Come the first mild day in February, we utter those fateful words about Spring being on its way. Then comes the frost and snow…
In preparation for those bitter mornings, I thought you might like to know one of the better-kept secrets of keeping your hands and feet warm, what wristlets are, and why some men wear tights (pantyhose if you are in North America).
Hands and feet make relatively little heat of their own. Although they have muscles which work and can make a little, those are not like the big muscles in the legs or arms which can generate quite a lot of heat when they get going.
Most of the heat that keeps your hands and feet warm gets there in the blood, having travelled down your arms or legs. So if your arms or legs are cold, that warming blood will get chilled by the time it reaches your hands or feet, and your hands or feet will also be cold.
So one very good way of keeping your hands and feet warmer is to put insulation on your arms and legs. You can do this with warm underwear, of course, but that will also make your torso warmer, and there are some special garments that are ideal for the task.
Road cyclists who ride through cold winter weather usually wear separate arm and leg warmers – specially shaped tubes of warm, stretch fabric – which are well worth seeking out from a good (road) bike shop. Their arm-warmers, for instance, run from the point of the shoulder down to the cuff, and can be worn under smarter clothing, uniform, or business wear, without anyone suspecting.
In the arms, the greatest point of cooling of the blood is usually at the wrist, where the arteries which supply the hand are closest to the cold skin. For those, the best protection is a wristlet, a knitted tube running from the middle of the forearm down to the knuckles. If you need to do work requiring good dexterity and fine touch, wearing wristlets can keep your hands warmer and fit for the task when thin ‘contact’ gloves are too cold. You can find wristlets in some charity shops, military surplus stores, and they are easy to knit, my wife assures me.
So what about the men wearing tights? Are they not using the thin material to keep their legs warmer, thus enjoy warmer feet?
No – at least if that is what they are trying to do, it will not work. However lots of men who go outdoors swear by tights for making their legs feel much more comfortable in the cold.
The reason is not insulation (ladies know that thin tights are not in the least bit warm), but isolation. When in the cold, trouser legs become cold, and where they touch the skin, that feels very unpleasant, particularly if they are wet too. Thin tights reduce that ‘trouser flap’ effect, so they are for comfort, not thermal protection. Although some men may have other reasons…