How to walk your dog at -12 (and even lower)

Today’s lesson is in dressing properly!

January 6, 2014

January 6, 2014

We’re going to start with the assumption that you have on knickers and a bra for starters. Next, tug on the first layer for the legs. Something that wicks away moisture…silk leggings, hosiery; my go-to is a pair of pajama pants that are made from a silky material that clings to the legs. Next a pair of short socks, and these can be thin, to tuck the leggings in to. These should be thin sports socks, maybe made of bamboo or other moisture-wicking material.


Then you’re going to pull on the next layer. I use a pair of knit leggings. This is where you can wear those tacky jeggings that you got for Christmas last year or bought in some misguided fashion attempt the summer before. You’ll tuck these into the next pair of socks, which should be a pair of regular knee highs.


Now, the torso (we’ll return to the legs in a bit). Start with another moisture-wicking first layer. See a theme here? I have some camisoles that do the job, so that’s where I start. Over that goes my fuzzy CudleDuds(c), and then over THAT goes a long-sleeve t-shirt. Whew!

20150106_195641 20150106_195727

Now, pull on that balaclava that you most certainly have bought. You can add a hat over that, if you wish (I do). Now pull on your sweatshirt. Doing it in this order means the cowl of your balaclava is securely held down around the neck.

20150106_195820 20150106_195901

Starting to feel warm yet?

Now, pull on your final pair of pants. This is a good spot for your ‘fat jeans’, or for a pair of sweatpants. Once you’ve managed to get those on, pull on a pair of wool socks, and tuck the legs in to those. You can also opt for a pair of snow pants at this point. I have them, but I try to save those for cases of ‘extreme cold’. And to my southern brain, -12 should fit that description, but that bar has been raised now.


You did make sure to go to the bathroom before you started all this, right?

Now, get the boots on. A long shoehorn really helps with this. Rubber rainboots are not a good choice if you plan to be out for a while, but for less than an hour, you’ll be fine. Sneakers are good for dry days, as long as there’s not ice. Always be aware of the ice! And walk like a penguin!

She thinks we're going out right now...

She thinks we’re going out right now…

We’re not done yet! Go pull out that insulated jacket with the hood on it, and slide that on. I tend to put my gloves on first, so that the wrist is secure under the sleeve of the jacket, but unless you have the kind that will expose the fingers, it’s hard to zip up the jacket. But if you can, do gloves first, then jacket. Silk glove liners are very helpful on especially cold or windy days and nights.

20150106_201449 20150106_201535

Now, grab that long scarf, and wrap it around your neck. The quickest and secure way (and fashionable), is the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ method. Double your scarf, loop it around your neck, reach through the fold and grab the two loose ends and pull them through.

the sherlock

Now, you can put the harness on your dog, clip the leash to her, and waddle outside. You’ll be warm as toast. And probably spend less time outside than you did getting dressed! Although, I tend to stay out longer, simply because, dammit, I am going to get my worth out of all that trouble!

17 thoughts on “How to walk your dog at -12 (and even lower)

  1. Well, no-one can certainly call you underprepared!

    That’s a lot of clothes though, something I’d consider wearing when below it’s -30°C outside, though I don’t think I’ve ever worn that much.

    My usual attire when it’s somewhere between -10°C and -20°C is:
    • regular underpants
    • ankle high socks
    • long johns (cotton)
    • t-shirt
    • light jacket (cotton)
    • pants (cotton, no inner liner)
    • scarf around my neck
    • winter jacket with an insulating liner
    • thin knitted gloves and leather gloves onto of those
    • hat (pipo)
    • running shoes

    When it’s warmer I use a lighter jacket, and loose the knitted gloves, possibly use lighter long johns as well.

    When it’s colder I use proper winter boots and add the lighter long johns underneath my thicker ones.


    • I have to admit that I’m probably a bit overbundled. When I first got here and encountered the 10°C, I was bundled up just about as much as what I wrote. However, by mid-December, I was wearing a sweatshirt and windbreaker for 0°. But when we went to Lapland for Xmas, and it was nearly 30°below, I started bundling up again. I haven’t quite found the sweet spot yet. Hopefully by next year! Practice, practice!


  2. To prevent falling you should take shorter steps, step on the balls of your feet and make sure your weight is on top of them when you do. It may feel bold and adventurous, but that way you have all the muscles on your toes, foot, ankle, leg, etc. to do the balancing with and you are stepping on a large flat surface and your weight provides the friction. If you do it right there are also no lateral forces when the foot hits the ground so there is no obvious direction for it to slip in. Furthermore keeping your feet in the direction of the ground during the step instead of pawing with your feet will stop your feet from slipping during the step.

    If you walk on your heels, you’ll find out they are round, lack any muscles to control slippage or regain your balance with (knees don’t bend that way) and that they usually are both in forward motion and ahead of you (i.e. not having any weight on it) when hitting the ground and thus basically slippage waiting to happen.

    You don’t need to walk slowly. That’s crap. You can actually walk just as fast taking shorter steps with your weight in front as you would walking on your heels – you just use a bit more energy and those little leg muscles doing so. If you use a backpack, make sure to adjust your weight accordingly or you’ll soon find yourself lying on your back.

    Is silk any good for insulation? I’d go for long (thermal) underwear – cotton, wool and thinsulate.
    If you don’t need to use your fingers much, get yourself leather mittens and use knitted mittens under them, single or doubled, if you need to. Gloves are usually colder than corresponding mittens because each finger is forced to fend for itself instead of sharing the body heat.

    BTW, all shoes are not created equal. Even if they have a good tread pattern, the material used for the soles may harden in cold (or even cool) weather, making them very slippery on ice and wet surfaces. Go for shoes that are made for colder climates – preferably those also made *in* colder climates, because they likely care more about the end result.


    • That’s what the whole ‘walk like a penguin’ thing is about…taking shorter steps that have you stepping with your whole foot and keeping that weight centered. Lean forward a bit.
      Silk is cooling, and draws the moisture away from the body. I know that cooling sounds counter-intuitive (don’t I want to be warmer??), but this way you don’t sweat, and your body stays a comfortable temperature.
      I have a pair of ‘snow boots’ that are crap on ice. They are great for snow, and keep my feet warm…but are slippy as heck on the ice, which sucks. My rainboots, on the other hand, are great on the ice and snow…but the rubber holds the cold in, so if I’m in them for over an hour, or when I’m just standing around, my toes tend to freeze. Even with four pair of socks on. I’ll find the perfect shoes at some point. 🙂


      • In the military they taught us to wear wool socks against your skin to keep you warm and to let the moisture through without staying wet and then cotton on top of that to gather the moisture so it doesn’t get back to the skin. Worked pretty well even though we were sweating a lot in army boots that didn’t breathe at all. Didn’t get a single blister after switching to that system.

        As winter boots go, there are good ones and then there are the type that seem good but really aren’t…it seems that grip comes as an afterthought to many manufacturers.

        I can highly recommend the Finnish Sievi winter boots. Especially the ones that use their patented spike mechanism. (There’s a handle at the back of the boot that pushes small spikes out of the sole that really grabs the ice, and they are easily retracted when going inside. Here’s a video of someone testing them out; Warning, loud music: )

        They currently make three models of Sievi Spike shoes:
        • Ankle high 1 XL
        • The taller 2 XL
        • And the proper work-boot 70 XL

        Sieve shoes are sold by a large selection of retailers ( but they also have a shop of their own in Helsinki (Simonkatu 12,
        00100, HELSINKI)


      • When you say “walk like a penguin”, I think of short-stepped waddle, which I suppose is the instinctive response to slippery conditions, but you don’t have to waddle, and the steps don’t have to be granny-steps, because you mostly need to cut out only the excessive foot-swinging.
        But if this is still what you meant, which I don’t think the link conveyed very well, I suppose this is another case of branding that Americans seem to like. You know, instead of simply giving instructions, a picture and a slogan is added and it is made a thing.


  3. yesterday, yea that was damn cold. we kept saying how glad there wasn’t a wind when we were out walking in it.

    i’ve also learned all about the wool socks and the wicking. thank you finland!
    i got a good pair of wools on my 2nd winter and that is all that is needed.
    i can get away with just a set of hikipuku which is wicking… thank you hockey fin playing sons for that lesson.
    those are thin sort of ‘silky’ ‘spandex’ish’ style long underwear with a ‘duramax’ mark. not sure if that’s what you have. honestly i rarely ever need any extra on the top.

    the bottom i will either wear a pair of yoga pants over the hikipuku bottoms or ‘wind pants/ski pants’ that’s it.
    we get out for a hard walk and i come home sweaty even like yesterday at -12c.

    i have a pair of halti winter/hiking boots i LOVE they have been super on ice, snow and water.
    all of the above from budget sport i’ve picked up on super sales and off season.

    oh and winter walking jacket -70% at prisma off season.

    i still haven’t found the perfect pair of gloves. that’s my mission this year.


  4. I don’t know whether I do the penguin walk, but I have been told and shown how I walk – very funny. Apparently I take very short steps, walk gingerly, put on a great show of swing my arms but do not cover much ground. I am always afraid of falling and breaking something, I don’t know what that ‘something’ is, but I do not want to break it.


    • I walk slow…it’s not worth the rush to end up on my tailbone. This evening was particularly wretched…the snow has melted and refrozen, and now it’s like a skate park outside! I might invest in a pair of those slip on spikes. I didn’t fall, but I walked like I was told to — lean forward slightly, take careful steps, don’t push off, and keep feet slightly apart and toes pointed outwards slightly. Just sort of rock from side to side to get that forward locomotion. 🙂 I walked the dog this evening and didn’t slip, so I’ll look funny in exchange for staying upright!


      • The waddle isn’t necessary because you mostly have only one leg on the ground when walking anyway. You’ll have to step at the “center-line” then, though.


  5. The thing I personally hate about mild weather is that you can’t use any of you normal winter gear or you’ll die on heat stroke after a few steps.
    Today was a balmy -5C and it was hot even when using my indoor working gear that is a t-shirt, cotton shirt a vest and a light jacket.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s