Hopping out of the vehicle, I instantly realized it was way colder than expected and I was not prepared to snowshoe in the mountains comfortably. Sure enough, I struggled to enjoy the day with my friend in just a sweater with my buff wrapped around my ears. The aptly named screaming barfies dimmed the beautiful surroundings as my hands and feet froze and thawed.
It’s safe to say I learned a few lessons on what not to do while tramping through the snow that day! Here are some tips for staying warm on winter adventures:
You can’t rely on a single coat to keep you toasty when you are active outdoors. You need something to remove moisture from your skin, keep heat in and protect you from wind and rain. The best way to achieve this is by layering.
Start with comfortable long-sleeve base layers made of merino wool or similar textile. Avoid cotton. You want something that will wick away any moisture from your skin (yes, you will sweat during the winter too!) while keeping you warm. Think of a relieving breeze hitting your sweaty skin in the summer. Moist skin is cooled a lot faster than dry skin, so keep the surface of your body and the clothes in direct contact with your skin as dry as possible.
If you were a bear, the second layer would be the layer of fat stacked on by blueberry and salmon snacks in the fall. For humans, a puffy jacket or thick fleece can make up this bulkier, insulating layer.
Top it all off with a shell of some sort. Pick something waterproof and something that will cut the wind.
Besides keeping you warm, another benefit of layering is you can add or remove layers as needed without exposing your skin to the direct cold.
Remember Your Extremities
When my hands get cold, its hard for me to complete even the simplest of tasks like tying laces or opening a snack package. This is a potentially fatal problem in the outdoors. Plus, those screaming barfies are worth trying to avoid. I’ve found that using a layering system for my hands works wonders too. Thinner gloves (I use a pair of merino gloves with touchscreen fingers) are handy for keeping the chill off while lacing up boots or snowshoes (or taking photos), and a pair of down mitts keep my hands toasty while using hiking poles and taking breaks.
Warm socks that wick away moisture are necessary when adventuring in the winter as well. Plus, insulated boots make tramping through the snow much more enjoyable!
Use Your Head
We lose a lot of heat through our massive noggins, so wear a toque or hat of some sort. Not only does it preserve your precious heat, but it also protects your ears from that achy feeling brought on the wind.
When we’re moving, whether snowshoeing, skating or skiing, we feel warm, and when we take a break that the chill creeps in. Don’t sit around for too long and allow it to take over!
If you’re already cold, movement can do wonders as well. Swing your arms vigorously and slap them on your sides to warm your hands, or pretend you know how to tap dance to bring the feeling back to your feet.
If you aren’t keeping yourself warm enough, an external heat source can be a lifesaver. Think matches or a lighter and some dry tinder if you are in an area where fires are permitted. You can also slip a few hand and foot warmers into your pockets for later.
Heat your water before heading out or pack a way you can boil water. There’s nothing like a sweet drink to warm your belly and hands if you catch a chill. Plus, you’ll want and need a snack stash for energy as you burn calories.
Stuff in a few extra layers too. Dry socks, for one, can make a stark difference between a miserable or enjoyable hike back, and I always appreciate past me packing an extra fleece.
What are your strategies for staying warm in the winter?
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