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Cheap, but with a padded posterior

By Erik Nilsson  (China Daily)

09:43, January 10, 2013

The zipper was burning my forehead. But my head was stuck.

"Ouch!" I shrieked, howling with equal parts surprise and pain.

guess that's what happens when my thermal underwear are in the wash.

In the middle of a recent laundry session, I realized I needed to run to the store, which required slogging against Beijing's winter winds - icy gusts that blast south from Siberia.

I'd just finished the first load, so my already-washed clothes were soggy.

Since we don't have a clothes dryer - they're rare in China - I draped my sweaters over a space heater to rapidly desiccate - and, as a bonus, warm up. I believed the scheme to be quite clever. It seemed more efficient than using a blow-dryer, as some foreign friends do.

What wasn't so smart was donning my sweaters before they'd cooled, so the neck zipper branded a pull-tab-shaped blister into my brow.

The next day, I bought another set of thermals to ensure I never again conduct such folly, whatever my laundry situation.

When I leave my Beijing apartment in winter, I don't wear one pair of thermals - I wear two.

That's over a T-shirt and normal undergarments, and beneath extra trousers, a dress-shirt, up to three sweaters and a jacket. I also put on three pairs of socks, gloves, a hat and a scarf.

And I'm still cold.

Thermals are integral to winter life in Beijing and much of the country.

While I occasionally wore them in my hometown of Traverse City, Michigan, USA - famous for its fierce winters - I consider them necessary in China's capital.

Traverse City's average lows hover around -10 C in the chilliest months, and flurries - engorged by the "lake-effect snow" of Lake Michigan - can swell to settle at chest level. Ice storms occasionally encrust the city within a slick glaze that means outdoor locomotion sometimes requires crawling, rather than walking.

But I didn't wear thermals most winter days in Michigan because I'd spend about 10 seconds walking from heated buildings to my preheated car. I only donned them when stacking firewood, hunting or hiking through forests.

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