a vest layer can be if you choose the right vest for your weather and activities.