Dress Right to Enjoy the Great Outdoors
The bitter cold of this winter along with heaps of snow can make the season feel mighty long. While any amount of snow can present a lot of challenges and make you feel like hibernating, it also offers a lot of fun. You only need to step out the door to build a snowman or snowfort, or walk a couple of blocks to enjoy tobogganing on a hillside or skating on a rink. There are hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails as well as opportunities for alpine skiing and snowboarding all within the city limits.
Don’t let the cold temperatures force you to stay indoors and miss all the fun! Just follow some simple rules for dressing right for winter activities and you’ll find yourself outdoors regularly, and feeling like a kid again!
No matter what you’re doing outside in winter you should apply the principles of layering. Layering simply means wearing a combination of clothes to help regulate your temperature and keep you warm and dry. You want versatility and efficiency from your clothing. Instead of dressing in one or two heavy items, use several lightweight pieces that you can add or remove depending on the conditions.
Base Layer: this layer is in contact with your skin. To keep you warm and dry you want a tight-fitting and wicking material. Polypropylene, silk, polyester, thermax, thinsulate and wool are all good choices. Avoid cotton because it absorbs moisture and stays damp. Base layers come in various weights and you should select the weight that matches the outside temperature and your activity level. Lighter weight base layers are better at wicking, and heavy weight base layers provide better insulation.
Mid Layer: this layer provides insulation. It should be a bit looser than the base layer, but should maintain contact with the base layer. It may carry moisture away from the base layer to the outer layer.
Outer Layer or Insulating Layer: this layer blocks the wind and creates a pocket of warm air around your body. It should be warm, lightweight and non-bulky, and should allow moisture to escape.
In addition to the weather forecast, you need to consider your type of activity when choosing the proper clothing. Someone who is snowshoeing or cross-country skiing will feel much warmer than someone skiing downhill. Sedentary activities like ice fishing or hunting require thick insulation around the core as well as between the body and cold surfaces such as the ice. Active sports like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing require clothing that covers extremities, and can wick sweat and breathe well. Mixed activities are those that involve great effort and motionless rest, such as alpine skiing where skiers spend time riding on chairlifts between runs. Such transitions mean layering and venting are very important.
After your core is covered, be sure to properly dress your extremities. Consider your hat, gloves, socks and footwear, and once again try to match the weather conditions and type of activity. If you overheat, you can simply remove your hat or gloves/mittens. Wind-blocking fabric is also important for hats and gloves. While many people find fleece to be warm, it does not block the wind. You can lose 30% or more of your body heat through your neck and head, so wear a hat that provides insulation and breathes well. You will likely need gloves for activities that require dexterity, but mittens should always be worn for extreme cold or more sedentary activities. Keep your feet warm with socks made of wool or nylon, not cotton. Snowboots should be waterproof or water-resistant, and will often be temperature-rated so be sure to read the labels.
All this advice is not meant to be daunting, but instead to get you outside enjoying the winter season. Activities range from simple and inexpensive to complex and pricey, but there’s something for everyone, and it’s way more fun when you’re dressed right!