I’m sorry to deliver this news, but it turns out we are quickly heading into *shhhh* winter. I think I’ll get a few more days of 50˚+ temps here but not for much longer. In preparation for the days of cloudy skies and giant snowflakes blanketing the ground, I’ve dug in to my roots as a professional outdoor apparel specialist (so technical) from the days of yore and have put together this snazzy list to help you make the most of the cold, winter days ahead. Follow my advice and you’ll stay warm and dry, no matter what adventure you’ll be on.
1. Must have: hand warmers. You know those weird things in the orange plastic wrap normally found near the checkout counter of your favorite sporting goods store? They’re hand warmers (or foot warmers), and are most often used by skiers while on the lift. But these babies work wonders for any cold weather activity. High school football game? Check. Running? Check. Taking the dog for a walk? Check. Do yourself a favor — grab some hand warmers the next time you’re at the sporting goods store.
2. Layer, layer, layer! The only way to effectively layer is this: base layer, insulating layer, outer layer. In layman’s terms, wear some long johns (not cotton — more on that later), fleece or down depending on your activity and location, and a shell of sorts. Each layer weight will change depending on your activity, location, and temperature. For example, if I’m going on a mid-winter hiking trip in the northeastern US, I would wear a heavy weight base layer, an 800 fill down jacket, and a heavier shell such as the Mountain Hardwear Torsun Jacket.
However, if I’m running in Ohio and the temperatures will be in the mid 30s, I would likely wear some Under Armour ColdGear, fleece-lined tights, and my outer layer would possibly include a fleece vest or a lighter weight running shell.
No matter your location or activity, layering for outdoor activities is a must during the winter months.
3. Choose appropriate footwear. This includes the right socks and the right shoes for your activity. Cold feet make for an unhappy athlete. Some awesome options for footwear include SmartWool and Fox River, among others. If you’ll be in sub-zero temps for longer than a short burst, consider adding a base layer (sock liner) for your feet as well. Which leads me to my next point…
4. Don’t forget a protective layer for your hands! My friend is on a desperate hunt for a running glove/mitten combo. These are superb inventions for driving, too. But if you don’t have access to the glove/mitten combo, consider using a liner glove for milder temperatures, a mitten for cooler temperatures, and the liner and mitten together for sub-zero days.
5. Keep your head and ears warm. Ah, the head and ears — possibly the most important and often overlooked parts of our bodies. It’s an old wives tale that we lose 80% of our body heat out of our heads, but heat is heat nonetheless. Our ears can be affected by the cold just as easily, if not more so, than our fingers and toes. Be sure to wear some protective head gear. A hat, headband, or ear warmer will suffice.
6. One word: Yaktrax. If you’re a runner and you run through the winter, you likely already own a pair of Yaktrax, or possibly several. I personally don’t own any (yet) but I’ve seriously considered purchasing some as I’ve come to dislike the treadmill for runs longer than 3 miles or so. Yaktrax will help you stay upright on snowy and icy trails. They are recommended for running, hiking, or even walking the dog.
7. Lip Balm! Don’t forget about your lips! I can’t even tell you how many times I have been told someone wished they had used (or had on their person) lip balm before heading out into the elements. Our hands get dry in the winter from washing them and then being in our heated homes and offices. So do our lips! And have you ever had a cracked lip? It can be pretty painful. You wouldn’t forget to use BodyGlide on a long run, would you? Don’t forget your lip balm in the winter. You’re welcome.
8. Become one with the polypro. If you’re already an athlete, you know that cotton is the enemy. But did you know that polypropylene is your best friend in the winter, too? Poly or wool blend anything wicks away the moisture, leaving you cool and dry in the summer, and warm and dry in the winter. So even if you’re not running, playing hockey, or hiking, your base layer should always be a polypro or wool blend. Wicking away the moisture will keep you warm and snug. Perfect for playing outside with your littles, or drinking hot spiked cider by the fire.
9. No cotton. Ever. Speaking of cotton being the enemy… Do you know why? It’s soft and comfy and makes for a great jersey t-shirt or oversized hoodie, but it’s lousy at wicking away sweat. When you’re exerting yourself and sweat is kept close to your body, depending on the conditions, you either overheat or can become very cold, very fast. You also run the risk of chafing and no one likes a chafer. What’s worse about cotton is not only does it keep the moisture in, it becomes very heavy when it’s wet. This makes for an awful combination when you need to stay warm and dry. Save the cotton for home.
Key points to take-away? Polypropylene: yes. Hand/Head protection: yes. Layers: yes. Cotton: no. Stick with those basics and you’ll get through the winter just fine. 🙂
Got any questions? Have something to add? I’m happy to answer anything, and to add to this list!