With the weather that’s been hitting much of the US this winter, I don’t blame most folks for wanting to stay indoors with a nice book and hot cup of tea. But if you’re looking to venture into the great outdoors during a cold snap, it is extremely important to dress appropriately. This factor can either make or break your day.
Mount Cherry, NH
I recently went skiing with some friends in New Hampshire and when we stepped out of the car, the thermometer read a whopping 9 degrees. I must admit that I was pretty concerned as the wind cut through my jeans. I’ve dealt with numb toes and even “chilblains” before, so those experiences flashed like warnings through my mind. Luckily, I was prepared!
It has been down in the single digits a fair amount during the New England winter, so I’ve developed a good system for staying warm thanks to many outdoor stores and recommendations from friends. The key is a system of layering, each of which is very important in working together to keep you warm and comfortable. Here goes:
1. Base Layer
Your base layer should be something synthetic. The main goal of this layer is to wick away sweat so that as you’re active, the sweat doesn’t sit on your skin and make you cold. For my trip, I wore a tight-fitting, synthetic, long-sleeved shirt up top, and fleece-lined leggings below.
*Pro-tip: avoid cotton in this layer as it gets damp easily and keeps you cold.*
2. Thermal Layer
The thermal layer does just what it sounds like: keeps you warm! While the first layer is removing moisture, the second layer traps body heat to keep you warm. This layer should be thick like fleece or wool.
I wore a woven pullover with fleece interior which worked great. I did not wear a second layer on my legs, which ended up fine for me, but if you’re worried, some sort of fleece sweatpants might do the trick.
*Pro-tip: avoid very loose-fitting garments for this layer as the main goal is to keep the warm air near your body.*
3. Outer Layer
The main goal of this layer is to protect you from the elements. Commonly on the top of mountains, and during the winter when the trees are bare, the winds can be brutal. This layer helps you avoid the added discomfort of wind and water getting through your clothes.
For this layer, I wore an insulated, waterproof coat and ski pants. I could feel that there was wind, but none of it was getting through these layers.
*Pro-tip: Down is usually the best insulation, although it can be pricey.*
4. The Extremities
Let’s not forget about the other things you will need to keep warm! For your hands, mittens or gloves both work in my opinion, but I prefer mittens.
A key here is that they be durable and water-resistant. If your hands get wet: game over.
Additionally, you want to keep your feet warm. A lot of people tend to try and wear multiple socks to keep the heat in, but an issue with this is that you can inadvertently decrease blood flow to your feet, keeping them cooler.
So, the best scenario in my experience is to buy a pair of good-quality wool socks and insulated, water-proof boots. These work together to wick away the sweat as you’re active, while also trapping heat and avoiding rain or snow getting inside.
You’ll also want to wear a warm hat or earmuffs—I recommend fleece—and a scarf. Covering these vulnerable areas like the ears and neck will help keep heat from escaping around your body.
*Pro-tip: Hand warmers can be a lifesaver, so think ahead!*
Do not forget about your eyes, lips, and skin. If you’re out in extreme temperatures for long, you may notice your skin starting to grow painful or itchy.
Ointments like Vaseline and lip balm are extremely important to avoid cracking and bleeding as you’re breathing the cold, dry air.
You can also wear goggles or glasses if you’re skiing or doing other high-speed activities to help protect your eyes from both wind, and sun-glare on the snow.
Crotched Mountain, NH
There you have it. I hope this helps make the outdoors a little more accessible.
Remember to stay hydrated and keep your energy up with plenty of water and hearty snacks.
And plan ahead, making sure you have all the appropriate gear to make your day safe and comfortable. Cheers and happy adventuring!