Winter hikes: the Alaskan approach
Living in Alaska we have the philosophy that if you wait for the weather to be perfect you would never get outside. Instead of letting the weather control our lives we simple dress for the weather. Having the proper gear can be the difference of a happy fun time and disaster. Here in Alaska, we are the land of extremes, from our midnight sun to our cold dark long winter days. But if there is one thing us Alaskan know it is how to be comfortable outside in dropping temperatures.
Dressing for cold weather is easy and simple. Layers are your best friend!
- Start with a base layer. For adults and children our go to layer is merino wool. It is soft and not at all scratchy like one would imagine wool being. This is your power layer! This is layer that will help wick moisture away from your body keeping you warmer in the long run.
- Next a mid layer. We tend to lean towards fleece or micro-fleece layer. This could also be a lighter down layer or vest.
- Outer layers come last. Think jacket and snow pants. Down is by far your warmest option but they are coming out with great synthetic down options that keep you just as warm.
- Another critical layer is hat and gator/buff. Majority of heat loss comes out the top of your head and back of your neck. Investing in a good quality hat that cuts out the cold and wind will be worth every penny!
- Keeping fingers warm on a little or big person for that matter is crucial for a happy individual in cold weather. For small children we are big fans of mittens, they naturally keep hands warmer than gloves. We also look for mittens that are water resistant/proof that are mid-arm length long with clinches to help keep snow out. No snow in the mittens means no wet cold hands. Win-win in my world.
- Just like fingers, toes can easily get cold fast. Here is where wool comes in to save the day again! Helping wick possible sweaty or wet feet to help them stay warm and toasty.
A good winter boot is also a must for all ages. Boots should not be tight fitting. Your toes need room to wiggle to help circulated the blood and warm air in your boots. With that
being said they should not be so big that they are sloppy either. Look for a quality boot
with a good liner that you can pull out and dry at the end of the day.
Just because cold weather hits does not mean all your outdoor fun needs to end for the year. With proper gear getting outside can be fun and comfortable. When dressing babies or small toddlers that will not be moving much while outside, we always “one up layer.” Example if I am wearing a base, a mid-layer and outer layer I am going to put on my baby a base, two mid layers then an outer layer. Remember it is always easier to take layers off then not have layers when you need them most.
Extra ways for making getting outside fun and comfortable for families are:
1. Bring some snacks and warm beverage – hello hot cocoa season!
2. Hand and feet warmers
3. Blankets for sled rides or wrapping up in
4. Pack a few extra mid-layers, mittens, and socks along
Quality winter clothes can be expensive, especially if you have wee ones that seem to be
growing inches daily. A great place to find quality gear at affordable price is second hand (stores, other families, and friends). Most important thing is to just get out there! Enjoy the fresh air, make memories, and not to let the dropping temperatures scare you.