How Cold Is Too Cold For You To Be Outside?

I live in Chicago and don’t own a car. I pretty much walk everywhere. If I can get there in an hour I walk.

I do notice that 20ºF (-7ºC) seems to be my limit. As long as the tempature outside is above that, I just bundle up and walk. But after it falls below that temp, I will hop the bus or subway.

Do you have a personal “It’s too cold outside” limit?

It doesn’t come up much here in PA! It’s never so cold that I’ve been uncomfortable outside (as long as I was dressed warmly).

When I lived in South Dakota, I always walked to school (it was only 6 blocks away), even when it was -30 with windchill, and played outside in very cold weather all the time too. Very bundled up, of course.

properly dressed any wind chill above single digits is fine. Below single digits I am hustling from car to buildings and back again. If there’s a good amount of snow, I will even build snow forts (for the dogs) in really cold weather.

It’s 38F here in Austin today and it’s too cold for me.

About 30F for me. It’s been about that temp here for a few weeks and I’ve been thinking “I can handle this all winter.” Now it’s dropped to about 20F and feels too cold.

  1. Hey, I live in Tucson. That’s brrrrr.

I have run at 20 - it hurt my throat. Normally, bundled up, I won’t stay outside long at 30 either.

  1. As long as its above freezing, our bodies are okay.

10 degrees F is about my limit.

I used to have about 7/8 mile walk from my company’s parking lot to my office. During the winter, with the wind howling through buildings, it would be bitterly cold. It would be a good 1/2 hour before my mind and body could function after that walk.

I haven’t run across my limit yet. But then again, I’ve never been outside when the temperature has been anything lower than about 10 degrees F. Come to think of it, I’ve never been *inside *when the temp has been any lower than that, either.

I’ll put up with a few degrees below zero - I live in upstate NY after all - if I am properly bundled up. BUT, if the wind is blowing hard, my limit is much higher, like in the teens. If it’s a still, cold day, I am cool with it.

It’s coming, too. January is our really really cold month. Almost here.

In winter I use a snow-blower in my driveway and I also do the driveways for some neighbors who are old. I have been out blowing snow in 18 below zero F. It takes about 90 min to do everyone so I will be out at least that long every day no matter the temp every time that we get significant snow accumulation.

Haven’t hit it yet, but then, I have my own particular brand of insanity when it comes to cold. Namely, I love it. Since I don’t have to worry about my second-floor apartment’s pipes freezing, I don’t run the heat during the winter, which at times keeps the ambient temperature in the mid 30’s. Whenever I can, I return to my native upstate New York for Christmas, and take a stroll down the frozen Saranac in the minus-whatever. (Fell in once. Luckily, it was only hip-deep and home was a very short walk away. Did you know you can lose all feeling in your lower extremities while retaining gross motor function? True story. I think I posted about it at some point.)

So, my answer to this one is “whatever temperature it is when they recover my frostbitten corpse from the bleak, snowy fields on the day that it turned out I was wrong — it was too cold, after all.”

I did a kayak trip this spring with temps in the low 40s. I wore a wet suit top, spray skirt, etc and I was fine. Others relied on alcohol alone for warmth. (I was drinking as well, but I stayed dry).

I was comfy. Many of the paddlers were newbies, and ended up in the water. Some of them were pretty uncomfortable; two ended up hospitalized. There were 109 paddlers (this was a men’s only event).

Some video here.

If I am walking somewhere I can handle anything above 10 degrees, depending on the wind chill. If I am just standing around (or, gods forbid, camping) I learned that 35 degrees is my limit. Lying in a tent trying to sleep when the ground below you and the temperature around you is 35 degrees is the least pleasant thing ever. I couldn’t fall asleep because I was trembling from the cold so badly I probably looked like I was having a seizure even though I was wearing two layers of clothing and under 2 blankets. It was what I imagine hell is like if I were to assume that there is such thing as hell.

I haven’t reached “too cold” yet. My last winter in college (central Illinois) it got below -25F one day, with wind chill in the -55F to -65F range. I bundled up and went for a long walk around town; I was out all afternoon and felt fine.

My roommates (IL natives) thought I was an idiot and they stayed indoors with the heat turned up. I don’t recall seeing many people outdoors that day.

After a winter or two there I got comfortable doing things like walking home several miles from the gym wearing shorts and a tshirt in blowing snow. I can handle the cold pretty well if I’m dressed for it and staying active.

40 degrees, Class II+ whitewater, newbies in canoes wearing cotton and no PFDs and drinking.    Gee, what could go wrong with that?


My tolerance for cold weather varies depending on my preparation, activity and wind chill.   I've gone out XC skiing at night when it was five or ten below.    After a few minutes of skiing, I was peeling off layers.      Then again, some nights after work  when it's pushing the single digits and the wind is howling, I wonder if I'll make it across the parking lot to the car or if they'll find my stiffened corpse in the morning.

There’s also a seasonal component to my tolerance for temperature. When the mercury starts hitting the mid-30’s for the first time in the fall, yard work starts seeming mighty unappealing and it’s unpleasant to be outside, even wearing a coat. Four months later in March, that’s balmy shirtsleeve weather.

Depends on what you’re doing and how it affects how you dress.

I’d agree with 20 F if you’re heading to work or a party or something where you 1) don’t want to show up all sweaty, and 2) have to wear decent looking clothes.

If I’m going out for a snowshoe or ski, it can get much colder than that - down to zero or below is fine, if you can dress for it. Meaning, many layers of clothing that is difficult to take on and off. And once you get moving, you’ll probably be sweaty.

Snowshoeing, for example: you have to dress warm enough so when you start out or pause for a bit, you won’t immediately get cold. So that means that while you’re moving or in the sun, you are slightly too hot, so you sweat. On a really cold day, that usually means long underwear (tops & bottoms), another layer on top (a sweater and jeans or snowpants), then a shell or jacket of some sort, parka if it’s really cold or if I mean to be out a long time. Then thick gloves, hat, neck warmer. Two layers of socks. A faceguard or scarf to pull up over my face at times.

Obviously, if you’re walking to work, you can’t wear all that, because 1) none of it is work-appropriate clothing and 2) you’ll be a sweaty mess when you take it all off. But it’ll keep you warm in very chilly weather.

Pretty much any cold is enough to make me go into hibernation for the rest of the winter.

-Malleus, a Jersey girl with a California mindset

I’ll venture you did not have an insulating ground pad. Makes all the difference in the world. The Earth is a huge – and very effective – heat sink.

With a good ground pad and appropriate sleeping bag (enough insulation, possible to close up around your face to eliminate drafts), one can be quite warm in sub-freezing weather.

But yeah, trying to sleep while shivering is harrowing and stressful experience.