Yay! It’s finally actually cold in Minnesota. Which is the way it’s supposed to be.
I hate being cold and get cold easily. Some people’s bodies and temperaments are built for the cold. I am not one of them. I am prone to hypothermia, frost nip, bite, and chilblains. While I don’t get sunburned easily, my skin gets chapped, cracked, and peels from the cold. Yet I have learned to love Minnesota winters.
I love winter because I actually spend time outside and am rarely truly cold. I go for walks, I bike commute, I run, and soon we’ll be camping.
This is 6 ways I make it work:
1. LAYERS! More layers, less cotton and more wool and silk should be a bit obvious and basic so let me be more specific.
- I change the whole paradigm! I don’t just get out the obvious thick sweaters, coats and hats. The key is a variety of base and mid-weight layers. Even for everyday wear I’m always wearing long underwear or leggings under my jeans or pants. I also will have a minimal base layer (tank or T) plus a lightweight long sleeve before the sweater or mid-weight layer.
- I do it early! I used to try to save my warmest layers for when it would get truly cold. But then I would just freeze for half the season and because I was cold I didn’t spend time outside and then I was crabby and never adapted. So I learned to get the long underwear out early and put on the fuzzy stuff as soon as the temperature drops. This way I happily spend time outside and by the time we’re in the dead of winter my body and layering system is prepared.
- I eliminate drafty gaps, overlap the layers! The most important one is at the waist. I tuck the base shirt in! The bottom most layer needs to be long and the pants need to come up high enough. Socks overlap with long underwear or leggings. If the pants are drafty (boot cut) then over the calf socks it is. And the obvious gap at the neck is always covered with scarves and/or neck gaiter and often used in tandem with hoods and hats.
- I manage the layers. Before going out my layers should be pre-warmed. Which means storing them in the warm and/or putting them on while still inside. So I’m warm and the layers are fully warm before going outside. The flip side of this is not getting too hot. Whether inside or out it’s best not to sweat too much so I am quick to unzip or delayer if I’m building up too much heat.
2. MITTENS! Gloves inside mittens, or just mittens. But never just gloves. I rarely need full finger dexterity 100% of the time. Only mittens are truly warm. So I just take my hand out of my warm mitten to do something and then put it back.
3. BOOTS! I go full on Mukluk for the single digist and below. For the rest of the winter it’s always wind/waterproof and tall. If I need a more appropriate indoor shoe I pack something lightweight to put on later.
4. HYDRATION inside and out! Dehydration makes it harder to keep warm. Yet I have trouble drinking enough water if I’m chilled. Hot drinks not only feel better to drink but help keep me hydrated too. Dry skin is not only uncomfortable but also feels colder. I will put on baby oil while still in the shower. I’ll put on body oils or creams (no lotions with alcohol in them) everyday. I’ll put on a grease stick on my face before biking or running in the winter.
5. MOVE & EAT! It’s not the eating but the burning of calories that generates heat. So if I’m going to be out for long I’ve got to be fueled or moving and preferably both.
6. EMBRACE IT! Lastly I have learned that a little bite of cold on my cheeks and a couple of cold minutes does not mean I’m actually dying or in danger. I’ve come to realize that the human body is pretty dang durable and adaptable. Arctic cultures thrived for centuries without having refuge in modern insulated heated buildings. Polar explorers have survived without any of my fancy modern layers. If I wasn’t going to move then I ought to quit whimpering and embrace it.
Next in the winter camping storyline: Ready for…?