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What to wear to enjoy the autumn chill

dressing for autumn walks

The National Trust is expecting a gloriously colourful autumn in 2020, as the heat of the summer encourages trees to turn red and golden. That’s an excellent reason to get out for a walk as much as possible now. It doesn’t have to be a visit to the grand landscapes of the National Trust. In the UK we’re lucky that trees still feature even in urban landscapes, and many of them have been planted with colour in mind.

Getting outside is something to consider even as we head into winter, especially in what could be difficult days ahead in what is already a difficult year. The vitamin D we get from sunshine – albeit weakly in winter – is said to help with the immune system. And exercise combined with sunlight can promote better mental health.

Hardy types are fond of telling us there’s no such thing as the wrong weather, just the wrong choices of clothing.

So what to wear when you’re feeling the cold more than you used to? Here are a few thoughts.

Let’s start at the top.


It’s one of those often-quoted ‘facts’ that we lose most heat through our heads. The truth is apparently a little more complicated.

Scientists argue that losing heat through our heads doesn’t make us colder, not least because our heads only accounts for around 7% of our surface area. However, if we’re wrapped up warm across the rest of our bodies, then it makes sense that the head becomes a top spot for heat loss.

Hats generally make us feel warmer, regardless of the science, and they’re an easy item to pop on if we start to feel cold. Knitted hats are easy to stow in pockets, comfortable to wear – and can give keen knitters and crocheters a project on dark evenings.

Necks and faces

In today’s virus-struck world, neck warmers can not only help to keep us warm, but the right ones can also double as face coverings in enclosed environments.

Thin fabric scarves are still a favourite with some, and while they might not be the thickest of neck warmers, they can be worn with indoor clothing as well as outdoor. Traditional outdoor scarves from thick fabric and wool are continuing favourites, and the ‘infinity scarves’, which have no ends but wrap around the neck a couple of times, are a stylish contribution to keeping necks warm. Also worth considering are the fleecy neck warmers or snoods, often used in winter sports.

A new idea to me is the snarf, a combination of scarf and snood – hence the name. If you’re one of the many who have made friends with a sewing machine over the course of lockdown, you might like to try your hand at making one.


A number of thin layers is better than thick clothes. That’s what I was told in preparation for a trip to Lapland. And while we’re unlikely to need 5 layers of clothing for the climate here in the UK, it’s no bad thing to be able to add and remove layers as the temperature changes.

Base layers are the friend of outdoor sportspeople, and they’re a good idea for keeping everybody warm. And if the fabric is a wicking one, they’ll make sure that the wearer doesn’t get affected by the damp of sweating that vigorous walking might encourage.

Many of us don’t really have ‘big coats’ anymore, because we move from warm homes to cars to shops and back again without having to brave the winter airs for too long. But not everyone travels by car, and with more people trying to get a walk in every day, the heavy coat won’t be going away.

Our friends in retail highlight a problem though. Shops tend to be kept at a temperature that’s kind to staff. That can mean anyone wearing outdoor clothing can overheat. While a cup of tea and sit-down often provides a cure, it’s even better to take preventative action by removing some outdoor clothing – hats, gloves, scarves – and popping them in a shopping bag until it’s time to brave the outdoors again.


Gloves are a staple of warm clothing. Woollen gloves can be fabulous, but a little unwieldy, unless you opt for fingerless gloves. Mitten are probably the most impractical of all.

What to choose and how to wear them can be down to what you want to do. Do you need the agility to manage cash, or, more likely today, pull out a card from a wallet and wave it at a machine? Is constant access to a mobile and its finger pad important? Or will the gloves stay on for the day?

A different approach is to use pocket hand warmers. While you can choose single-use versions, there are also many slightly more expensive but more environmentally kind reusable products that can be heated up and slipped into pockets or gloves for extra toastiness.


As scouts, my boys used to wear two layers of socks – thin underneath thick. This kept their feet dry and warm as they rambled through the great outdoors.

But for those who are just nipping out to the shops, it’s important not to wear so much padding that shoes become uncomfortable.

What is worthwhile is trying some of the grips available to pop on over the top of shoes and boots to give some grip on icy surfaces. That’s particularly important as we age, because not only we more prone to losing our balance, but bones do tend to become more likely to break. So staying upright and in one piece is a priority.

Even if it’s not icy, footwear with some grip to cope with mud and uneven surfaces is well worth considering. I love Sketchers for comfort, but surprisingly there is no grip on my pair and I do slide in the mud, so checking underneath before buying is a good idea.


Photo by Lipiński Tomasz on Unsplash

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