While we actively try to get out kids out and moving throughout the winter, any parent living where it snows can tell you that most kids struggle to even WALK in snow boots in the powder before at least the age of two. J is learning to ski and snowshoe now, but P spends a lot of time standing there and looking around or watching from the safety of the backpack or Chariot. While that means being a bit more careful about how we dress him, it’s just part of having little kids and is no big deal. He likes to watch (or sleep) and we like to get our hearts pumping as much as possible (which is definitely more of a production than it used to be.) We work hard to give J a little time to try out his winter sport side first and then he is more apt to contently sit (or sleep) while we get in our fun.
Here’s the thing: The more of a high intensity workout you are getting out in the cold of winter, the more you must be mindful of staying dry, warm and prepared for varying conditions. Sweat, when not handled properly, has the potential to kill (think hypothermia) in the winter. I, personally, feel the need for a hot shower after most outdoor adventures. When I don’t have the right gear on, I pay for it and chills can come on quickly and fiercely. AND, once you are wet (even just a little bit) and cold, it’s much harder to regulate your body temperature.
Examples of sports that count as “high intensity” (**not a full list!**)
- XC Skiing
- Skate Skiing
- Winter Running
- Snowshoeing (depending on what you put into it)
Sports that can have varying energy outputs (and require more careful layering in general)
- Alpine (Downhill) Skiing
- Backcountry Skiing (with or without skins)
- Winter Climbing
- Winter backpacking
We talk about layers a lot here. Only because they hold the utmost importance as far as staying safe out there. Thanks to our modern high-tech fabrics, the idea is that moisture escapes and heat stays in. In an attempt to break them down just a bit more:
Base Layer: This is what is closest to your skin and works the hardest to wick away sweat and keep you dry. If you are budget-minded, don’t skimp on the base layer. In case you missed it, you can find some great information on base layers in our previous post here.
Mid Layer: Most important on the coldest of days. The middle of the “sandwich”, this layer can be modified depending on conditions. While there are some great fleeces that doing some additional wicking (see our “recommended gear list below”), most any fleece will do. When the temperatures are more mild, a vest is usually your best option (and easy to throw on when you need it quickly!) Sometimes we have no mid layer (if we are really moving or it is really warm), sometimes we ditch the mid layer part way in and sometimes the mid layer is really like 3 layers!
Outer Layer: What keeps you dry. A good shell that is waterproof and light is best. Fabric that moves with you as you adventure and added features of “pit zips” and hoods are great additions too!
Some more factors to take into consideration:
- How small do your layers (particularly the mid and outer) pack up. If you want to shed some as you go, can they ball up (err…fold up nicely….) and fit in your pack?
- Speaking of packs and high intensity sports – are you carrying one? Did you leave room for water bottles or bladders? Any extra space for high-calorie snacks or that extra layer you will “never” need?
- Does your outer layer have enough room to allow for all that other stuff under it?
- If you are headed into the backcountry, far from the warmth of a car or building, did you pack extra? Puffy coats are prime for that “just in case” layer.
- Are you carrying hand and foot warmers? While we try to not use them as much as we can, they are especially helpful for sedentary kids sitting while you are hauling them. In fact, for the first time this winter we have resorted to being proactive and packing P (who tends to get colder faster) with hand AND foot warmers in between his base layer mittens/extra socks and STONZ boots/mittz (because they fit over all his layers so well).
Other gear (besides the base layers linked above) we recommend:
Please note that we KNOW that this gear isn’t cheap (though tons of it is on sale now…which we have linked up to, of course.) But, it is REALLY good gear that you can depend on for years and years. Consider it an investment for your safety AND comfort. We have been trying out tons – here are our favorites.
NEW! Patagonia Piton Hybrid Jacket (mid or light outer layer)
NEW! Sierra Designs Gnar Lite Down Jacket (mid layer)
NEW! The North Face Zero Jacket Shell (outer layer)