How to #OptOutside When It’s Cold

tire tracks

You want to #OptOutside, but it’s cold, what to do?  Just because the weather has turned cold and the days are dark, doesn’t mean that you need to hide inside by the fire.  Winter is a great time to #OptOutside.  With leaves off the trees, vistas expand beyond your summer viewshed.  Colder temperatures generally mean that many creatures hide, so fewer bears, snakes and bugs can make the outdoors less frightening for the skittish.  And best of all, everyone else is curled up inside, so you can have the trail to yourself!

Plan Your #OptOutside Outing

  1. Check the weather

    Weather forecasts are fickle.  Check the long term forecast for a day that looks good, with low chance of rain, ice or heavy snow.

  2. Pick your location

    You might do this first, then keep an eye out for a hospitable day.  In any case many locations work well for winter outings.  

    If heavy snow is common in your area, you might want to pick a place that is still accessible for parking, but not for driving.  For example, You might park at a trailhead, but rather than hike a trail, hike, snowshoe or x-country ski gated fire roads.  Bike paths that are snow covered can be another good option.  You don’t have to worry about turning an ankle on unseen obstacles under the snow.  

    If ice is more of an issue, you can look for similar locations as above, and consider investing in a good pair of nanospikes or microspikes.  If you think you’re going to need full crampons, I highly recommend getting a guide, or having someone with mountaineering experience join you.  

    If it’s just cold, or cold and wet, you can go pretty much anywhere you want, just be prepared for the conditions.  

    Hiking in the High Peaks in November

  3. Get Good Gear

    You can have good gear, you can have cheap gear, you can have light weight gear.  Pick two, those are your choices for any piece of gear, you can’t get all three, that’s like finding a unicorn.  Your gear should be appropriate for the #OptOutside conditions you expect to face.  

    With shorter days and the possibility that weather can change quickly, you will need to be prepared for a range of conditions.  If you will be more than 30 minutes from a road, or in an area that is unlikely to include other people, be prepared to spend the night out, even if you’re planning a day hike.  Always carry extra food, water and layers in the winter.  Worst case, you carry some extra weight.  Other worst case, you or someone else gets injured and needs the water, food, or warmth.  

    Items to carry:  lighter/matches, firestarter, headlamp, first aid kit, extra snacks, extra water (make sure it doesn’t freeze) (Optional: tent, sleeping bag, seat pad, sleeping pad, beacon, warm sock for your cell phone, extra battery for cell phone or camera)

  4. Check the Weather Again

    You’ll get a little obsessive about checking the weather…

  5. Get Dressed and Pack Extra Layers, Just In Case…

    Getting dressed for a cold weather outing is all about layers.

    You’ll want a base layer that wicks sweat and holds some warmth.

    You will want an insulation layer appropriate for the weather and your level of exertion. 

    And lastly, you’ll want a wind/water barrier layer.  

    Don’t forget to pack one layer more than you think you’ll need.  

  6. Leave Your Trip Plan With A Trusted Friend or Family Member

    Make sure you include a check-in time when you expect to be back at your car, or back in cell phone coverage.  Give them a total drop dead, call the authorities time too.  And don’t be an ass.  Call as soon as you can once you’re done.  

  7. Go #OptOutside!

    Go have fun doing whatever you planned to do!  

  8. Call By Your Check In Time

    Don’t forget to call your person and let them know that you’re OK and on your way home. 

  9. Do A Post Mortem

    Take a few moments to think (or journal) about your experience.  What did you do? What was fun? What was notable? What could/would you do differently next time?  Were you too cold? Too hot? Too challenged? Not challenged enough? Need a partner? Need a different partner?  Were conditions good? Bad? Ugly?  Do you need new gear?  Did something break that you need to repair/replace?  Do you need to clean/dry anything?  

    It’s important to take these few moments, so that next time you can make any necessary changes and have MORE FUN!

  10. Tell The World 🙂

    Post some pictures, or tell a friend what you did and how it went.  Maybe they’ll want to come along next time?  

    Here’s a post I wrote about an awesome winter hike from a ghost town to an abandoned rail line.

2 Comments on “How to #OptOutside When It’s Cold

  1. I refuse to let the weather keep me inside now. I went hiking last year in 0 degree weather and it was amazing. I had hot packets all over my body inside my clothes. lol.