Winter clothing tips for outdoor adventure travel can not only save your life, but it can make your winter activity much more comfortable. After going for a six mile run in frigid near zero temperatures I posted on my Facebook page that I just got back from running, and I did not see another sole running (pun intended).
I was expecting people to make comments like “because they are not crazy,” or “you are a fool.” Truth is, I did get a few of these comments; however, I received a couple of other comments that surprised me. I had a couple of comments asking what I wore. It dawned on me that a lot of people probably steer clear from winter adventure not because they do not like the cold, but some just do not have an idea of what to wear.
Currently, I am training for the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski Marathon. This is problematic right now with no snow in the Chicago vicinity. Therefore, I have been doing a lot of running to stay in skiing shape.
Running is a little different from outdoor adventure travel, but some of the same tips apply for running in winter weather as they do for hiking or skiing in cold weather.
Skip the bulky winter jacket:
You do not want to wear a bulky winter jacket when you are hiking, running, or skiing. That is something you wear when you are in camp if you are crazy enough to winter camp. Even if it is sub zero temperatures, once you start exercising you will begin to sweat and the bulky jacket does not allow you to breathe. This can actually turn dangerous as once you stop hypothermia could set in.
Layering is key:
One thing that really shocks people when they hike or run in cold weather is how little clothing they need. I wear a cotton long sleeve shirt and an ultra thin windbreaker down to 30 degrees when I am running. When it gets below that, I may add a synthetic undershirt.
Running is a little more intense than cross-country skiing, so more clothing is necessary for skiing. I wear a long sleeved north face undershirt with a merino wool jacket skiing. If it is really cold or the wind is strong, I will add a windbreaker. Even more clothing is needed for downhill skiing. When you downhill ski you are not getting a cardiovascular workout, so you do not stay as warm.
I also layer below the waist. In extreme cold weather I wear tights with windproof sweats over the tights. If it is a bit warmer I only wear the tights. I also layer my socks if it is extremely cold. I usually wear wool socks when skiing, but only regular cotton ones when running.
Always, always, always, wear a hat
One time my Uncle showed up in the north woods of Minnesota and promptly got his truck stuck in the snow. He was saved by people that lived close by who attached a hitch to his truck and pulled him out with their truck. My uncle was not wearing a hat, and the two men gave him hell.
There is something about getting the third degree by people who talk like the move Fargo. Fortunately, I was wearing a hat and did not receive their wrath, but twenty years later I am still affected by the grilling of my uncle from some Minnesota outdoorsmen. I will never leave my house without one in the winter for fear they will show up and give me hell.
I wear a hat outdoors anytime the temperature is below 50 degrees. I am not talking about my wide brimmed hat made almost famous from my twitter icon. I wear a winter hat running, skiing, or hiking, and this is one garment I do not take off as I get warmer. They say 80% of your heat leaves from your head, so do not neglect this item.
Some people do not like to wear hats as a fashion choice, but there is no fashion at 0 degrees. People who are freezing and possibly threatening their life by their own stupidity do not look cool.
Bottom line is you will need to try different combinations to find what works for you for each winter outdoor adventure activity. The clothing combination will be different for each sport. Try some of these tips to get you started, but learning by experience is the best teacher.
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