What’s the Difference Between Warm and Cold Weather Compression?
Learn what weather-specific features to look for when purchasing your gear.
Compression gear offers athletes a wide variety of performance boosting benefits. From improved circulation to muscle stability to sweat wicking and more, the list only grows as new garment designs and technologies continue to emerge.
But beyond performance boosters, athletes of every sport prefer compression garments thanks to the superior comfort they provide when compared to other garment fabrics.
And a big part of this has to do with how well compression gear combats temperature and weather conditions, whether you’re inside, outside, hot, or cold.
You might have noticed how athletes wear compression garments in both warm and cold environments and wondered does it really work for both?
We’ll dig into how it all works here, so that you can find the right compression gear for the conditions you’re up against.
Cold Weather Compression vs. Warm Weather Compression
So, to kick things off you might be wondering if there’s a big difference between compression garments that are marketed as keeping you cool versus those marketed as keeping you warm?
Generally, no, there isn’t a big difference between cold weather compression and hot weather compression.
Both have the classic snug compressive fit that improves circulation and offers stability to your muscles. Additionally, both are lightweight, breathable, and have sweat-wicking capabilities.
However, there are subtle differences between the two that you’ll want to be aware of because you’d likely notice those differences when training or competing and they could impact your overall performance.
The difference is found in the compression garment’s additional features. As we mentioned, cold weather and warm weather compression garments generally have the same basic characteristics but it’s the additional features that better suit a compression garment for particular conditions.
For example, compression gear designed for hot weather conditions will have features designed to keep you cool, such as strategically placed ventilation.
While on the other hand, compression gear designed for cold weather conditions will have features designed to keep you warm, such as brushed or insulated fabric.
Purchasing Compression Gear: Warm Weather vs. Cold Weather
When browsing compression products, it may not be immediately noticeable which would work best for cold weather conditions and which for warm weather conditions.
There are a few indicators to look for that can key you in. For starters, many brands will emphasize their cold weather products in the fall/winter season and their hot weather products in the spring/summer season.
Another thing to look for is an indicator in the product name. Good examples of this are Under Armour’s popular HeatGear and ColdGear compression products, where HeatGear is designed to keep you cool in hot weather and ColdGear is designed to keep you warm in cold weather.
But those indicators are not always available, so another way that you can tell is by looking at the compression gear’s product details. Here, you can spot features that are commonly associated with cold weather gear or warm weather gear.
Product features commonly associated with cold weather compression gear often include brushed interiors or thermal linings, as well as additional fabric such as a mock neck or full length legs to minimize skin exposure.
On the other hand, product features commonly associated with warm weather compression gear often include strategic ventilation such as mesh paneling or perforations, as well as shorter garment lengths like the ¾ length leg for extra breathability.
How Does Compression Keep You Cool?
When it comes to compression keeping you cool, body temperature regulation is a key factor. This is where compression garments shine in comparison to other fabrics.
The fabric of compression garments has sweat-wicking capabilities that other fabric blends do not. When worn as a baselayer against the skin, the compression is able to move moisture away from your body to help keep you cool, dry, and comfortable.
Compression garments also have superior breathability when compared to other fabric blends and nowadays many compression garments feature ventilation to increase this breathability even more.
Whether through mesh paneling or perforations, the strategic placement of these ventilation features can optimize your performance and keep your body cool where it’s most need it.
How Does Compression Keep You Warm?
Here again, body temperature regulation is key when it comes to compression keeping you warm against cold temperatures. Compression garments create a breathable shell that helps to keep in body heat.
Note that the breathability of compression is an important factor here, as you want to maintain warmth for your body but you don’t want to trap in all of the heat. Without this breathability you would quickly overheat when active.
Another helpful factor is the compressive pressure applied to your muscles, which stabilizes and reduces excess vibration and shivering. This otherwise lost energy can be used to keep your body warm and lengthen your endurance.
Additionally, many compression garments designed to combat cold weather will have a brushed or thermal interior. This provides a toasty interior in both performance and feel, which is important in damp and chilly conditions.
How to Wear Compression to Combat Weather Conditions
Whether you’re looking to stay cool in sweltering heat or keep toasty against frigid temperatures, compression gear is worn the same way in both conditions.
Compression is designed as a baselayer, which means it should be worn right against the skin without any barriers between the fabric and your skin. When worn correctly like this, you maximize the compression benefits of the garment and allow it to function properly.
This is key when it comes to combating weather conditions and maintaining body temperature regulation. In order for compression gear to effectively help with temperature regulation, it must be worn right against the skin. This allows the garment to wick sweat away from the body and serve as a breathable barrier against the elements.
Keep in mind that layering is fine when it comes to compression in both warm and cold weather. While it might seem counterintuitive to add another layer in warm conditions, wearing a compression baselayer under your jersey or top layer can actually help to keep you cooler, drier, and more comfortable.
In cold conditions, some athletes might be tempted to put a t-shirt under their compression shirt or shorts under their compression tights. Note, however, that additional layers should always be worn over the top.
Not only will the compression garment be allowed to function properly and help you perform your best but this will also eliminate any garment bunching and rubbing from occurring that can result in discomfort and abrasions.