January 07, 2020
Now that the holidays are officially behind us, it seems that we’ve truly been thrust into the heart of winter! You can do one of two things: either hibernate inside, clinging to notions of Springtime, or you can embrace winter whole-heartedly, pull on your layers, and get outside.
If you’re familiar with my 8 simple ways to cope with shorter days, you’ll know that I strongly advise the act of getting outside as one of my favorite methods of making these colder months not just something to survive or endure, but a time to thrive.
Part of this means dressing the part. And although most people in New England are no strangers to a harsh, varied wintery climate, I still find that it’s not always straightforward to people how to dress to best optimize any given activity in a way that is comfortable and safe. It’s not unusual, for example, to see someone totally decked out in downhill ski gear when they’re just trying to go cross country skiing (or vise versa). You wouldn’t, for example, wear the same outfit for a snowmobile ride (the one that makes you feel like a marshmallow) as you might to go snowshoeing or winter hiking.
Dressing for physical outdoor activities — like snowshoeing, hiking, or cross country skiing — can be somewhat of an art, and it’s important to get it right, because embarking on these sorts of hobbies can bring us out onto remote trails, away from immediate warmth, shelter, and emergency care (not that you should always expect the worst when you’re just going for a leisurely jaunt!) With some simple tips, you can pull on layers that will serve you well and keep you warm.
In the winter, it is particularly important to pay attention to your body while you’re out on the trails. Hypothermia is when your body’s core temperature drops to a level that impairs normal cognitive and muscle function. Wet clothes, dropping temperatures, lack of fuel for the body or injuries acquired on the trail can contribute to hypothermia. This is why packing appropriate clothing and ample snacks is so crucial when embarking on your adventures, in addition to always telling someone back home when you expect to return, where you’re going, and what trailhead you’ll be parked at, so that if you don’t show up, someone can call for help immediately in the event that you might be injured out on the trail.
Much of this is subjective, and, of course, it can greatly depend on varied temperatures in addition to what type of terrain you’ll be on. However, these are some of my general suggestions, assuming that you will be snowhoeing, cross country skiing, or hiking (in other words, exerting physical energy) on gradually hilly terrain! You’ll notice many similarities between these and dressing for hiking in the mountains in autumn, but with an increased emphasis on warmth.
Types of Materials to wear
Though this may seem overly foreboding, “Cotton kills” is a phrase sometimes heard in the outdoors community. Sweat, stream crossing mishaps or rain and mist will soak through cotton clothing, causing it to lose its insulation. Though this may feel good initially if you’re hot from all that physical exertion, it’ll eventually cause your body’s temperature to drop rapidly once you stop moving to take a break, or you hike into exposed areas above treeline where it may be cold and windy.
Synthetic quick-dry blends designed specifically for physical exertion and outdoor adventures won't lose insulating capacity the way cotton will, plus it (surprise!) dries more quickly. Wool garments are known for their superior ability to maintain our body’s thermoregulation, even when wet. Merino wool is an excellent choice
Base layers are the garments that are closest to our skin. In the winter, include:
These layers go over the aforementioned based layers. For me, these typically include:
All it takes is some basic preparation in order to have a wonderful time out in the snow. If you tend to run cold, you may find that you need additional layers not listed here. If you tend to run hot, you may balk at my list of suggestions, thinking you’d be sure to overheat in that! Do some experimenting, and remember to leave a little space in your backpack so that you can experiment as needed with de-layering! Don’t forget to bring some water and a granola bar.
Happy New year!
August 21, 2021
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