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Stay Warm: 6 Winter Tips For Outdoor Fun

by Sarah on February 11, 2011

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Ooh! It’s cold outside.  This morning we woke up to a "balmy" 2 degrees above zero. 

On top of this it’s February and my kids (and us parents) are starting to get a little stir-crazy.  Last night, my son was literally bouncing off the walls with the balance ball.  We all need to get out of the house.

So the question is how do you stay warm so you can enjoy the winter outdoors?  Staying warm in winter allows you to really enjoy the beauty of the season.  As well as try a whole new realm of activities – snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, sledding, skating and more. (We love them all!).  And it’s particularly important for making your family’s explorations of new activities fun – not frustrating.

Or worse – dangerous. Winter weather is not something to take lightly.

Having braved New Hampshire winters for most of my life, I’ve developed a few tactics.  My husband – a determined outdoorsman with tropical roots – added his own ingenuity to the mix.  Together we’ve developed some great techniques that have allowed us to experience some real winter warmth and adventures. 

So put these to use so you can liberate yourself and your family to prevent the inevitable cabin fever.

Stay Warm In Winter Tactics

Stay Warm Tactic #1:  Start off warm

When you start off cold, your body gets colder that much more easily.  Remember your body has to use energy to warm itself.  If it’s been working too hard to do so indoors, it’s going to have that much less capacity to keep you warm outdoors.

The best way to enjoy the chilly outdoors is to start from a comfortably warm indoors.

For this same reason, especially with little ones, take frequent breaks indoors to warm up and keep your body out of a heat deficit.

Stay Warm Tactic #2: Hot drinks

It’s the simplest, quickest and most effective way to get warm.  A nice hot drink. Of course you associate hot cocoa with winter activities – but it’s more than just a nice treat.

It’s an important health and survival tactic.  When I backpacked in Alaska, we used a quick hot drink of tea or cocoa as a survival pick-me-up.  When we go skiing or for a winter hike, we always bring a thermos of tea, cocoa or soup.

Warm liquid moves quickly into you, doesn’t take much energy to digest and quickly brings your body temperature up.

And here’s an extra hint when it comes to watching your calories . . .

I tend to get chilly easily.  Often this chilliness would inspire me to turn to snacking, especially on carbohydrates, to give my body something to feel recharged and warm.

I’ve since switched to having a nice cup of green tea, miso or sometimes hot chocolate to warm me up and it always does the job.  My snack cravings dissipate, I relax and I’m lighter for it.

Stay Warm Tactic #3: Get well-fueled in advance

Now while I advocate trying a hot drink before snacking if you’re simply hanging around the house and feeling the chill, fueling up properly is essential for outdoor activity.

The key is to make sure it’s good fuel.  And that you fuel up early enough so that you have some time to digest a bit before heading out.  When you first eat a good meal, most of your blood goes to your digestive system to help it do its job.  And when this blood goes to your core, it leaves your extremities more chilled than ever.

When it comes to quality fuels – choose a nice mix of carbohydrates for easy energy and protein which gives your body what it needs to repair muscles, make enzymes, etc.

The night before we’re going skiing, for example, we have a nice big meal with lots of carbs – pasta or rice – and lots of good quality protein.

Alternatively, if you’ve got a few hours to spare before you head out, a nice high-protein healthy pancake breakfast can work wonders. 

Stay Warm Tactic #4: Bring snacks

Fueling up beforehand is essential.  But your body will go through this fast – and kids will go through it even quicker.  For this reason you want to bring along a few snacks that you can nibble on while you’re out and keep your body comfortably nourished.

Some of our favorites – venison jerky from our friend Clay, peanuts and raisins, a hunk of cheese, larabars or any good whole food snack bar.

Stay Warm Tactic #5: Dress Right

Dressing right for winter merits a whole separate article.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t advise you on warm winter clothes that will help you keep the heat in and the cold out.

To sum it up: 

·    Avoid cotton at all costs. Cotton is great for summer because it keeps you cool – and deadly in winter for the same reason.

·    Wear lots of layers so you can create insulating air pockets and control your internal temperature effectively.

·    Don’t mix up insulating layers with the essential windblocking outer layer.  Fleece is a great underlayer but a terrible choice for the final outer one.  Wind shoots right through it robbing you of heat.

While you may have to invest in some somewhat pricey good items for you adults, you’ll probably find some nice gently worn finds at a thrift store that will work just fine for your kids.  My kids have gone through and passed down many a fleece pants, wool sweater, and winter coats that we found for a few dollars at our local Goodwill store.

Stay Warm Tactic #6: Don’t dehydrate

It’s easy to forget when it’s chilly how much your body still uses up its water supply.  It’s also easy to get dehydrated.

Our favorite way to hydrate as mentioned above – hot drinks – kills two birds with one stone.  It gets you warm and hydrated. 

We also keep a nice supply of room temperature water on hand because  – be warned – if you do a good job staying warm, you’ll also want a refreshing drink of plain water after some good activity.

Another hydrating favorite that also doubles as a snack – orange wedges.  They give you a nice juicy dose of easy to use fructose and vitamin C. I often cut up several oranges and bag them to take along.  Some even make it into my fanny pack on the ski lift.


With these stay warm tactics, you can turn winter from a time of wind, whininess and wishing-it-was-spring . . . to a winter wonderland.

It’s beautiful, fun, challenging and filled with opportunities for good family time.  The key is to make the chilliness almost irrelevant through careful strategizing.

Have some tactics to add? Please put them in the comments!

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