Tag Archives: get outdoors

A pair of hands in knit gloves forming a heart shape against a snowy outdoor sunset

How to Dress for Winter Adventures

Winter is a great time for outdoor adventures: sledding, building snowmen and snow forts, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, winter hiking, and more. But cold-weather activities can quickly lose their allure—or become downright dangerous—if you’re not dressed for comfort and warmth. Luckily, it’s not complicated or expensive to clothe yourself appropriately for winter weather. Here’s a guide so you can plan ahead.

A pair of hands in knit gloves forming a heart shape against a snowy outdoor sunset

Layers, Layers, Layers

You can always take layers off, but you can’t put clothes on that you don’t have. Dress for the activity you are going to be doing, but always consider that you may be out longer than you think and pack extra clothing. Dressing in multiple light, comfortable layers will allow you to easily don and doff items as your needs and activity level fluctuate. Plus, It’s the air trapped between your layers that really keeps you warm, so aim to have a moisture-wicking base layer (more on that in a moment), an insulating middle layer, and an outer “shell” layer that protects you from wind and rain.

And don’t forget your gloves, hat, and scarf. It’s a myth that we lose half our body heat through our heads, but any exposed skin is going to release precious warmth, so it’s best to bundle up the face, scalp, and neck, especially in windy conditions. The wind pulls heat from your body even faster than still air thanks to “forced convection,” the same mechanism that allows a fan or breeze to cool you off on a hot day (it’s also why we blow on hot food to cool it down).

Winter Snowshoeing © Bill Madden
Winter Snowshoeing © Bill Madden

Keep Dry

Whether it’s from sweat, precipitation, or humidity in the air, water is your enemy when it comes to conserving heat. When gearing up, plan to be warm enough that you can enjoy yourself but not so warm that you sweat through your clothes—even a moderate amount of activity can have you working up a sweat in no time. Damp clothes plus cool air will give you a chill as your heart rate slows down.

Materials matter, too: Steer clear of absorbent cotton clothing, and opt instead for moisture-wicking materials like wool and activewear synthetics, which draw moisture away from the skin and help it evaporate without stealing heat. This is especially true for socks. Your feet expel a lot of moisture that gets trapped inside your boots. Wool socks can insulate and keep you warm even when moderately wet.

Photo from the knees-down of a child standing on a fallen log in the forest in a pair of winter boots.
A good pair of waterproof winter boots is invaluable.

Other Gear

Calories are the fuel that your body burns to create heat, so make sure you pack plenty of water and some snacks to help keep you warm and enjoying the outdoors. But remember, it takes the body a little time to turn food into warmth, so don’t wait until you’re hungry or thirsty to refuel!

Be kind to your feet and opt for boots that are waterproof, insulated, and tall enough to keep snow and water out, but never so tight that they restrict blood flow.

And if you’re planning a long hike (say, more than 1.5 hours), add a first aid kit, flashlight with extra batteries, and an emergency blanket to your minimum gear. Hand and foot warmer packs are a great addition to any winter hiking bag, but they are not a replacement for proper clothing.

A young girl in winter clothes kneeling in the snow and laughing as she showers herself with snow. Photo © Phil Doyle. Location: Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Northampton & Easthampton
Fun in the snow at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary © Phil Doyle

Stay Aware, Be Proactive

Your body is generally pretty good at telling you what it needs, so pay attention to what it is signaling and adjust your layers as frequently as you need to. If you start to warm up, consider shedding a layer. Likewise, make a practice of noticing when you start to get cold and adjust accordingly.

Have a full bladder? This could be your body responding to a drop in temperature. When exposed to cold, your body will begin to constrict blood flow to your extremities to conserve heat around your vital organs. The resulting increase in blood pressure triggers the kidneys to filter out excess fluid to reduce blood volume (called cold diuresis), which can lead to an increased frequency of urination. Cold diuresis is also dehydrating, so try to sip water frequently, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

While it’s normal to feel the need to pee more when it’s cold out, this can also be an early warning sign that you may be getting too cold. If you start shivering or notice white or blueish patches of skin forming (early signs of hypothermia and frostbite, respectively), it’s time to get inside and get warm right away.

These are our top recommendations, but what about you? What are your best tricks for staying warm and comfortable during winter activities? Let us know in the comments!

Three Nature Restoration Projects You Can Watch

We’re celebrating Earth Day’s theme of restoring our earth, and we want you to celebrate with us. Here are three restoration projects you can check out by visiting one of Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries. Get outdoors, connect with nature, and learn more about what nature restoration in Massachusetts looks like! 

Tree Planting in Western Massachusetts 

volunteer planting a tree at Arcadia

In November 2020, Mass Audubon Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary’s (in Easthampton and Northampton) staff and volunteers planted 1,500 trees and shrubs in an effort to restore the floodplain forest. These new trees will be better suited to deal with warming temperatures — a direct consequence of climate change — ensuring the forest can live for years to come. Walk along the Fern Trail to admire this restoration work and one of Massachusetts’ few floodplain forests. 

Tackling Invasive Species in the North Shore 

Mass Audubon Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield is gearing up to restore areas of their south and west fields. Thanks to a generous donor, staff were able to remove a wide strip of invasive shrubs and trees. Property staff will plant native wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and grasses. Not only will these actions support our beloved pollinators this spring, it’ll also help preserve the biodiversity of Ipswich River, increasing its resilience to climate impacts. You can see this restoration in action via the Bunker Meadow Trail. 

From Cranberries to Wildlife 

The previous owners of a cranberry farm in Plymouth committed to restoring the wetlands they owned when they stopped farming in 2010. Thanks to Evan Schulman and Glorianna Davenport’s decision, what is now Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary is being restored to create a mosaic of habitats including ponds, cold-water streams, red maple, and Atlantic white cedar swamps, grasslands, and pine-oak forests.  

The original restoration project removed nine dams, excavated over three miles of new stream channel, and removed thousands of tons of sediment to connect headwaters of Beaver Dam Brook with the ocean for migrating fish such as river herring, brook trout, and American eel. After purchasing the property in 2017, Mass Audubon continued these restoration efforts with our partners. Enjoy the Entrance Trail to admire Tidmarsh’s most recent restoration work (along what is now Manomet Brook), or bask in the Madar Loop for a longer walk to see how previous restoration efforts took hold.