Thursday, December 22, 2016

How to Stay Warm in the Outdoors This Winter

We’re already two weeks into December and even less before the winter solstice is upon us. You may be preparing for indoor hibernation – but for those of you who relish the great outdoors during the cold months (or perhaps don’t have a choice but to be outside), we’ve collected a few cold weather safety tips to keep you safe and warm, regardless of how low the thermometer plunges. Read on for these important reminders!

Stay Dry

It’s remarkable how quickly your body temperature can drop if you get wet as you’re braving the elements. Even sweat, which is actually a cooling mechanism to keep you from overheating, will cause issues once you slow down. Try to avoid any risks of getting wet, and pace yourself so as to limit how much you perspire. Of course, there will be instances where you don’t want to slow down. In these cases, if possible, try to reach a more moderate pace 20 or 30 minutes out from the end. This period will act as a sort of cool down so you’re not completely stopping from full-speed-ahead (and freezing in your fresh layer of sweat).

Another note on sweating: adjusting the number of layers you wear will help, so make sure you’re adding or pulling off what you need to in order to avoid getting too hot (or cold). Gage this on the temperature, humidity, wind levels and your level of activity.

Take Breaks

Breaks are a given with any physical exertion you do. While taking a break in the wintertime, sit on your pack – or whatever you’ve got – so you’re not sitting directly on the ground. Otherwise, the ground will suck away your body’s heat via thermal conduction. Any distance you can keep between the two will help your body hold its warmth.

And while you’re on this coveted break, aim for taking it in a sunny spot, if at all possible. Take advantage of nature’s ultimate heater – you’ll certainly feel the difference between sun and shade, even on the coldest of days.

Mittens over Gloves

Mittens may seem best suited for 3-year-olds, tied together under their coat so they’re not lost. But in reality, keeping skin-to-skin contact between your fingers will actually hold warmth more than separating them. That is, of course, as long as you don’t need a lot of maneuverability. We all know trying to do almost anything with our hands while wearing mittens is a challenge – so gloves can be a better option to get the job done. But if dexterity isn’t required, mittens are golden.

If you do choose to wear gloves, bring along a back-up pair that you can keep warm in a pocket in case your hands get cold and you need to switch it up.

Hats – But Not in Lieu of Other Essentials

If you grew up in a cold place, you more than likely have been ingrained with the idea that you need a warm hat to be outside in the wintertime. That’s because of the well-established idea that most body heat escapes through the head. Well, this “fact” has actually been shown to be more of a myth; rather, the more skin that’s exposed, the colder you’ll be because there’s more opportunity for heat to exit the body. Regardless, wearing a hat is still very important – as is covering up every part of your body. 

If you’re going to be out for a fair amount of time, consider bringing along two hats: a heavier one for when you’re exerting yourself less and a lighter one for when you’re working hard so as not to overheat. Switch them as appropriate, and keep the one not being used close to your core so it stays warm and dry.

Stay Hydrated – with Water, That Is

Your body needs plenty of water all the time, but especially while out in frigid temperatures. You become more dehydrated than you realize out there, so it’s important to carry a substantial supply of water with you, wherever that may be. You can add some sugar to it for a surge of energy, or even butter for some flavor and calories. 

Along with this additional intake of water, you should also make sure you’re giving your body enough fuel to energize your expedition. Pack some high-fat snacks, like nuts, to chomp on as you go. Because fat is a slow-burning fuel, you’ll get more out of it if you’re going to be in the great outdoors for a while. 

Don't Let Your Water Freeze

That hydration information we just covered? It’s not going to be very successful if your water is frozen. Keeping your water in liquid form is an extremely important part of staying healthy in the cold. For temperatures down to the low 20s (F), you should be fine using a hydration bladder that’s kept on your body. Just make sure the hose that leads from the sack to your mouth stays clear of water – as this is where it is most likely to freeze – by blowing into it after every sip you take. Any colder than the 20s and you will probably want to use a wide-mouth water bottle instead. Keep the bottle in an insulated sleeve upside-down so when you turn it right-side up to take a drink, any ice that’s formed is at the bottom. Clever, eh?

Feel free to add more tips on staying warm in winter in the comments below – we’d love to hear them! 


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