7 cold weather essentials I swear for an outdoor adventure
Outdoor winter adventures haven’t quite been my comfort zone for most of my life. Growing up between California and Arizona, snow was pretty much a novelty outside of the occasional mountain getaway or family visit to the Midwest. I was generally cranky, even tearful, during these times – let’s just say ski school wasn’t my jam when I was five. However, the move to New York in 2010 quickly forced an adjustment to colder temperatures and a new wardrobe of cold-weather essentials. Since then, I have managed to indulge in outdoor activities, from skiing to running in the winter, in addition to the occasional snowshoe excursion! I really enjoy a quick jog in the cold and ski trips to the mountains for more than the afternoon activities. And now, since moving to Colorado this year, I’m all about improving my outdoor play in cold weather. Trek to advance my running and skiing skills.
Since dipping my toe in the winter activity pool, I’ve learned the importance of gear designed for the elements. Things like moisture-wicking wool and Heat-Tech lining are two highly functional fabrics for keeping warm while increasing your heart rate in cold weather. The same goes for the proper footwear, like insulated, non-slip boots and sneakers. And socks are just as essential – a less than sexy but incredibly essential piece of the cold-weather puzzle to stay dry and comfortable during cold adventures.
Layering is, of course, the key too. But a quick lesson I learned: don’t overdo it. While those frigid first few minutes might make you want to turn around and retreat to a comfortable interior, as soon as you start things heat up quickly. Two layers usually do that for me – a long sleeve base and an adjustable mattress topper. Plus, accessories to protect vulnerable places like your neck, hands, ankles and head. Until you’ve embarked on an outdoor getaway, these points are easy to ignore and you invariably learn the hard way (like me). Another achievement I have come to after a handful of outings is the mobility I need to perform at my best. If you are swaddled too tight or in layers that are too thick, you will likely tire more quickly and feel restricted from any range of motion. It is not my ideal state when trying to sweat or challenge myself to new experiences. Instead, lightweight but well-insulated parts are the ticket to optimal mobility.
Without further ado, my cold weather essentials shopping list, coming soon. Some tend to be more geared than others, yes. But, ultimately, these pieces are proven favorites for various activities and cold levels.
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Like the five plus pairs of black ankle boots I own (they’re all different!), The many puffer jackets in my closet all serve a variety of purposes. Lightweight, compressible styles are great as a top layer in moderately cold weather for hiking or running, usually with a long sleeve tee as a base. But for snowier adventures, like skiing or snowshoeing, heavy styles are a must. Often times I choose one of my ski jackets or, if it is Great cold I’ll add a squeeze style as a mid layer for extra warmth – they’re easy to take off and take off as needed.
I have tons of workout leggings, but most don’t cut it in the cold. Instead, I turn to lined and insulated styles designed to work in bad weather like rain, snow, or ice. Joggers, leggings, padded pants and snow pants are my must-haves.
Long sleeve t-shirt
After my first cold weather runs and my first snowshoe excursion, I quickly realized how few layers I really needed. A lightweight, moisture-wicking, long-sleeved t-shirt to regulate my core temperature is the star piece that is the foundation of each of my active winter outfits. My favorites include thermal or seamless crewnecks and breathable turtlenecks, usually in soft, super-fine fabrics.
It took me a while to get to the waistcoat – for a really long time it was like the ultimate symbol of granola style. Now, I realize that the puffy and polar iterations are great for crisp but not freezing weather, usually layered on top of a heavier long sleeve. I will also wear them as a mid layer under a warmer puffer jacket for those very cold days in the snow.
Weather resistant shoes
Almost nothing is as excruciating as frozen feet. Okay one thing, wet and frozen feet, which is why weatherproof shoes are a must–have. Like puffers, I need a few different styles for various activities. A weatherproof sneaker for runs or leisurely walks on the trails allows me to feel secure on slippery terrain while providing plenty of breathability. A rugged, waterproof hiking boot with grippy soles and insulation is key to comfortable hikes in cold weather. And for the snowshoe, I prefer a comfortable puffy boot – an inadvertent realization I came across on a ski trip where I only packed boots for snowy walks to and from the mountain. So comfortable.
Almost more important than a shoe resistant to the elements is a pair of warm socks designed to perform. From crewneck socks for running to knee-length fits designed for boots, wool and moisture-wicking models are best for breathability and insulation.
You don’t quite understand the importance of cold weather accessories until you have felt the excruciating sensation of numb extremities. Exposed areas like your neck and ankles will also cause your body temperature to drop quickly. Down mittens and a beanie are the real MVPs for me, with warm socks and a turtleneck as a base. Sports sunglasses and a dry bag are essential accessories for me too, for activities in the sun or when you need to bring other essentials.