Thursday, December 22, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas - Day Ten

On the tenth day of Prepping, my Prepper gave to me,

...thermal underwear
... a spice rack full of flavor;
... hand-tools for the kitchen;
... Forager's cooking kit;
... a Diva for the ladies;
...canning jars with rings;
... a cast iron skillet;
... a French coffee press;
... black turtle beans;
... and a sapling apple tree.

It's been a really warm winter here in Maine. Like today. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and it's warm enough that a little while ago, I stepped outside my door in bare feet and a short-sleeved tee-shirt to grab an armload of wood for the fire ... which I could probably allow to go out without any suffering on our part. According to weather reports - it's in the 50s today ... which is a typical late spring or early fall day time temperature.

On days like this, we don't need heat ... not really. This year it was such a warm fall, we didn't even fire up the woodstove until late October - almost Halloween.

Fact is, I think the average person could handle a lot less heat than we typically think we can. In the early fall, my family and I visited the Damariscotta River Association for a class on the way people lived in this area before the Europeans began settling here.

It was a fascinating talk, to say the least, but my favorite point was when we were talking about their housing, in particular during the winter, and one of the kids asked David, our guide, about staying warm. David talked about a couple of their techniques, but then, stated, simply, "They got used to it."

The fact is that they were a little chilly, but they stayed warm by acclimating themselves to the changing temperatures, by keeping moving when they were doing outside tasks, by doing sedentary tasks near the fire, and by dressing appropriately ... in layers.

It's taken me a lot of years of living up here where it's (supposed to be) colder to finally get that. It's never quite as cold as we think it is, if we're dressed appropriately, and I've spent many days outside for many hours in the snow and cold (for our nature classes and when skiing), but I never felt cold, because I'd be wearing layers of clothes, starting with the first layer ... underwear.

When it comes to undergarments, I'm defintely a Victoria's Secret gal. I like the fit, but I also like the quality. Three years ago I bought what one of my instructors in the military called a "foundation garment", and I'm still wearing it, and it's still in good shape after all of this time. I spent a lot of money on my initial purchase, but it's lasted a long time, too. Unfortunately, while it holds everything nice and snug, it does little to keep the rest of my core warm, and so I need a bit of extra clothing.

As such, I was very excited to learn that Victoria has discovered the secret of staying warm and has developed just the thing we need. She calls them Long Janes and hides them under the title of "pajamas", but we all know what they're for ... and they're cute, too.

For the prepper, long underwear is an investment in personal comfort for when whole house heating might not be an option or for those times when it doesn't make sense to turn on the heat, but it's cold enough to feel the chill without an extra layer or two.

For the non-prepper, Victoria's Long Janes are a beautiful gift (if anyone is still looking for something for me, I like the ones with stars :), and for the guys, L.L. Bean has some great choices.

We don't have to sacrifice comfort in a lower energy world, but we might have to change our ideas about what "comfort" means ... and it might mean adding an extra layer, or two, when the temperatures drop.

**Per an anonymous reader's request, I have contacted Victoria's Secret to inquire as to whether or not their Long Janes are treated with flame retardants (in the way that children's pajamas often are). The company rep's response is below. Please feel free to contact Victoria's Secret if you have any other questions regarding their product(s).


Dear Wendy,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. I am happy to assist you.

I checked the product information, and found no indication that our thermal long jane pajamas are treated with flame retardants. I hope this information is helpful.



Jennifer G. Customer Service
Phone 1.800.475.1935 or (outside the U.S. and Canada) 1.937.438.4197
Fax 1.937.438.4290


  1. My choice for thermal underwear is silk. I lived in Saskatoon for 10 years, where -30 is the norm every winter, -40 is not unusual, and even -50 is not that surprising. I went 7 years without a car there, walking almost everywhere, or using the bus - and trust me, standing, waiting for it to arrive is COLD. The last two years there I had a dog, which meant daily walks, no matter what the temperature.

    I'm an expert on cold :) And silk is the way to go. Long-lasting, not bulky, and it also doesn't make you overly warm once inside.

    Silk top and bottoms, wool socks, regular clothes (generally two top layers), a good parka, snowpants, good boots, a hat, a scarf (I actually prefer a "tube" you pull on over your head), and a pair of stretchy gloves, topped with good mittens (that way, your hands don't get too cold if you have to take your gloves off to do something like hunt for your keys in the snowbank where you dropped them), and you'll be prepared for everything.

    And yes, acclimation and activity cannot be stressed enough. -20 in November is COLD, in December is cool, in January is okay, and in February is a nice sunny day :)

  2. Since these are cotton, and labeled as pajamas instead of "lounge wear", does that mean they are treated with fire retardants? Or do only children's pajamas have to be treated?

  3. AGreed with K--the sitting for the bus is the worst. Brrr!
    Long johns were a staple growing up. Down here though, it's just not cold enough!

  4. Anonymous 9:44 AM - if you're really interested and not just be facetious and/or argumentative, I recommend that you contact Victoria's Secret and ask them that question.

  5. We have Duofold Originals long underwear which is wool on the outside and brushed cotton on the inside. It's "low activity" weight, which means that not only is it not itchy (thanks to the cotton insides), it's also really, really warm. And very thin, so it doesn't bulk up under your clothes. I can wear the leggings with just my knee-high wool socks and jeans in the winter and spend all day outside in the snow, so long as I'm moving around.

    I love wool.

  6. I've never actually been able to use anything from Victoria's secret...I got a gift card once, and went in there. I tried the largest size they had and it was far too small. The saleslady offered to measure me, and told me I was an EEE cup, which they didn't offer.

    Of course, after three children, I'm now wearing an H cup and it's almost too small, so I don't think Victoria's Secret will be getting much business from me (unless, of course, they widen their sizes dramatically).

    Must admit I'm envious of you. Their bra's always look so pretty and sexy, I've always wanted to own one.

  7. Well I certainly didn't mean to sound facetious/argumentative, I apologize. I do know that we never ever buy clothing intended to be sleepwear (labeled as pajamas) for the kids because of the extremely toxic fire retardant chemicals they are required to have. Organic cotton must be labeled "loungewear". I did think you may already know if adult "pajamas" were also required to be coated with the chemicals, as I suspect they are, so was curious enough to ask. again, I aplogize for my unintended tone.

  8. Anon 7:46 AM - I'm sorry, but I do not know if adult pajamas are treated - mostly because we don't buy pajamas. I make pajamas for my family members.

    I didn't post my comments about Victoria's Secret pajamas because they were "pajamas", but because they are pretty "long johns" that might be appealing to someone who doesn't have "prepping on the brain" - like I do ;).

    I'm very sorry if I came across rather harsh and that I, apparently, misunderstood your question, and I really do understand your concerns. I haven't been able to find anything out, yet, as there are no definitive answers about adult pajamas being treated. But I have contacted Victoria's Secret, and when I hear from them, I'll be sure to post.

  9. I'm firmly in the "silk" camp for thermal under-garmets, finally switching a few years ago when the non-itchy Merino wool sets I had wore out. I wish I had known sooner how warm (and so thin!) the silks are...

  10. When Dad was tranferred to northern Minnesota, we all got a set of cotton long johns, probably from Target. They were a waffley fabric and after a couple of washings got shorter and tighter, but they did help. Maybe 18 years ago I broke down and forked over $84(completely out of my budget) for a set of Patagonias. But, I still use them to this day and they still fit, so not a bad investment after all.

    brenda from arkansas