The first thing I ask is, what part of you gets cold first? That may seem like a very personal question and it's essential to knowing how to dress to stay warm on a wellness walk.
For me, it's fingers and toes. That's usually where hypothermia begins for anyone. For me, it started by building all those igloo forts as a kid and spending hours and hours outdoors in my own personal hideaway. I did some damage to my fingers and toes back then, so they get cold & numb quickly these days.
KEEPING TOES WARM: I wear two pairs of socks: - One layer, warm & woolly close to my skin. If your feet tend to sweat, go for cotton, which wicks dampness away from your skin.
- The other layer, my permethrin socks; the ones that will kill a tick just for sitting on them, on the outside. Yes, even in Winter.
My boots need to be roomy enough to accommodate 2 layers of socks, or the tightness will restrict blood flow and my toes will still go numb. I only resort to my snow boots in Jan/Feb. Otherwise, my duck boots are perfect.
KEEPING FINGERS WARM: Fingers are a tough challenge because I play my flute on walks, so I need my fingers. Mittens that have the flap are okay but that flap always seems to get in the way, so I wear two pairs of those stretchy gloves; the bottom gloves don't have fingers; the top ones do. So I can take off the top ones and play my flute with the rest of my hand still warm and cozy in the finger-less gloves.
If you're not playing a flute, go for a pair of wool gloves that are lined. I've always got hand warmers on walk, too. They are nice and toasty in pockets, so when you need that extra warmth, they are ready and waiting for you. You can make your own hand warmers using two zip lock bags, water, and calcium chloride ice melt pellets from the hardware store.
KEEPING THE REST OF YOU WARM
KEEPING HEADS WARM: You really don't lose 80% of your body heat through the top of your head. That's a myth, yet, we are warmer when we've got a hat on. If you don't like wearing a hat, invest in one of those headband ear warmers. That's really where we feel the cold the most; our ears.
KEEPING LEGS WARM: I'm warmer in a light pair of thermal leggings with something light on top, like knit pants or another pair of regular leggings, than I am in my snow pants. I like to be able to move and feel free, in addition to being warm. Sometimes, a pair of jeans over the thermals is enough. For men, the thermal leggings still apply under a pair of jeans. No heroes here.
KEEPING BODIES WARM: Cotton loves water. Wool is a better choice, even a wool t-shirt, in cold weather. It dries quickly and keeps moisture away, so while you may sweat with all the layers you're wearing to keep you warm, you want to get that moisture away from your body as quickly as possible. Starting with a light wool layer, or a wool thermal, is a good idea. Then, layer a cozy sweater; not too bulky, or you'll be that kid who can't move because Mom or Dad bundled you up so well your arms don't touch your sides. We all have that photo.
Jackets have come a long way, and my favorite is one with a reflective lining inside. My own body helps keep me warm! I also like the built-in finger-less hand warmers that many of them have. I still layer my gloves, though. And some of them zipper up to include a chin guard, which saves having to wear a scarf; more bulk. You don't really require a hood if you wear a hat or headband. We're talking forest wellness walks, not climbing Everest. Your guide will usually call off a walk when it's below freezing or the windchill is too high for the walk to be pleasurable.
Did I miss a body part? Careful. Following these guidelines - and that's all they are, by the way: guidelines - They will help you stay warm on a forest wellness walk.
Oh, and one last thought. Tissues. They won't keep you warm and it's the one thing everyone asks me for on a Winter walk. I hope you'll come walk with me soon!