What can I do to protect myself
from the cold?
The effects on your body are worth serious
The two major culprits are cold and wind
chill. Cold is pretty obvious, but with the wind, at
wind-chills of -25F (-30C), exposed flesh (ears, fingers, knees)
can quickly freeze. Skin will freeze or dehydrate and
Here's my advice for preparing yourself for playing in
For your body:
- Start by taking aspirin or similar fever reducer.
It causes the capillaries to open up and keeps your
outside warmer. This heating consumes a lot of energy, so
expect to be tired, but you'll be able to play.
- Cover you exposed skin with hand lotion. The
oil/wax content prevents moisture loss allowing your skin
to remain flexible and not crack- so put it on your ears
and knees, too!
- Use petrolatum or wax (e.g.,Vaseline or
ChapStick) for the lips (to prevent chapping/cracking).
- If your nose starts to run, do not sniff - blow.
Many pipers have blown out their eardrums from getting
ear infections. It can occur anywhere from a few hours to
a few days later. Consider taking a decongestant. The
potential consequences on your hearing are not worth the
As far as dressing:
- Wear a tee shirt, shirt, vest and/or sweater
- Wear athletic warm-up shorts under the kilt. (For
even the most hardy, there's nothing like a chilly day to
define the boundary between "tradition" and
- Wear athletic socks under the dress hose
and protective rubber overshoes for the gillies (to
protect from mud/slush).
- As far as handware goes, I use
three layers. I have a tube made of fleece which has a
"slot" for my thumb and covers about the lower
half of the hand. It's made by "Turtle Fur" and
called a "snowcuff" . Then I put on latex gloves (to
keep in the moisture and hold the snowcuffs in place). Wearing
latex gloves while playing keeps wind away from the skin,
prevents moisture loss and the flesh colored variety
doesn't look odd at all at a distance of 15-20 yards or
so even on television. Then
I cover the gloves with white musician's parade gloves
that I've cut the fingers back so that the latex is what
seals the chanter. This combination leaves me plenty of
finger dexterity and only my fingertips get cold. If
anyone knows where I can get white latex gloves (dress
latex!) please, let me know.
- In a strong breeze, a safety pin from behind to
hold both kilt aprons together may be advisable.
- Consider a balmoral hat rather than a glengarry.
It is warmer!
As far as your piping:
- You will be affected.
- Focus on simpler tunes that you know well.
Copyright S.K. MacLeod 1996-2016