Whether you live in a location that naturally experiences cold weather, or you actively seek out snow for recreational purposes, you're bound to learn the value of quality winter clothing. Apparel that's too breathable, like a cotton sweatshirt, will soak up moisture like a sponge. Apparel that's not breathable enough, like a plastic emergency poncho, will trap your body's sweat leaving you feeling stifled and hot.
In fact, non-breathable winter gear can be even worse than absorbent cotton in some circumstances. It will shock your body into overheating, dehydrate you through excessive sweating, and tempt you to remove clothing layers. If you do remove layers, your sweat will cool rapidly in the open air, causing your body temperature to plummet and potentially leading to hypothermia.
This is why selectively permeable fabrics are essential during winter months. They block outside moisture, so you won't be soaked by rain or snow, but also allow your perspiration to escape. In the video below, YouTube channel In the Making meets with Strafe Outerwear to discuss the importance of breathability. Strafe uses Polartec Neoshell fabric to regulate air exchange in their clothing.
Of course, there's a delicate balance between keeping the skin cool and dry, and releasing too much heat or moisture. Different fabric blends can regulate this process, which is why companies like Polartec offer dozens of materials to choose from. Apparel manufacturers can then strategically use these raw materials to craft gear designed for a specific setting or temperature range. Just like you wouldn't sleep in a 0°F sleeping bag during the summer, you shouldn't wear winter gear that's designed for an environment that's significantly colder (or warmer) than your surroundings.
To learn more about the science behind insulation, check out Polartec.com.