Tag Archives: hiking

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!

Family exploring the rock grotto at Ipswich River ©Jared Leeds

Instagramable Massachusetts Hikes

These vistas, views, and encounters will take your breath away—and maybe get you a few “likes” in the process.

Chasing Waterfalls

All smiles here! ©Robert Nelson

Travel across Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary‘s boardwalks and trails to reach this relaxing spot. Here, the marshes, rivers, and ponds make up a collage of scenic waterways. Take a short walk on the Marsh Trail around Mill Pond to stop by for a portrait next to the waterfall or get creative with your picture’s angles. Note: Broadmoor currently requires reservations to visit.

Waterfall at Cooks Canyon

If you’re in Central Massachusetts, stop by Cooks Canyon in Barre. The 69-acre wildlife sanctuary features an impressive waterfall created by Galloway Brook’s flow over an old dam, and even rapids during times of high water.

#AnimalsofInstagram

Otter-ly amazing!

While all of our sanctuaries boast diverse arrays of wildlife living in their natural habitats, it does take a special skill set to be able to photograph in the wild. Here’s your opportunity to take Insta-worthy animal pics without the expensive equipment and committed patience.

At Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton, you’ll find birds, otter, red fox, and more, along with a network of 125 miles of hiking trails through Blue Hills Reservation. While you’re there, check out the newly renovated North American River Otter Exhibit, which was designed with elements of the natural otter habitat in mind.

Soaking up the sun.

The goats at Habitat Education Center in Belmont are a small pack of mighty snackers that traverse the wildlife sanctuary as our roaming lawn-care team. By opting to care for grassed areas with the help of our goats, we fertilize and aerate the soil, reduce the need for polluting machinery, and create wonderful photo ops!

Smile for the camera! © Gretchen Ertl

At Drumlin Farm, explore the farmyard loop to visit livestock (sheep, goats, cows, pigs, and chickens) and native wildlife (red fox, owls, hawks, and more).

This historic Lincoln site is a working farm and wildlife sanctuary all in one, so take advantage of learning about sustainable agriculture that works with the local ecosystem while you’re there. Spend the day exploring and taking pictures of the crops fields, barns, trail system, and animal exhibits. Note: Drumlin Farm currently requires reservations to visit.

Geologic Features

A perfect spot for a picnic.

The geologic scattering on the Boulder Loop Trail at Allens Pond in Dartmouth and Westport was initially created from the retreat of the last ice age some 10,000 years ago. At the center of this trail are two enormous granite boulders that had been hidden under years of invasive plant spread until our intrepid volunteer crew set them free earlier this spring.

The newly exposed boulders make for a unique area to relax and take in the scenery from. Climb to the top for a new perspective or take advantage of the amphitheater-like hollows that create an excellent space to sing or play music in.

That’s one for the highlights reel.

Question for you: when was the last time you walked through a tunnel of rocks? Been a while? Maybe never? Then you’ve got to check out this unique feature at Ipswich River in Topsfield. Take the Rockery Loop trail out to the stone grotto, where you’ll find a man-made tunnel encompassing your trail.

Explore the rest of Ipswich River’s 12 miles of trails for a few more insta-worthy scenes, including beaver structures, a stone bridge, and amazing wildlife. Note: Ipswich River currently requires reservations to visit.

Soak in the Setting Sun

Added bonus: Felix Neck offers kayak tours and programs for pictures on the water!

Watch the sunset and moonrise as you listen to the sounds of the marsh at Felix Neck in Edgartown. Take Old Farm Road out to the Marsh Trail for a view across Sengekontacket Pond and Sarson Island, a migratory bird resting location with spectacular views. Play around with your camera settings to capture the full range of blues and pinks during the twilight hours.

A great spot to take in the sights and sounds

The 1.4 mile Fox Hill Trail at Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield is the most direct route out to the Fox Hill overlook, with several side trails along the way if you’d like to explore further.

Passing by one wildlife observation blind and several side trails, walk the length of the property to a panoramic view from the Fox Hill Observation Platform. The wide-open spaces make for a great place to watch the sunset from.

Go Ahead, Tag Us!

We want to see your pics! Be sure to tag @massaudubon next time you snap a keeper at one of our wildlife sanctuaries.