I know, if you’re anything at all like me, being cold is one of the worst things in the world. I HATE being cold. I’d rather be hot and sweating for no reason than freeze my ass off. Part of that is because once I’m cold, it takes forever to warm back up, but if I’m too hot? Hit up the A/C and I’m fine. All that being said, one of the last things I want to do is spend 3-4 months housebound because of the weather. Now, I’m not saying get out and party it up during an ice storm or a white-out blizzard, but just generally get out of the house and blow the stink-off time outside. So, I’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to staying outdoors in the winter weather!
I know most people think of hiking as something to do in the spring, summer, and fall, but you’d be amazed at how much the landscape you think you’re so familiar with can change once the leaves are gone, and if you’re lucky, there is some snow on the ground. Pick a trail system that doesn’t have a lot of elevation change, to avoid slipping on hidden ice or hard-packed snow if that’s a concern, or check over some of your favorite trails to see if there is an easily traversed out and back. Here in Missouri, we have the Katy Trail system, which is an easily accessible gravel trail that spans the majority of the state. It also runs through some very scenic areas along the Missouri River, as well as occasionally connecting to some beautiful conservation areas. Another great trail suggestion is the Lewis & Clark trail, which has a relatively easy out and back to overlook the river, and you can hear the ice flows bump into each other on a good day.
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a ski resort, head there! Check on their website to find the cost of renting equipment and if they offer beginner lessons, which the majority of them do. Some may even offer a snow tube plunge, like Hidden Valley here in St. Louis. You don’t have to worry about the snow because as long as the temps are cold enough, most of them produce their own, and if it is snowing, that will make the experience all the more fun! Weirdly, I find that if it’s snowing, it doesn’t seem quite as cold out, so try that little mind trick out if you need to.
No, really! I’m serious! Go to the zoo. In addition to not being so crowded, there will be animals who are more active, because these are their preferred weather conditions. Our local zoo even takes their penguins on a stroll outside of their enclosure for extra enrichment. Bonus, most zoos have exhibits in buildings if you need a break from chilly temps.
And finally, a good old-fashioned snowball fight
Have a place where everyone congregates to sled? Build yourself some forts and let the battle begin! Or drag your cousins, aunts, and other family members out to the backyard and let a little chaos reign. Just avoid the face shots!
Good ideas, you might be thinking, but how the eff am I supposed to stay warm? Have no fear, I said there’d be some tips and tricks, didn’t I?
Tips & Tricks for fun and not sucky times
-Layer, layer, layer
Start with a good base layer, preferably a moisture-wicking one. Wool works great, and I’ve had success with the brand Under Armour for keeping warm. Thick socks and shoes with waterproofing and a thermal rating help keep your toes from freezing off. Layering works especially well with hiking because as you warm up, you can stow a layer in your backpack and if you need to put it on again, it’s easily accessible. Layers are key when it comes to being outdoors in the winter. Check out this post for some cold-weather fashion!
-Dress for the weather AND the activity
It seems dumb to say it out loud, but if you’re just going to be casually strolling around, you want to be warm. So that nice, heavier parka will probably be better than a light jacket on top of layers. But running and jumping during a battle royale? You probably should stick with clothes you can move in. When running, they say you should dress anywhere from 10 to 20 degrees warmer than the current temperature, because you can warm up that much during a run.
-Sun and wind protection is a must
Sunscreen and sunblock are going to be super important because the sun rays bouncing back up off the snow and ice will still get you. And windburn is real! Try using either a face mask or a buff, and pick up a super thick moisturizer to help protect your skin from the dry winter wind. Windproof and waterproof are your friends even through the winter!
-Limit time outside
Frostbite is no fun. Ask anyone who’s ever had it and they’ll tell you straight away. Neither is hypothermia. Both are very dangerous and a risk when you spend time outside in the winter. So set a time limit, and realize that it may not be as long as you would like or could spend time out if it wasn’t twenty degrees outside. But once you’ve had your fun outside, head indoors for a hot drink and a blanket burrito on the sofa.
Hopefully, these tips and tricks for staying outdoors in the winter weather will keep you from becoming a cold-season hermit!