As fall approaches, the temps drop and it’s time to think once again about layering up the jackets and sweaters. Don’t get caught out in the cold. You want to make sure you have the right gear to stay warm through those cold shifts and training exercises. But at the same time, if you’re in law enforcement or a civilian who carries concealed, you have more to think about than just fighting off the chill. You have to be able to fight suspects or an armed attacker and easily access the tools you need to win.
In the spring, you were thinking about how to conceal carry as the weather warmed up because it can be a challenge to hide a gun when you’re wearing less. Ankle holsters with shorts don’t work. And lightweight t-shirts don’t always conceal very well because they tend to cling to the body and leave a big print of the gun strapped to your belt, even if it’s in the best IWB holster. Plus, it’s hard to keep a gun in the elastic waistband of athletic shorts. Not impossible, but tough.
That all changes in the fall and winter, as the layers start piling back on and you can practically hide a cannon beneath a heavy coat. Want to carry a full frame semi auto? Go ahead. It’ll hardly be noticed. You might even be okay with an OWB. But not every day will be sub-freezing, so you won’t need the bulky outer coat. What do you then?
Unless you live in an area that is constantly cold in the winter, you’ll need cold weather gear that flexes with the rising and falling temperatures you experience in a lot of middle latitude climates such as the Midwest or Southeast United States. This means you’ll need to dress in layers and keep those layers with you even on the best days.
Start with a moisture-wicking base layer. While it may sound strange to wear a shirt that seems more suited to summer than winter, just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you won’t sweat. And when you do, all that sweat will get stuck right next to your skin and make you chilly if your shirt doesn’t wick it away, leaving you shivering. Base layers come in both long and short sleeve versions. And they don’t have to be a t-shirt, although that can be a good option. If you need a collared shirt, try a long or short sleeve moisture wicking polo.
For the next layer, you have some options depending on the temperature and other weather factors. If it’s sunny and clear or cloudy but not raining, a light fleece or even a sweater might work. No, not a cardigan like your grandfather used to wear as he read his newspaper by the fire, but a modern tech sweater that offers warmth and comfort with a professional polish. If the skies open up, throw on a waterproof rain jacket with a good hood to stay dry and warm. Since storms can pop anytime, it’s good to be prepared with a packable waterproof jacket you can keep in your car or everyday carry bag just in case.
When the dead of winter finally sets in, it’s time to throw on the last layer: a parka. Look for lightweight, but make sure it will really keep you warm. However, don’t worry about how warm it is by itself because you’ll likely be wearing other layers underneath.
If you want to be really efficient, a 3-in-1 system can provide all the outerwear layers you need in a self-contained jacket the includes a zip-out fleece or sweater-type liner inside a parka that repels water. The inside can be worn by itself in mild chill, the parka shell by itself on rainy days and the combined garment when the temps drop.
One part of the body that is often neglected in colder temps is the legs. The conventional thinking is “keep the core warm, the rest follows,” but that’s not always true for everyone. If you’re one whose legs get cold or you’re going to be outside for an extended period of time, consider throwing a mid-weight base layer under your tactical or duty pants to add that extra level of warmth and protection against the biting chill.
Now that you’re all layered up, how do you reach your gear? Can you still draw your gun if needed? Or is it buried under so many layers that it’ll take until Tuesday afternoon to unearth it? That’s why many of the best tactical layering systems come with one feature you won’t find in department store apparel: tear-away sides and secret pass-throughs that give you quick access to a weapon. Many times the tear-aways can wrap around the belt side of an OWB holster so you can access your weapon without moving anything aside. Or you can conceal on the side and quickly reach your weapon by separating the panels.
If you are concealing and prefer to appendix carry, throw on a jacket that has a pocket pass-through for easy access to your firearm. These access slots are specially designed to prevent snags and allow quick reach and draw and allow your weapon to stay hidden until you need it.
Whatever climate you work in, be prepared to tackle the weather anytime, anywhere by layering up (and down) to suit, all the while being sure you have quick and easy access to essential gear.