Winter is a wonderful time to get outside. There are activities that can only be done in the snow such as skiing and snowshoeing, winter tracking is a great way to learn more about the local wildlife, and spending some time in the sun during winter’s short days can make you feel much happier. Yet, while being outside in winter can be incredibly fun, if you aren’t dressed correctly it can also be uncomfortable and even dangerous. The key to winter comfort is dressing in layers and making sure those layers each do what they’re supposed to! Use the following layer system to ensure that you and your kids stay warm and dry while playing outside, and remember to always bring extra layers when going out for extended periods of time!
Always start with your baselayer, or the layer that is closest to your skin. During the winter it is important to avoid wearing clothing made out of cotton. Cotton absorbs water quickly and then takes a long time to dry which will make you cold. When you are active outside or playing in the snow, there is a good chance that you will sweat or that the snow will get you wet, thus making this especially important. Some of the long underwear that is sold in stores, especially the “waffle” kind is made out of cotton, so be sure to read the label carefully.
Instead of cotton, look for fabric that is either synthetic or wool. These fabrics will wick the sweat away from your skin and then dry quickly. They will also stay warm even when wet. Contrary to popular belief, wool and synthetic items don’t have to be incredibly pricey. Children’s synthetic long underwear can be found online for $10. Wearing synthetic long underwear on both your top and bottom, plus wool socks will go a long way towards keeping you warm.
Next, you want to add a thick middle layer. Again, try to steer clear of cotton. While a thick cotton sweatshirt will do a great job of keeping you warm inside, as soon as it gets wet you will start to shiver. Heavy fleeces or wool sweaters are great midlayers. If you are wearing insulated snowpants, you can usually skip the midlayer on your bottom half since the snowpants are so warm. On extra cold days, however, you might want to add in fleece pants. For cheaper sweaters and fleeces try searching at your local thrift store. Sweaters last a long time and you can usually find something great secondhand!
Last, add an outerlayer to keep you dry from rain and snow and protected from wind. A winter coat or hardshell coat is perfect for your torso and snowpants will keep your bottom half dry. Try to avoid an outlayer that doesn’t “breathe” like a rubber raincoat as you will end up getting wetter from all of your sweat.
DON’T FORGET THE HEAD, HANDS & FEET!
Before you rush out the door to go play in the snow, be sure your head and hands are covered. The same rules apply to these items: avoid cotton and especially with your gloves, make sure they’re waterproofed! Lastly, wear good boots that provide traction and also keep your feet dry.
It can be a lot to think about before going outside, but once you get in the habit of layering it will start to feel quite simple. Not only that, but you will be much warmer and happier playing outside!