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When You’re Left in the Cold, Look for a Ranked Winter Coat

By Nina Bai
Oct 17, 2008 2:34 AMNov 5, 2019 5:20 AM


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In times like these, you can depend on little else besides the coat on your back. But before you plunk that down payment on a new winter coat, don’t you want to know if it’ll keep you warm when temperatures plummet?Elizabeth McCullough, a professor of textiles at Kansas State University, thinks cold-weather clothing manufacturers ought to adopt a standard temperature ratings system, and they ought to do it now.

Currently, companies like The North Face and L.L. Bean specify a temperature rating for their coats—the lowest temperature at which you can be comfortable—but their ratings don’t all follow the same scale.Ratings vary depending on what the manufacturer assumes you are wearing underneath and which body heat model they use. McCullough thinks it would be better to choose a standard model and make sure that the thermal manikins used to test for insulation always wear the same outfit.

McCullough is now leading a committee at the American Society for Testing and Materials to develop an industry-wide formula for temperature ratings. This would give consumers a better idea of how their coats will perform in situ, especially if they’re ordering online or from catalogs.This would also help them avoid hypothermia—no joke if they find themselves without a roof over their heads.

McCullough’s tips to survive the cold, lean times: The warmest coats are the ones that trap a layer of insulating air next to your body, such as those filled with down or fiberfill.And always wear a hat, because the blood vessels in your head don’t constrict like those elsewhere in your body.

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Image: flickr/ trialsanderrors

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