When the weather outside is frightful, but the thought of staying cooped up indoors is even more so, you really need to head outdoors for some winter fun. With a little planning and preparation, and the willingness to leave the central heating behind, you can have just as much fun in the cold as you can during the summer.
Here are 13 tips for keeping warm while having fun outdoors when it’s cold outside:
- Wear appropriate clothing. Choosing the right clothing for outdoor winter play can mean the difference between having a blast and getting blasted by the elements. The same articles of clothing that might work fine for a short dash outside on a cold day will be part of a recipe for hypothermia if you wear it for playing outdoors, so focus on function first, fashion second when dressing for winter play.
- Dress in layers, so that as your body warms up, you can easily shed (or unzip) a layer before you start sweating. Depending on the activity, you may want an outer layer that blocks the wind and lets out heat, or you may want a breathable outer layer, and many times the better choice is multiple garments, not a single down jacket.
- Choose wool or fleece or other synthetics over cotton, both for long underwear and for outerwear, as they are all much better insulators, even when wet.
- Wear a hat and cover your ears. Keeping the top of your head and your ears out of the wind and biting cold will make a huge difference in how warm you feel. And if it gets really cold, wear a balaclava, a facemask, or a scarf over your face, and add goggles or glasses to protect your eyes.
- Wear gloves or mittens, and regularly check your fingers for exposure. Avoid leather or cloth gloves, as wet gloves are a sure ticket for frostbite. If you can, combine thin glove liners with warm outer mittens or gloves for additional warmth.
- Wear weatherproof shoes or boots, and wear wool or synthetic socks. And don’t wear tight shoes or boots, as they are not going to be as warm as those with a bit of room in them.
- Keep the core of your body warm and only expose your arms, neck, or head as your body temperature rises. Staying warm enough to be comfortable, but not so warm as to start sweating, is the key to having fun outdoors in the cold. Learn to anticipate when to strip off a layer before you get hot, as well as when to add a layer before your teeth start chattering.
- Fuel up your body before you begin. Your body’s warmth is fueled by the food you eat, so if you’re going to be active outside in the cold, fill up your belly with a high-energy meal beforehand. That may be different for different people due to varied eating habits, but many cold weather adventurers chow down on complex carbs and high-fat foods before heading out.
- Keep yourself hydrated. Just because you’re not sweating buckets doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need fluids, and in the winter it can be really easy to forget to drink water or otherwise hydrate yourself.
- Keep the fire in your belly stoked by bringing plenty of snacks to munch on.
- Bring a thermos full of a hot beverage with you for a warmer-upper. Taking a break for a hot cup of tea or coffee or cocoa will warm you up from the inside out.
- It’s much warmer to play than to watch, so whatever you’re going to do outdoors, keep moving and help your body keep itself warm.
- Take breaks to warm up inside if you can, or seek a sheltered area and periodically take the time to get out of the cold or direct wind/snow.
And in case you didn’t think there was that much to do outside when it’s cold out, here are some ideas to get you started:
- Ice Skating
- Snowball fights
- Have a fire in your yard
- Follow wildlife tracks through the snow in the woods or neighborhood
- Build a snow maze
- Build a snow house
- Cross-country skiing in town
- Backcountry skiing or snowboarding
- Ice fishing
- Running in the snow
- Skijoring with your dog
- Snow Rugby/Football/Soccer
- Play Broomball
- Play Bandy
- Go ice swimming
- Snow kayaking
- Shovel racing
- Kite skating
- Speed riding
What’s your favorite way to have fun outdoors when it’s cold outside?