Winter is a great time to be outside. The first reason is that there are no bugs! No snakes, either. Seriously, winter is a wonderful time to explore by taking part in outdoor adventures of all types. Whether you want to take photographs, watch the birds, have a long walk, or cross-country ski, or snowshoe; winter is a season that offers great rewards and some small challenges. The good news is that the challenges are easily answered with just a little bit of preparation.

Whatever your chosen activity, I’m sure you already know what extra equipment you will need to pursue that activity. For photographers, extra batteries and memory cards are important and should be carried in an inside pocket so that they can be kept warm. Bird watchers will want their binoculars, guide books, and perhaps some paper and a pencil to take notes (pencils don’t freeze). If your plans involve cross country skiing or snowshoeing, you already know you want your skis or snowshoes. The initial decision is picking an activity and the gear you need for that activity.

Lightweight Winter Equipment

Certainly, your next consideration is deciding on the appropriate clothing. It is important to dress in layers and to avoid cotton whenever possible. Cotton will trap any moisture (like perspiration) and it likely will not dry quickly. Think about how long after washing that a pair of jeans needs in a modern clothes dryer to become dry. By dressing in layers, you can add or remove clothing based on your level of activity to minimize perspiration. A heavily aerobic activity like snowshoeing means you don’t need to wear many clothes when you are active but you will want more to wear when you stop the activity. A good windproof and waterproof garment as your outermost layer goes a long way to prevent body heat loss through conduction or convection.

A small amount of “survival gear” can make the difference between an adventure and a tragedy. There is a bare minimum of equipment that I would recommend people carry in the winter, along with the knowledge of how to use the items. Many small items can be carried in pockets or on a belt and not be a real burden. However, it is always good to have a daypack along to hold any clothing layers that you are not currently wearing. The pack can also be used for larger or heavier gear than will fit in pockets.

The next consideration is a bottle of water and some high energy snacks (protein bars, nuts, etc). Most people don’t feel thirst as much in the winter as in the summer so account for that with frequent water breaks. A single wall metal bottle, or a metal cup, can be used if you need to melt snow to drink. And you’ll likely want to melt snow over a fire, so some method of starting a fire is in order. You may choose a common disposable lighter (keep it in a pocket as they don’t work well in cold), matches, or a ferrocerium rod as a fire starting device. Some way to prepare wood for a fire is also a good item to have, whether it be a knife or small pruning saw or something similar.

Another item you will want to carry is some form of shelter. It can be as simple as a few large plastic trash bags, or perhaps a small lightweight tarp. Anything that would provide cover from wind or snow will work, even if you just wrap it around yourself. A small amount of cordage will also be a useful item if you need to erect a true shelter or simply tie something around your body. A few individual lengths (3 or 4 pieces that are 10 feet long) will give you more flexibility than one long piece.

Winter weather is not necessarily a definitive reason to stay indoors (within reason). Take a look at the weather report, take appropriate precautions, and enjoy being outdoors.