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Gear up for winter

The foundation of every cold-weather adventure is the right clothing, and staying warm and dry takes planning. Follow these basic tips to play – and stay – outside!

First up, layer up

  • Base layer: Avoid cotton for this layer because it absorbs sweat, and even a little bit of moisture against your skin can create a chill. Instead, look for polyester blends, bamboo or merino wool, which are wicking but also provide warmth.
  • Middle layer: This is your insulation layer. Look for fleece, down, or wool for this layer to capture body heat to keep you warm.
  • Outer layer: This is your protection from the elements, so waterproof and windproof materials are imperative. A ¾ or full zipper will help you manage your temperature by allowing you to unzip as you warm up with exercise.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

  • Protect your toes, fingers and ears! A hat and gloves are important for any winter activity. Mittens are best for those who tend to get cold fingers. Double-layered, fleece-lined options with a waterproof or wool exterior are ideal for keeping the chill away.
  • Footwear should also start with a non-cotton sock. Wool, bamboo or polypropylene socks are soft, warm and lightweight. They don’t bunch up inside boots and will keep feet warm, even if sweating. Winter boots or waterproof hiking boots are necessary.
  • Snow pants are great for cold weather, but some people opt to wear gaiters, which fit over boots and cover pants up to the knee. Gaiters keep snow and water out of boots without the bulkiness of snow pants.

Be safe out there

  • Stay hydrated! You may not realize you’re sweating if you’ve layered correctly, which is why it’s easy to get behind on water intake. Be sure to pack plenty of water and plan water breaks during your trip.
  • Ice-traction devices can be invaluable during mild winters, which are often characterized by icy conditions. Like tire chains in the mountains, these slip on over your boots and have metal spikes or coils to help grip onto icy surfaces. It’s a great way to keep walking in those parks that offer plowed campground loops, so you can keep up your step count even when the days are shorter.
  • Whenever you head out into the woods, be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Leave a note, a text or a voice mail.
  • Drivers should keep vehicles packed for an emergency during winter adventures. Bring a shovel, blankets, a bucket of sand or cat litter for traction, a flashlight, water and snacks. These items can help drivers remove a vehicle from a ditch or snowbank or make waiting for help to arrive more tolerable.