Staying Warm while Vegan

…Without moving to a tropical climate.  I live in the Rocky Mountains at 9,000 feet above sea level and I like living here.  Even when it’s 13 degrees Fahrenheit outside during the day and especially when it’s snowing. 

Wanna go for a swim?

Veganize your winter wardrobe! What to avoid:

  • Wool
  • Fur (DUH!)
  • Leather
  • Feathers (i.e., down)
  • Silk
  • Angora
  • Pearl/shell

That’s the obvious stuff.  The less obvious and more fanatical things to avoid are glues in shoes and boots.  However, since you’re trying to avoid all sources of animal cruelty, it’s good to know how things are made and with what ingredients, both for your own ethical consistency and to educate others.  Should you immediately jettison all animal product containing socks, coats, shoes, belts, etc. in your household?  No, unless you have an unlimited budget to spend on vegan products to replace what you’re right now.  Let’s be reasonable here.  What do you do with your old stuff? Wear it until it’s worn out, or donate it, if it makes you skeeved out to wear something from an–most likely–abused factory farm animal.  When people (unlikely, because people are sheeple and unobservant) call you out for wearing leather, wool, silk, or feathers, you can educate them about why these things are not OK, but you’re wearing out your items until they are no longer useful.


Now, PETA’s list of natural vegan fabrics is all well and good, if you’re looking to update your wardrobe, but again, unless you’re well-off and live in southern California, those fabrics will not keep you warm in the snow (exception: bamboo does, see here, for about the same price as synthetic upper-tier athletic gear).  “Cotton kills,” as the saying goes, because if you wear a cotton base layer while doing winter sports, your sweat will freeze and you will be in a world of frozen hurt.  Yes, it would be ideal to choose natural, eco-friendly alternatives to wool in the winter (and summer–hiking socks!), but sometimes…synthetics are the middle ground.

Are synthetic fabrics such as polyester eco-friendly?  Yes and no.  Polyester is made from petroleum, so buying non-recycled polyester is not helping avoid the planet’s dependency on oil.  However, polyester production consumes less water than animal fibre production.  Isn’t water conservation a common reason for going vegan?

I wear thermals almost every day, and my best (and longest-lasting) thermals are Underarmour (we must protect this house) and Freeze-Out.  I’ve worn my Freeze-Out jacket while motorcycling, bicycling, touring Scotland, camping, and around the house, and it always works to reflect back my body heat.  It’s one of the best (sale) purchases I’ve ever made, hands down.  I’m looking into getting some cross-country skiing gear, and now I want to try bamboo, since it’s about the same price as the synthetics I already like.  We shall see how it performs!

Serious note: one of the major drawbacks to wearing synthetics is that you can be devastatingly injured if you catch on fire, as the fibres will melt to your skin.  That is no joke.

Vegan boots: I’m going to leave this to other people who compile lists, lists, and lists.

Apparently vegans don’t have wide feet, because one of the few brands of hiking boots that comes in wide (Vasque) doesn’t have a vegan option.  Vegans are not all underweight ectomorphs with perfect narrow feet.  I better get on that letter-writing campaign and ask for a vegan, wide, waterproof, and tall shaft hiking boot option.  Just because a brand “runs wide” doesn’t mean the shoes are wide.  Unfortunately, I prioritize the continued function of my feet over animal welfare, since I don’t want to have another surgery due to flat feet folded in bad shoes (but hey, Doc Martens now sells vegan boots for fashion).

Now that you have some general ideas about what you put on your body, what about what you put in your body?  Being vegan won’t necessarily lower your core body temperature, unless you’re vitamin deficient and not eating enough calories (i.e., starving, intentionally or not).  If you’re cold all the time and notice changes in your skin and digestion, get thee to a medical doctor and a nutritionist right away. 

If you live in a temperate climate that has winter, why in frozen hell would you eat tropical fruit during said winter?  The foods that are natively available in an area are there for a reason.  Tropical fruits are generally full of water and have a cooling effect on the body, because people and animals eat them in a hot environment.   The energetics of food may seem a little “woo-woo” (not that I ever shy away from that kind of nutrition on this blog), but consider the contrasts.  Cold outside environment equals ingest warming foods!  Macrobiotics and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have diagrammed out different foods and the seasons, and how to stay in harmony with seasonal change.  For the cold, wet, dark, yin time of year, eat yang, hot, dry, warming foods.  My favourite book on macrobiotics is Jessica Porter’s The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics and I regret giving away my copy.

Stay warm out there, vegans!  You can’t very well tell off fur hat-wearing people when you’re shivering, can you? 😉

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