7 Tips for Keeping Warm Outdoors in Winter

I work with Frank, applying my background in both biology and marketing, to help him with his goal to make it easier to get people to grow, eat and live outdoors. This is something we are both very passionate about (and one of the reasons we have remained friends since we were teenagers!). When I am not working with Frank, I lead nature hikes in the York Regional Forests, most of them in the winter, and often at night. From someone who does not like the cold (at all) or winter (bring on spring),  I put a lot of work into staying warm when I am outdoors. Here are some tips for keeping warm outdoors in winter.

Tip #1: Wear a good base layer.

Avoid cotton as your base layer as it will hold moisture against your skin, making you chilly. There are many options in base layer bottoms and tops that you won’t even know you are wearing.  You want your base layer to be fitted, but not too tight. The higher end layers are typically made of merino or wool fabrics. The lower end options tend to be nylon-polyester blend. My recommendation: http://www.columbiasportswear.ca/en/AL8634.html?cgid=women-bottoms-baselayer&dwvar_AL8634_variationColor=010#start=1

Tip #2:  Choose an insulating layer made from polar fleece.

For the top, look for something you can unzip if you get warm.  For the bottom, get something that is slim fitting right to the ankle.This is the layer that provides warmth, also known as the insulating layer. I still wear my favorite polar fleece leggings that I purchased over 15 years ago and they keep me warm, even on the coldest days. My recommendation: Unfortunately Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) no longer sells my favourite leggings, so try these:  http://www.columbiasportswear.ca/en/1557001.html?dwvar_1557001_variationColor=010#q=fleece+leggings&start=0

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Tip #3: Don't assume bulky means warmer for your outer layer.

I recently discovered Columbia’s turbo down jacket with omni-heat. I can’t believe how warm it is, it’s so thin!!  The outer layer doesn’t have to be big and bulky, just comfortable and protectant from the wind and any moisture (in the event you end up making snow angels or in an epic snowball fight).  Try on the hood to make sure it fits and doesn’t fall over your eyes or choke you.  For pants, all you will need is an outer shell that is slim fitted and stops the wind from getting through, but is still breathable and stretchy.

The outer layer doesn’t have to be big and bulky, just comfortable and protectant from the wind and any moisture (in the event you end up making snow angels or in an epic snowball fight).  I recently discovered Columbia’s Turbo Down jacket with omni-heat. I can’t believe how warm it is, it’s so thin!! Try on the hood to make sure it fits and doesn’t fall over your eyes or choke you. When it is really cold out, I wear my Barlow's Pass coat. It also has the omni-heat and its has a bit more bulk, but still fits slim and keeps me really warm.

For pants, all you will need is an outer shell that is slim fitted and stops the wind from getting through, but is still breathable and stretchy.

My recommendations: Top: Turbo Down Jacket (when its cold out). Barlow's Pass Coat (when its really cold out)

Pants: Mountain Equipment Coop Sandbagger

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 Tip #4: Try on new boots with the socks you will wear outdoors.

My criteria for winter boots were that they were tall enough for me to tread through deep snow, without a furry rim to get in the way of my outdoor pants, lightweight and comfortable (some days I have to hike up to 10 kilometers).  I made one BIG mistake when buying my current boots; I bought the size that fit when I was wearing my regular, everyday socks. When I wear my thicker, outdoor socks, my boots are snug and there is no air around my toes to keep them warm! Air is important in insulation, so the result is freezing toes! My recommendation: I am still looking for the right pair and I am open to suggestions… I do recommend keeping a pack of these handy. https://www.littlehottieswarmers.com/

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Tip #5: Looks for socks that are breathable, flexible and warm!

Make sure your socks are made from a material that will wick away moisture (once again, not cotton). My favorites are Fox River. I have the big woolen ones for the cold weather, and the lightweight ones for the warmer weather. My feet never get sweaty, itchy or rubbed in them. The only downside is that they don’t always have a good selection for women with small feet at MEC. My recommendation:  http://www.mec.ca/product/0313-122/fox-river-tramper-socks-unisex/?q=fox%2Briver

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"3915","attributes":{"class":"media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2260","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"267","height":"267","alt":"Fox Rier Amazon"}}]]

Tip #6: Make sure your hat fights snug, but not too tight.

If it is too tight, your skins and head can start to ache when wearing it. If it is too loose and it will fall over your eyes when you look down or fall off your head when you look up.Although the old adage that heat escapes from your head isn’t entirely accurate, it is still important to wear a hat.  Look for a hat with a fleece lining and a wool or synthetic exterior that completely covers your ears.  Wool hats with a loose knit allow too much air flow and toques don’t always cover your earlobes. My recommendation: http://www.columbiasportswear.ca/en/CL9276.html?dwvar_CL9276_variationColor=960#start=2

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Tip #7: Only chose mittens over gloves if you don't need to use your fingers often.

Gloves provide more dexterity, but mittens keep your fingers warmer.  If you need to be able to use your fingers for things like tying up skates, taking pictures or putting on snowshoes on over and over (like me), grab a pair of knit gloves from the dollar store to wear for those tasks to keep your fingers from getting too cold, and then a warmer pair for later. Whether you go with gloves or mittens, make sure they are lined for warmth with an exterior shell to break the wind. My recommendation: http://www.mec.ca/product/5038-328/auclair-lite-loft-mittens-womens/?Ntk=productsearch_en_q32008&No=40&h=10+50093+50006&q=gloves [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"3917","attributes":{"class":"media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2206","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"267","height":"267","alt":"MEC Auclair"}}]]

If you have any questions, you can email me at aileen@frankieflowers.com. For more information on the hikes in the York Regional Forests, visit https://www.york.ca/wps/portal/yorkhome/recreation/yr/outdooreducation%20 Now go outside, stay warm and HAVE FUN! - Aileen

Written by Aileen Barclay from #TeamFrankie