We feel cold, so we feel threatened that we’ll get even colder, but knowing how to deal with it and carrying a sweater without wearing it may be reassuring. Mood can affect tolerance for cool weather by about ten degrees Fahrenheit. You might wear a coat indoors and no coat outdoors and be comfortable both times, minutes apart. And maybe wearing a coat is for an irrelevant reason. When you’re just in shirt sleeves, they’ll think you’re nuts. That’s a technical term. This is psychology.


Most of us wear bulky stuff on a cold day. When we’re cold anyway, we figure the clothing couldn’t handle it and we blame the weather. We don’t notice how badly the clothing is designed.

Confident While Frozen

Cold air in moderation is more symbolic than threatening. If you’re outside without a coat and a frigid blast smacks your face, you likely worry that it’ll get worse and you didn’t bring your coat. You feel like you’ll die, even when, objectively, it’s not that bad.

Carrying a coat, even when you’re not wearing it, gives you more confidence about brisk cold snaps. You know you can put it on, even if you never do. You know you’ll be fine. You become more tolerant, more indifferent to the weather. You won’t get blown away.

Often, a sweater or sweatshirt is good enough insurance. In the winter, one’s usually in my backpack. When I had no backpack, I often tied a sweater around my waist like a belt (my method was to roll it up with the sleeves sticking out, so it looked like a rope, then to pull it around near where my belt goes and tie the ends of the sleeves together). On cold days, people were surprised that I hadn’t put it over my chest. But I knew I had it, just in case. So I was comfortable in rolled-up shirt sleeves down to mid-30s Fahrenheit without a breeze, and I could needle other people. It’s kind of fun to needle other people.


Feeling personally up or down — as in psychology — may be worth 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, maybe much more. If I feel bad, I feel colder in cool air. If I enjoy it, my body feels pleasantly cool, not very cold.

Coat Indoors and Coatless Outdoors

Dressing warmly, then going indoors and still being comfortable, you might conclude that the warm clothing is even more necessary outdoors. Not always. It’s possible to be fine in a coat indoors and fine coatless outdoors. It depends on the weather, your clothing, and you. Comfort ranges are normal.


You know, maybe people wear coats partly to keep a psychological space or barrier from other people. Maybe that’s a good idea. Men’s coats tend to look thicker, perhaps reflecting views about what’s sufficient for women. That’s an interesting topic for analysis.

You’re Weird

“You’re crazy.” That’s common. In a single day, five people talked to me about this. I was out in rolled-up shirtsleeves. The temperature was likely in the 40s Fahrenheit. It was windy. My sweater stayed in my backpack. I liked the day.

One fellow walked around even on very cold days wearing a shirt and an undershirt. Nothing else up there. He didn’t act drugged up or incompetent. His job was partly outdoors. I worked with him. I was still wearing a coat pretty often and didn’t think what he was doing was healthy, but I didn’t say anything to him about it. Only in the last few years did I decide he might have been right all along, when I’m doing it myself.

You’re not crazy. The rest of the world can use a little fixing. And not even the whole world needs it, most of the world may be relieved to know. Mainly we’re talking about the people in the temperate zone, and mostly they're on the north side of the planet, like northern and mid-latitudes U.S., southern Canada, Britain, France, much of Eastern Europe, southern Russia, northern People's Republic of China, and the Koreas, more or less. You’re being rational, not habit-bound, when you wear only what you need.

Red crabapples on branches and covered with ice.

We fear freezing, mood affects cold-tolerance, and a coat indoors and no coat outdoors can both be comfortable. But people will think you’re nuts.

Websites of Interest

These websites have some interesting content, although I disagree with some of it:


Hiking organizations:

General retailers of outdoor products:

General information: