NOTE: We origianlly published this post on January 11th 2017, but always think it is a good reminder during the winter months.
This time of year I read a lot of articles or blog posts about how to prepare for winter adventures. There are great points in these articles that come up time and time again.
-Check the Forecast: Know what you are getting into before you go (freezing rain, 12” inches of new snow,
-Stay Hydrated: You will lose just as much water sweating during winter activity as you do during summer activity, you just won’t notice it as much during the winter.
-Wear Layers: Layer up on clothing and avoid wearing cotton items for warmth and to be able to remove layers if you get too hot.
However, on my most recent trip I learned a few things I think should be added to these articles. I visited Banff, Alberta a few weeks ago. I packed my bags with lots of base layers and warm clothing so I could enjoy all the beautiful wintery weather that Banff had to offer. I learned some valuable lessons on this trip, many I had to learn the hard way. (Tip: Make sure to bring your large backpack winter gear takes up a lot of room!)
All winter gear isn’t created equal: You always want to make sure you later up during the winter months, but I ended up learning the hard way that all of the base layers I packed were not the same. After a few hours of hiking on day one I returned with legs that were so cold they stayed red for 24 hours along with an amazing tingling sensation when I got in the shower. After thinking about it, I realized I hadn’t tried out some of my layering combinations prior to getting to Banff. Luckily, I had packed options for all of my gear for conditions ranging from Cold, to Colder, to Coldest (winter Armageddon). (Tip: You can layer up on everything even on winter gloves!)
Avoid My Mistakes: Test out different layering options and your winter gear prior to your winter adventure during normal winter activity. Whether walking your dog or shoveling the snow, try different combinations of winter clothes so you know how well your layers work together.
All winter weather isn’t created equal: A lot of people think cold snowy weather is all the same. You have your winter jacket, wool socks and snow pants, but the differences in weather when it is 30*F and snowy or -24*F and snowy can make or break a fun, memorable winter adventure and turn it into a miserable, regrettable day.
All winter activities aren’t created equal: Prepare and dress for your specific activity. One of the most exciting parts of my trip was that I got to go dog sledding for the first time. I had been looking forward to this for months. I was dressed appropriately for the -22*F start of our trip and ready to go. We got a rundown of commands for our sleds and went to meet our teams. One of the dog sledding companies team members asked if I needed additional gloves. I thought to myself, “Come on, have you seen me? I am dressed for Antarctica!” I quickly realized why he had asked me that. As the sled started moving I quickly felt my hands start to get cold. Hanging on to the sled my hands weren’t moving to stay warm like the rest of my body. Take a second to think about what you will be doing and if there might be an area on your body that might need fewer, or extra, layers for exactly what you will be doing.
**If you are looking for dog sledding near Banff, AB check out Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours. They did a great job and support humane mushing and ethical sled dog care.