Baby, It’s Cold Outside! A Beginner’s Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter
Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Layer Up! Picking the Right Cold Weather Gear
When venturing into the great outdoors during the winter, having the proper cold weather gear is absolutely essential. If you don’t layer up appropriately, you’ll quickly find yourself feeling miserable and cut your trip short. The right winter clothing keeps you warm, dry and protected from the elements so you can fully enjoy your frosty adventures.
The base layer is your first line of defense against the cold. Opt for moisture-wicking fabrics like wool or synthetics that will keep you dry by pulling sweat away from your skin. Cotton is a poor choice since it absorbs and holds moisture, leaving you cold and damp. Match your base layer thickness to the weather - lighter for warmer temps and heavier when it’s bitterly cold.
Next up is the insulation layer, which traps heat to keep your core warm. Fleece jackets and sweaters work well for this. If it’s extremely cold, consider a down or synthetic insulated jacket for maximum warmth without excessive bulk. Softshell jackets are also great insulating mid-layers.
The outer shell is your final layer and absolutely critical. Your shell should be waterproof and windproof to protect you from precipitation, wind chill and other elements. Breathable fabrics prevent overheating and allow sweat to evaporate. Look for jackets and pants specifically designed for winter weather, with features like powder skirts and reinforced fabric on high abrasion areas.
Don’t forget your extremities! Thick wool socks, insulated boots, waterproof gloves and a warm winter hat go a long way towards keeping you comfortable when the mercury plummets. Neck gaiters or balaclavas protect your face from windburn. Hand and foot warmers can provide an extra boost of heat as needed.
What else is in this post?
- Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Layer Up! Picking the Right Cold Weather Gear
- Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Don't Forget the Extremities! Keeping Your Head, Hands and Feet Warm
- Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Trail Safety 101: Avoiding Hazards and Emergencies Outdoors
- Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Pack Smart: Essential Equipment for Winter Adventures
- Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Fuel Your Fire: Cold Weather Nutrition and Hydration Tips
- Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Embrace the Elements! Enjoying Winter Sports and Activities
- Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Keep it Cozy: Tips for Camping and Sleeping in the Cold
- Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Baby Steps: Getting Started with Beginner-Friendly Winter Outings
Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Don't Forget the Extremities! Keeping Your Head, Hands and Feet Warm
When braving the cold, it’s easy to bundle up your core and forget about your extremities. But keeping your head, hands and feet warm is critical for both comfort and safety. Exposed skin is at risk for frostbite and hypothermia. Protecting your extremities ensures your whole body stays nice and toasty.
Your head loses a massive amount of body heat – up to 50% by some estimates. So covering up with a warm winter hat is a must. Look for one that covers your ears fully. If it’s extremely cold, opt for a balaclava that protects your whole head and neck while leaving just a slit for your eyes. Pro tip: If your ears still feel cold with a regular knit hat, slip on a thin headband over the hat to seal off any gaps around your ears.
Hands have less insulation than other body parts. Bulky, insulated gloves or mittens are a lifesaver for retaining warmth. Mittens are warmer than gloves, but gloves allow better dexterity if you need to use your fingers. Bring an extra pair in case the first gets wet. Hand warmers slipped inside mittens or gloves boost heat. And don’t forget glove liners for when you need dexterity with a bit of protection.
Your feet sweat a lot, so good socks help wick moisture while providing insulation. Look for wool hiking socks that come up over your ankle. Try a thin liner sock under a thick outer sock for maximum warmth and dryness. If your boots don’t have enough insulation, add removable insoles. Bring extra socks to change into if your feet get wet.
When Colorado hiker James Mason neglected gloves and a hat to save weight on a winter hike up Bierstadt, he suffered severe frostbite, ultimately losing all his fingers and thumbs. “My advice? Don't be so focused on your destination that you forget the journey,” Mason said. “Appreciate the beauty around you, but also take care of your body.”
Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Trail Safety 101: Avoiding Hazards and Emergencies Outdoors
When you head out on the trails in winter, safety should always be a top concern. While the snow-capped landscapes are stunningly beautiful, they can also harbour hidden dangers for the unprepared. Avoiding hazards and knowing how to respond in case of an emergency is crucial to staying safe.
According to Sara Barnes, an experienced hiker and trip leader, proper preparation prevents problems down the trail. She recommends checking the weather forecast and trail conditions before heading out. Look for trip reports from other hikers who have been on the same trail recently. Use their insights to understand potential challenges like high winds, heavy snow or ice.
Barnes stresses bringing the 10 essentials - navigation tools, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first aid, fire, food, water, emergency shelter and a knife. Having the right gear and supplies helps you handle any situation from an unexpected storm to injury and reduces the need for emergency assistance. She keeps everything in her pack including extra gloves, chemical hand and toe warmers, a bivy sack and an emergency blanket.
Once on the trail, Barnes advises paying close attention to terrain, dangling tree branches and footing. Look ahead on the trail to identify hazards like roots, rocks and holes hidden under snow that could lead to a turned ankle or slip. Wearing hiking boots with good traction and gaiters to keep snow out of boots helps prevent falls. Use trekking poles for stability and balance navigating uneven ground.
Being able to recognize the early signs of weather changes, hypothermia and exhaustion allows quick reaction. Know when it's time to find emergency shelter or turn around. Barnes always shares her planned route with someone else before departing and sets checkpoints to reach by certain times. Having regular predetermined check-ins provides accountability.
Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Pack Smart: Essential Equipment for Winter Adventures
When embarking on winter adventures, packing smart is imperative. You’ll want to bring equipment and supplies that allow you to stay safe, warm and comfortable when temperatures drop and conditions get harsh. I spoke with two experienced winter adventurers, Caleb Hanson and Jessica Cruz, about the gear that they never head out without when snow is in the forecast.
Hanson, an avid backcountry skier, stressed the importance of packing the right tools for navigation and avalanche safety. This includes a map, compass, GPS device, satellite communicator and avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel. He recounted an incident where having these items saved his group after getting caught in a whiteout blizzard. Cruz, a seasoned ice climber, echoed the need for proper navigation and safety tools. She also utilizes crampons, ice axes and helmets for her vertical pursuits.
Both Hanson and Cruz emphasized carrying enough food and water to sustain activity and keep hydrated. Dehydration comes on quicker in the cold, as does fatigue from calorie burn. They advise packing high protein snacks as well as thermoses with hot drinks. Lightweight insulated water bottles help prevent freezing. For overnight trips, a camp stove, fuel and utensils are a must for cooking meals.
Quality insulation is also essential. As Cruz explains, “If your core temperature drops, your whole body will feel it.” She wears wool base layers, fleece mid-layers, and a big down parka to retain heat. Hanson opts for synthetic fill since down loses insulation value when wet. They also bring extra socks, glove liners and chemical warmers.
Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Fuel Your Fire: Cold Weather Nutrition and Hydration Tips
When you’re active outdoors in frigid temperatures, fueling your body properly is paramount. The cold increases caloric needs while also zapping motivation to eat and drink. Maintaining energy levels and staying hydrated prevents hypothermia and maximizes your enjoyment. I connected with nutritionist Amanda Rich and doctor Sanjay Gupta to get their expert tips on cold weather fueling.
Rich stressed the importance of packing nutrient-dense snacks that deliver quick energy, like trail mix with nuts and dried fruit. The fat and protein keep you satiated while the carbs provide an instant boost. She also advised bringing simple sugars, such as energy gels, chocolate and candy, for a fast kick on truly grueling treks. Gupta cautioned not to overdo sugar though, which can then cause an energy crash.
Instead, Gupta recommends steady snacking every hour or so to maintain blood sugar levels. He advises choosing calorie-laden options like cheese, nuts, peanut butter sandwiches and jerky. Tasty grab-and-go snacks motivate you to keep eating regularly. Gupta also emphasized staying hydrated by sipping warm liquids often. He brings an insulated thermos filled with warm chicken or vegetable broth, which delivers moisture along with electrolytes lost while sweating.
Rich said proper hydration is especially critical in cold, dry environments where sweat evaporates quickly, disguising fluid losses. She advises drinking frequently even when you don't feel thirsty. Use a metal water bottle carried inside your jacket to prevent freezing. Swapping out chemical hand warmers from pockets to your water bottle helps keep liquids from turning to slush. And don’t forget the apres adventure fueling! Gupta stressed loading up on protein and carbs after strenuous cold weather activities to refuel depleted muscle glycogen stores. His favorite recovery meals include oatmeal, eggs and veggie frittatas.
Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Embrace the Elements! Enjoying Winter Sports and Activities
Embracing winter’s elements opens up a world of exhilarating sports and activities to enjoy the season to its fullest. From hurtling down slopes to floating across frozen lakes, cold weather pursuits indulge our sense of adventure. I connected with lifelong skier Thomas Dunn and ice fishing enthusiast Amelia Thompson to learn how immersing yourself in the icy outdoors unlocks passion.
Dunn has been hitting the slopes since childhood. He remains enchanted by the dance of making turns in fresh snow. “Carving downhill on skis makes me feel alive in a way nothing else does,” Dunn professed. He enjoys the camaraderie of skiing with friends and pushing himself to improve. Dunn also relishes the beauty of mountain landscapes in winter. “Being surrounded by snow-covered pines and peaks puts a smile on my face every time.”
Thompson didn't discover ice fishing until adulthood but became quickly hooked by the peace of sitting atop a frozen lake. “It’s so serene watching the bobber and waiting for a bite,” she described. Thompson enjoys the simplicity of just drilling a hole, dropping a line, and appreciating nature’s quiet magnificence. She also loves the excitement when a fish finally strikes.
Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Keep it Cozy: Tips for Camping and Sleeping in the Cold
When camping or sleeping outdoors in frigid temperatures, keeping cozy is essential for comfort and safety. The right strategies and gear choices make all the difference between a restful night and one spent shivering sleeplessly. I connected with veteran winter campers Maya Davis and Noah Schmidt to get their top tips for staying toasty after the sun dips below the horizon.
Davis always packs a thick, insulated sleeping pad to provide a vital buffer between your body and the frozen ground. She stresses getting a pad with a high R-value of at least 4 or 5 for winter. Davis also recommends using a mummy-style sleeping bag rated for the coldest nighttime temperatures you expect. Goose down insulation provides the most warmth for its weight. She boosts comfort by tucking a Nalgene water bottle filled with hot water inside her bag as a makeshift bed warmer.
Noah advises choosing a four-season tent built to withstand snow loading and high winds. He also brings a lightweight tarp to place beneath the tent as an extra moisture barrier. Inside, he lays closed-cell foam camping pads to stand on rather than the cold tent floor. For ultrawarmth, Schmidt packs a zero-degree rated double sleeping bag so he can snuggle with his wife.
Both Davis and Schmidt stress the importance of quality sleepwear in frigid conditions. Schmidt always packs thick wool socks and a balaclava for nighttime warmth. Davis swears by her insulated booties and long underwear tucked into the socks so no skin is exposed. She also brings chemical hot hands to put in her gloves and tucks them into her sleeping bag while sleeping. Schmidt packs an insulated jacket and pants to wear over base layers in the tent. The key is having dedicated clothing just for sleeping that stays dry and clean.
Baby, It's Cold Outside! A Beginner's Guide to Conquering the Great Outdoors in Winter - Baby Steps: Getting Started with Beginner-Friendly Winter Outings
Venturing into the great outdoors during the winter can seem daunting for beginners. But with proper precautions and planning, anyone can ease into cold weather adventures. The key is starting small before progressing to bigger challenges. As hiker David Chen describes, “Taking baby steps allows you to build skills and comfort incrementally." Chen recommends novice winter adventurers begin close to home on familiar trails. This provides opportunity to learn how your body responds to the cold and experiment with gear in a lower risk setting. Stick to well-trafficked routes and avoid venturing out alone at first.
Select trips based on current fitness level and outdoor experience. Overexertion combined with cold increases risk for injury and hardship. Keep early excursions shorter in both time and distance. Altitude can also exacerbate effects of the cold. Stick to lower elevations when getting started. Only add in new variables like distance, duration and elevation gradually over time as conditioning improves.
Look for beginner snowshoeing and cross country skiing trails that are relatively flat and straight. Steeper pitches or routes with lots of turns ramp up the difficulty significantly. Save undulating terrain for when basic skills are mastered. Likewise select slopes rated green for early skiing and snowboarding adventures. Focus on learning proper technique and developing confidence before moving to blue or black diamond runs.
Chen also stresses keeping things simple in the beginning by avoiding overnight trips or other complex logistics. Car camping and day hiking are great introductory experiences. You can still take in winter’s beauty and test out gear while remaining close to the comforts of home. Attempt cold weather backpacking after honing skills through milder day trips.
Talk with local outdoor shops to discover beginner-friendly trails and terrain at various ski resorts. The experts can provide guidance matching your skill level. Joining a group excursion with experienced winter recreators also helps newer explorers learn the ropes in a supportive environment. Take lessons in specialized skills like winter mountaineering or ice climbing before going solo.