By Devin Morrissey
Though it might seem far from a wonderland at times, with freezing temperatures and icy sidewalks, winter has a lot to offer the outdoor adventurer. For the adventurous spirit, cooler temps open up the door for skiing, snowboarding, and all kinds of winter treks. When there is snow, even a familiar neighborhood can become an exciting new world of sledding, snowball fights, and shenanigans!
Any winter activity will require special some preparation. From keeping your head, hands, and feet comfortably warm, to making sure you don’t lose any toes to frostbite, the proper precautions can make a huge difference. Here are some ways to make sure you’re not caught off-guard before going into the great outdoors this winter:
What To Bring
The items you pack will depend on your specific activity. For example, if you are running in the cold weather, you should dress in layers; you can take some off if you get warm, or put more on if you get too cold. In the winter, you should always have extra gloves, hats, sweaters, and socks in case you need to layer up or if your clothes get wet — especially if your plans involve snow.
Certainly, the equipment you need depends entirely on your specific plans. For instance, winter backpacking and winter hiking both require waterproof boots, the former will specifically require four-season insulation, and a backpack large enough to hold your winter layers, while the latter requires the often overlooked sunblock and sunglasses.
Snap A Shot, But Take It All In
A camera can be a useful, though not completely necessary, to capture your memories. Unless photography is a main goal of your outing you may not even want to bring that fancy camera along. Your phone camera may do the trick. In fact, travel photographer Tim Coulson states that in order to document the “real stuff,” using the camera you have on hand is best:
“I’ve really found that the best camera is the one that’s on you, because it’s able to quickly capture joy in a way that technical equipment never will.”
Just don’t spend too much time living through your screen. Coulson adds that there is “a really fine line between documenting the essence of something and over-documenting to where you become withdrawn from what you’re really doing.”
Depending on the temperatures in your area and how adventurous you are, investing in some specialized winter equipment can pay off quickly. Snow shovels and plows are a basic requirement in spots where the winter winds bring gifts in the form of inches and even feet of snow. In places where feet of snow is the norm, snowmobiles can be an important form of transpiration. In every case, investing in the right kind of winter clothing for your adventures is key!
If you turn to the great outdoors for play and pleasure, chances are that you have ventured into the realm of winter camping. This is no endeavor for the unprepared. It takes some serious equipment to pull off comfortable “primitive camping” overnights in low temps. It’s important to keep your camping gear organized so that you have it ready every time you need it; always clean your gear and put it away as you get back from each adventure.
Knowing how to stay warm in the cold weather is an essential skill when exploring the outdoors. In addition to layering, be sure to stay hydrated so your body can generate heat, and maintain good circulation. You can achieve this by ensuring that none of your clothing is too tight — especially your shoes and socks.
Decompress and Defrost
Just as important as going out for snowy day and weekend trips is knowing how to decompress in the winter months. Winding down with a hot beverage, like a cup of coffee or tea, can help melt away the brisk chill that often settles into your bones after a day out in the cold. It’s also essential to figure out the perfect recipe for hot chocolate; you can try adding spices like allspice, cinnamon, and even cayenne for a spicy kick!
Hot showers and baths can further warm you body and soothe your bones and muscles from the wear of the day. Warm water has never felt as good as it does after the exertion and chill of a winter adventure. Afterwards, get comfy in your coziest pajamas. Is there anything better than cuddling up in blankets while winter is raging outside? Probably not.
Exploring in the winter can be a challenging and even dangerous process, if you’re unprepared. Taking the time to be well informed and know your gear beforehand can keep you safe and stress-free when you go out. Always do research before trying out a new winter sport, and make sure you have everything you need before heading to your destination. With a bit of foresight and preparation, you can stay mostly warm and happy during your frosty, seasonal adventures.
Devin prides himself on being a jack of all trades; his career trajectory is more a zigzag than an obvious trend, just the way he likes it. He pops up across the Pacific Northwest, though never in one place for long. You can follow him more reliably on Twitter.