Winter Riding Gear Guide
- December 6, 2017
- Jolyn Young
Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh sounds fun, mostly because a person can snuggle down under a warm blanket while riding in a sleigh. But what about riding through the snow on the back of a horse? That activity can still be fun all winter long, if you do a little research and purchase some heavy-duty (but not expensive) winter gear. Read on for a head-to-toe gear guide, plus some frugal shopping tips.
Head: Many working cowboys and cowgirls swap out their cowboy hats for scotch caps in the wintertime. These are also called “railroad caps” and come in styles with or without ear flaps. Tuck the flaps up when not in use, or bring them down when it’s bitterly cold. Buy a furry style and leave the ear flaps flying straight out at all times for a “crazy Elmer Fudd” look.
Stormy Kromer makes cute, colorful scotch caps for ladies.
Neck/facial area: Wild rags are popular during all seasons, and especially during the winter for extra warmth. Choose pure silk for the warmest, softest material – but, this type is also the priciest. Standard sized silk scarves (36″x36″) usually start at around $40 for solid colors. Polyester wild rags are plenty warm, plus they are cheaper and come in a wider variety of colors and patterns.
Body – base layer: You’ll definitely want some kind of long underwear to layer under your jeans when riding in cold weather. Boiled wool provides a silky-soft, super-warm option, and synthetics like those made by Under Armour also pull moisture away from your body. Under Armour makes long underwear in a variety of warmth levels, so you can choose one that is just right for your needs, whether you’re riding in damp, foggy 50-degree weather or frigid, snowing 0-degree weather.
Base layers have come a long ways since the union suit! PS, if you Google “union suit images,” you’ll see some slightly disturbing pictures of men wearing revealing long underwear. You’ve been warned.
Body – sweater: These are great for putting over your base layer and button-up cowboy shirt. 100% wool sweaters are the warmest, and 100% cotton sweaters are a step down on the warmth-o-meter. I am super picky and only use sweaters made from 100% natural fibers, because acrylic or blends simply aren’t as warm. Don’t be scared of the hefty price tag on wool sweaters made by premier companies such as Pendleton – used clothing is definitely a buyer’s market, so check secondhand stores or auction sites like Ebay for screaming deals on like-new items. We bought a 100% wool Patagonia sweater for $12 once. $12!!! You can’t even buy a meal for two at Burger King for that kind of money! Be sure and type in the gender, size and fiber of the sweater you’re looking for to eliminate looking through hundreds of unsuitable listings.
Pendleton sweaters retail for right around $100, so this slightly used one is basically 75% off. Let’s hear it for good deals!
Body – jacket: There’s a HUGE variety of jackets on the market, from down to wool to synthetic to blends to anything else you can imagine. I prefer natural fibers such as wool or down, because they are the warmest. Wool provides a sleeker, more fitted shape, but it is also heavier than down. Jackets filled with down or a down/feather mix are lighter, but also puffier. Whichever type you choose, just make sure it’s roomy enough that you can still lift your arm to swing your saddle over your horse’s back, swing a rope, and do other athletic maneuvers required of a horse person.
Gloves: Most cowboys use plain ol’ cotton gloves even during the really cold winter months. Unfortunately, wearing bulky, super-warm gloves isn’t very practical for people who have to also hold bridle reins and swing a rope. If you decide to go all-out for winter gear, mittens are the warmest, and they can be removed for performing tasks that require nimble, albeit cold, fingers.
Leggings: Woolies are the warmest, but the price is pretty steep and only truly justifiable if you are pounding leather in sub-freezing temperatures on a regular basis. Swapping out chinks for shotgun-style chaps is a more affordable way to add warmth without breaking the bank.
So pretty, so soft, so fringe-y, so buck stitched, so warm.
Feet: Wool socks are an absolute must for winter riding. Make sure you choose a pair that isn’t scratchy; boiled wool or wool blends are usually silky soft and feel great on your tootsies. Because all the rough, tough cowboys and cowgirls say “tootsies.” Slip your feet into a pair of snow pack boots, such as those made by Cabela’s or Schnee’s, for the warmest way to walk (and ride) through winter. Using rubber-soled snow boots is dangerous with oxbow or other narrow stirrups, so pick a wider, flat-bottomed stirrup or buy specialized overshoe stirrups to prevent hanging up in case you come off your horse.
One last tip for the really cold crowd: Stick a couple Hot Hands packs in your pockets. You can crunch them up during the coldest part of your ride for some relief. The company also makes a specially shaped kind that fits in your boots for warm toes.
Feel free to leave any stay-warm tips in the comment section. Happy winter riding!
About Jolyn Young
Jolyn Young lives on Mann Lake Ranch in eastern Oregon with her husband and their two small kids. For more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....