How to Keep Warm Outdoors in Winter

warm outdoors in winter

There is something special about the winter season that is not to be missed! The deep serenity, landscapes elegantly draped in a blanket of snow and lesser crowds outdoors make up a magical experience. 

How to Keep Warm Outdoors in Winter 1
Photo by: Simon Berger

Cold temperatures can be experienced not just during winter, but particularly in wet environments and at night throughout the year. Depending on where you are, the adventure you’re on, tolerance to cold, nutrition and hydration, and of course, the equipment/clothing you carry.

Here are some reliable tips that will help you keep warm outdoors in winter, have a more pleasant winter adventure, and avoid injuries or illnesses resulting from unwanted cold exposure.

Stay dry! 

How to Keep Warm Outdoors in Winter 2
Photo by: Greg Rosenke

Keeping yourself from getting wet is the simplest, most important way of avoiding cold. Discomfort, cold-related troubles, and more serious cases like hypothermia and frostbite can be avoided by simply staying dry. Make sure to use quick-dry materials as it gives ease when getting wet is unavoidable.

Choose appropriate clothing and gear

Invest in proper gear and clothing. Experiment to see which works for you to decrease the chances of cold-related difficulties.

Clothing

  • The key to managing cold weather is choosing the right clothing and layering the right way with a suitable material. 
    • Merino wool is a popular choice as base layer clothing.
    • For middle-layer clothing, a fleece jacket and synthetic insulated jacket plus long underwear or fleece pants work well.
    • For the outermost layer, a fully waterproof jacket and pants are very important to protect you from being wet from rain, snow, and sleet. 
    • Your clothing accessories are also equally important. Keeping your head warm under a beanie/ hat or hood will keep the rest of your body warmer. Insulated gloves, mittens, 100% woolen socks, goggles/ glasses, buff, waterproof/ insulating boots, and gaiters are essential especially in extreme cold when you have to cover your skin.
How to Keep Warm Outdoors in Winter 3
Photo by: Patrick Hendry
  • Choose an ideal waterproof backpack and ensure that important items are in plastic or waterproof bags. Keeping your sleeping gear and extra clothing DRY is as important as having them. 
  • Do not go for cotton as it takes a long time to dry when wet. Wool and synthetic material will keep you warm, are breathable and very quick to dry. 

Gear

  • Sleeping bag. The most recommended are the ones made of down and synthetic insulation. Sleeping silk bag liner also adds extra warmth and doubles in keeping your sleeping bag clean.

“To ensure comfort on cold nights, it’s a good idea to use a bag that’s rated at least 10°F lower than the coldest temperature you expect to encounter. You can always vent the bag if you get too warm (www.rei.com)”

How to Keep Warm Outdoors in Winter 4
Photo by: JesseLeeRoper
  • Self-inflatable sleeping pads give a lot of warmth, are comfortable, very quick, and easy to inflate, and deflate. They are also light and don’t take a lot of space. 
How to Keep Warm Outdoors in Winter 5
Photo by: Rick McCharles
  • Keep warm drinks handy for quick sips. A trusted vacuum-insulated bottle with your favorite coffee or tea is super satisfying in cold temperatures. This will also save you time in boiling water every time.
How to Keep Warm Outdoors in Winter 6
Photo by: Markus Spiske

When camping

  • Fire will keep you warm and toasty especially after the end of each adventuring day. Click here here to know the types of campfires and how to build one.
How to Keep Warm Outdoors in Winter 7
  • Lay a groundsheet under your tent.
  • You can close the vents of the tent although if you do, you may have to deal with more condensation build-up. See our tips on how to prevent tent condensation here
  • Choose your camping site well. Higher grounds are colder and windier although watch out for valleys and ravines that can also be chilly. 

On the trail

  • Don’t wait until you are cold to put layers on. Remember that once you get cold,  it’s hard to warm up again. In the same manner, remove layers before you sweat. You wouldn’t want to risk being drenched in sweat when it suddenly gets chilly  This is especially applicable in varied terrain and quickly changing temperatures.  It helps to anticipate your next activity to know if you’ll add or remove layers. 
  • Take more breaks but short ones, don’t give yourself enough time to get cold.
  • Spend your short breaks in sunny places. Do not take a break at the top of a hill as it is usually cold and windy up there, and going down can cool you down even more. It is best to take a break once you are down the hill. 
How to Keep Warm Outdoors in Winter 8
Photo by: Greg Sellentin

Other important reminders

  • In contrast to warm weather, you are less likely to feel hungry when it’s cold. Remember to hydrate and eat nutritious snacks as often. Calories and enough hydration help a lot. If possible, eat a full, warm meal before sleeping to help keep you warm throughout the night.
How to Keep Warm Outdoors in Winter 9
Photo by: Manny Moreno
  • Keeping your clothes inside your sleeping bag at night keeps them warm and you can avoid having to put on cold clothes the next morning.
  • Managing cold through proper breathing and meditation is proven effective. Check out the Wim Hof method and other benefits of cold exposure here to know if it fits you.  
  • Random exercises when you are outdoors help in generating body heat. Some stretches, lunges, and push-ups work wonders!

Happy winter adventures

If you haven’t yet, go for short adventures, like hiking somewhere near your home. This will give you a chance to test your gear and clothing, be familiar with specific situations that make you cold, and learn your own techniques.

Keeping yourself warm is a combination of the above tips and more depending on your location, the outdoor adventure that you are into and many other factors. 

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” (Unknown)

How to Keep Warm Outdoors in Winter 10
Photo by: Kelly Sikkema

When you start having ‘cold feet’ and feel like giving a pass in venturing out in the cold season, remember the immense beauty outside that is waiting for you to explore and the fun that only sits in cold! 

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