Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cold and Wet Weather Gear

This past weekend, I took my kids to their soccer games as I usually do on weekends in the fall. It was a total Mud Bowl. Yuck.

Personally, I hate soccer in November because the weather is invariably nasty---rain, wind, cold, or worse.

Saturday was all of those....plus the worse. As in thunder and lightning. The ref wouldn't call the game at first because they only heard thunder. (Well, duh, if there's thunder then there must be lightning somewhere nearby as well! Potential safety issue, anyone?)

Finally, in the second half of the game, in the TORRENTIAL rain, winds blowing like crazy, and wind chill near freezing, there's a clear flash of lightning and a crash of thunder soon after. So finally, the game was called.

One more week of soccer to go. Hopefully it won't snow at next week's game, but I'm not holding my breath.

Ugh. I've got to get some new cold-weather clothing.

Why I Need Cold-Weather Gear More Than Most

First, you should know that I'm a VERY cold person....as in, I hate the cold and I get cold very very easily.

I think it's part of my hypothyroidism---I have a very narrow range of temperature in which I am comfortable, and a real tendency towards being cold, even when others around me are okay. Even though (with medication), my TSH and other readings are in the "ideal" range now, I still feel cold with very little provocation. And when I'm cold, I'm miserable.

My family laughs about how cold I am. I went RV camping a couple of years ago and sleeping beside me, my toddler was wearing a diaper and nothing else and was on top of the comforter....and she was fine. My DH had on only shorts and a t-shirt and he was fine. I was wearing full WARM clothes with mittens and was under a down comforter....and I was still freezing.

I just have very poor temperature regulation, for whatever reason, even with supposedly "well-treated" hypothyroidism. So when I say I need good gear for cold weather, I mean it.

Items That Work For Me

This summer I was talking with my nephews (who are avid hikers) and they recommended "Smartwool." So I got some Smartwool socks and gloves when I was at REI, buying fitness clothes for my kids.

Saturday was my first real chance to use them. They were awesome. I had thought, wool....ugh. But really, they were very comfortable and not itchy at all. And they did keep me noticeably warmer than cotton or fleece. It wasn't a cure-all---my hands still got cold by the end---but it was definitely better than what I already had, while being less bulky to boot.

Unfortunately, some of the best cold gear doesn't come in plus sizes. When I saw all the nice stuff available at REI for my kids, I really was struck by the difference in what's available in "regular" sizes and what's available in "plus" sizes. Additionally, I was frustrated at just how inferior a lot of the stuff available in plus sizes is, especially the higher range of plus sizes. Frustrating!!!

For example, Junonia is where I usually go when I want something for sports, fitness, or outdoors in my size. I typically wear about a 4x or 26/28 (anything from 3x to 5x, depending on the company, but I like things loose and I've got a 'rack,' so I prefer to be generous in sizing) and Junonia is one of the few places where I can get that kind of gear in my size, not just the "tweenie" sizes.

Junonia carries a lot of great stuff in many ways, so I do generally recommend them as a company----but I've also been disappointed by some of their stuff before. Many things have been fine, but I've ordered more than a few things from them that really disappointed me...which is bad cause they are
not cheap. And just when I find a type of swimsuit or fitness pant that I do really like from them, they discontinue it. Augh!

However, I had a revelation this fall. I realized that a number of companies carry good outdoor gear in MEN'S plus sizes, often up to 2-4x (generously sized), and because MEN'S plus-sizes run larger than women's plus sizes, it's one way to find gear in extended sizes for me.

This is a decent way to fill in the gap, I've discovered. Women's plus sizes often end at XL or 2x if you're lucky, but a Woman's 2x is a lot smaller than a Man's 2x. Some Men's 2x sizes fit me (depends on the company), whereas a Woman's 2x usually won't.

And oftentimes, the Men's plus-size range extends into larger sizes than the Women's plus sizes. So Men's plus sizes can be a great way to get decent cold-gear stuff in extended sizes for women who need a little extra room.

For example, L.L. Bean carries a lot of great outdoorsy stuff....but most of their women's stuff ends at an XL, or about a size 18. However, their men's stuff mostly ends at a 2x, some of which fits me (a Woman's 4x).

At Lands' End, women's sizes go to 3x in some limited items, with a couple of new 4x and 5x items (but their size chart only goes to 3x, so it's hard to tell what their "4x" and "5x" really means in real life). BUT men's sizes at Lands End go to 4x, and it's likely that their 4x is much bigger than the equivalent in women's sizes.

But isn't it maddening that men's plus sizes are readily available in a much wider range of sizes than women's plus sizes are? And particularly in practical stuff like cold and fitness gear?

Another sign of the double standard out there....it's okay for MEN to be plus-sized and even very plus-sized....but not for women. Women are only allowed to be a little bit plus-sized, if at all.

And of course, why bother to supply cold or fitness gear for very plus-sized women because we all know they can't be doing any activities that require such gear, right? But on the other hand, we all know that very plus-sized men do need this sort of thing....just not the chicks. Ugh!!! (Fashion Pet Peeve #548 and #549, I guess.)

So anyhow, I took a chance and ordered a wool long underwear/sweater from L.L. Bean in a Men's 2x. I didn't think it would fit me but it did. A little snugger across the behind than I prefer but definitely workable. It's been GREAT.

I also ordered a really nice Men's hoodie coat, lined with a special fleece, from L.L. Bean. I was looking for something for that "in between" weather----don't quite need a full-on winter coat, but a light jacket just won't cut it. But this works great for in between weather and even into light winter weather. I'm loving this jacket more and more each day, and just discovered that they have an even more insulated version of the same coat, so I'm thinking about getting that too.

Footgear - A Special Problem

Footgear is a particular problem for me because I have abnormally large legs, probably from lipedema. Most people have never heard of lipedema, and most fat people don't have it....but lucky me, I probably do. Here's a definition from biglegwoman's blog:
Lipedema -- sometimes spelled lipodema or lipoedema -- is a hereditary condition which causes patients (almost always women) to store excess fat in the lower body, particularly the lower legs.
This is not the same as lymphedema, mind. In lipedema, the size is from excess fat being deposited there, not a malfunction of the lymph glands as in lymphedema (although lymphedema can sometimes be a side effect of lipedema). Also, lipedema is bilateral (on both legs) and lymphedema usually is not.

Anyhow, that's another post. The relevance here is that it's hard for me, with my very large-sized calves (and cankles, I haz dem too), to get boots for wet or cold weather. Impossible, in fact---at least so far. Even the places I've found online that cater to boots for wide calves don't go up to my size. Not even the ones that specialize in super-wide calves. I could have a pair custom-made, but that's prohibitively expensive.

So I have yet to find boots to wear to keep my chronically-cold tootsies warm and dry.
Instead, I try to buy warm footwear that ends at the ankle.

In the past I've used Duck Shoes, but find they tend to cut off the circulation in my feet. Wore them to one soccer game this fall and didn't feel my pinky toe on one foot for most of the rest of the day. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

So I went to Lands End recently to see if there were any men's or women's shoes for winter weather and found these. I wore them with my Smartwool socks this weekend and my feet did indeed stay warm and dry, despite the Mud Bowl conditions. Huzzah!!

If I were walking in deep puddles or got really splashed, I'd still get wet and cold, but hey, I'd get the same with the duck shoes and at least I don't lose feeling in my feet in these shoes.

What I Still Need

One thing I forgot to wear this weekend was long underwear on my legs so they'd stay warmer. I do have a pair from L.L. Bean---so next time, I'm definitely going to remember to try them out.

But my pants to totally wet last weekend because the wind was blowing the rain so hard. So I've decided that I have to get some rain pants, preferably some that keep you warm too.

I'm contemplating buying these or these from Junonia, so if you have feedback on either, I'd like to hear it.

I'd also like to know if there are any other choices out there. Men's clothing isn't really an option here because I'm really short, more curvy in the hip than most men, and I'm not handy enough with a needle to hem or size them properly.

So does anyone have any fabulous options or recommendations for wind/rain/cold weather gear for the higher range of plus sizes? Especially rain pants?

Are there any other decent companies out there that specialize in sports, fitness, or cold-weather gear for women and have extended plus sizes? (I'm not talking about Lane Bryant or Roaman's or Just My Size, I mean companies that
specialize in this type of item.) I'd love to have some more options to choose from.

Let me know what you've used that works for you, and any other resources you find. Share it in the comments section so others will know about it too.

And send me some warm, dry thoughts for Saturday! (And tonight too, I have an outdoor activity going tonight as well.)


Anonymous said...

I wish I had some suggestions for you, but I'm afraid I don't off the top of my head. But I had to comment on this:
"But isn't it maddening that men's plus sizes are readily available in a much wider range of sizes than women's plus sizes are? And particularly in practical stuff like cold and fitness gear?"
You know, here where I live (major city in the South), the problem's even worse than this. We don't even have an REI, EMS, or any other kind of major sporting-goods store. I'm an avid outdoors person and wanted to pick up a cool new fleece for the winter, so went to what's basically the only local option - Academy, an outdoors/sporting goods store. They had a decent variety of nice, well-designed, stylish and functional fleeces - in the men's section. In the women's section? Oh, women don't need functional outdoor wear. All they had was gym/workout gear, with a couple flimsy, shoddy "fleeces" for the gym in bright pink or purple. Gag! I miss my local REI in my NW hometown!

Anonymous said...

As an avid backcountry skiier and hiker, I feel your pain about lack of good outdoor gear in plus sizes. My go-to brand has become Sporthill, which offers some plus sizes up to 4x (as a size 24, I fit comfortably in a 3x). While the clothes are expensive (although sometimes you can find them on clearance on REIoutlet.com), I have never been disappointed in the quality and I no longer have to head back in early because my makeshift gear leaves me wet, cold, and in danger of hypothermia. In terms of rain pants, I was lucky in that I fit into the women's 3x in the REI Ultra Light Rain Pants. They are quite roomy and totally waterproof. Try them, they might work for you! Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Not sure if they'd work for you, but I tried on at Shoe Carnival the "trail" boot by White Mountain, and was very room in the leg with some expansion space as it closes with elastic toggles. For outdoor wear I had a Columbia Sportswear coat a few years ago I really like and I have a simple fleece from them that I loved. They offer sizes up to 3x in select items.

Laureen said...


I love love love love my Icebreaker stuff. http://www.icebreaker.com/
It's durable. Comfortable. Startlingly warm when layered. It is from New Zealand, where they totally know about cold and wet. Looks like women's sizes go up to XXL in some styles, only XL in others.

lowbudgetcyborg said...

I've recently re-discovered how awesome Land's End is, both for outerwear and office wear.

I got these shoes


and I'm thrilled with them. They are super warm. I was trying to describe them to my mom and I said "They are like a pair of duck boots mated with snow pants." I love that Land's End reliably has good shoes in wide sizes.

I swear by wool accessories. I learned to knit so I could have mittens that fit my small hands and winter socks that fit my short, wide feet.

I'm a 3x in most stores and I don't know where I would look for stuff bigger than that. WalMart is the only place my ex-boyfriend could find stuff that fit him. He's 7 feet tall and wears men's 4x.

Anonymous said...

Urgh. I feel your pain. I'm a 5x and have been looking for rain gear--both pants and a jacket--for ages. I'm an avid camper and I work outdoor events a couple of times a year so I really need rain gear. I did find a jacket (men's, of course) from Cabela's, but it doesn't fit me well. I have problems with the fit of men's clothes, but I don't have any other choice as far as I can tell. Men's clothes tend to have way to much shoulder room and not enough chest and belly room. I've been looking for gear that fits me for over 3 years now. And don't even get me started on how hard it has been to find a winter coat that fits (and how much shipping I've wasted trying to find one as I can't walk into a plus-size store and find one that fits me either).

Anonymous said...

If they cost less or can be bought locally (avoiding shipping costs), it may still be worthwhile to buy men's clothes and hire a seamstress to hem them for you.

Tami said...

Have you seen this?


Anonymous said...

I found your blog when I searched for "Plus size cold weather Gear".
I got a job teaching High School in Alaska. My Idaho gear is just not holding up. It's -22 degrees C outside right now. Thanks for the suggestions.

Kathleen said...

I have an eddie bauer winter coat and I love it. I got it from a friend who was a smaller size than me a few years ago. It had been given to her after a friend of her family had passed away along with a lot of other really nice clothing. The coat was bigger than the other clothing and she didn't like how it fit on her so I inherited it. Sure it was used but it was in wonderful shape and after being cleaned it's been a great coat.

They go up to a 26/28 4x on their website but I am not sure how the fit would be for you since everyone's body is different and I'm a rather flat chested big girl and you mentioned that you aren't. I was a B cup prior to pregnancy.

Claire M. said...

Hi, it's a long time since you left your post, but I did find something. I am just starting hiking, and am looking to see what is available that I might need. I found this site:


It is for industrial gear, but sizes in the yellow rain suit go up to a 6x in womens. That is listed as 38-40.

Shira said...

Hey! I've been reading your blog for a couple of years now and for some reason totally missed that you have lipoedema; I've got it too, I inherited it from my mum. My sister has it too, which makes me pretty worried that if I ever have a daughter she'll inherit it from me. The lipoedema (and PCOS, but mostly the lipoedema) is the reason my BMI is 47 and I have had such trouble getting fertility treatment; you know what it's like for fat women. Now I'm getting the treatment (and am about to embark on yet another cycle after multiple failures and multiple miscarriages), I'm making plans for a pregnancy and birth which do not involve hospital in any way. Did you find that your legs/lower half got significantly bigger on a permanent basis as a result of pregnancy? Last time I was pregnant, my legs got bigger in the six weeks of pregnancy than they had in the three years preceding, so carrying to term could well cause me some major damage.

Well-Rounded Mama said...

Thanks for all the ideas, folks. If anyone else has further ideas, please be sure to amend the list in comments.

Someone recently pointed me to another resource, which is www.hhworkwear.com. This is not cheap because it's professional-level stuff for folks like EMTs, police officers, firefighters, etc. who have to be out in the rain and snow a lot, but there's a variety of choices in various degrees of hard-coreness. It's based on the layering idea, so you can buy various components or a whole outfit.

If you are a serious backpacker, hiker, or wilderness person and you need larger sizes, this has a lot of choices for you. The women's sizes only go to 2x, natch, but the men's sizes go to 4x.

I haven't bought from them yet because this is pricy stuff, but I may yet get some of the layering stuff. All in all, another good resource to know about.