How To Enjoy The Great Outdoors In Winter

Hiking in Aletsch Glacier, Fieschertal, Switzerland

Dear adventure seekers and nature lovers, it’s time to find out what to do and how to dress to properly enjoy winter outdoor activities.

It’s a common misconception that when the sun begins to fade, we need to just commit to spending the winter inside. And hopefully, it’s a misconception we can dispel today!

When winter starts bearing down on you, you shouldn’t head indoors. You just might need to change your winter wardrobe – and your attitude. Most people say that winter is their least favorite season. Short days, cold, wet weather, and even snow … Yuck! But there’s a percentage of us outdoorsy types that look forward to it every year. And there are a bunch of reasons for this! One’s we’re going to cover in this article. And hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll be one of us. 

All it takes is a little attitude adjustment and a couple of wardrobe additions, and you’ll be out there schlepping through the snow with a grin on your face. But as you read this, all cozied up inside, how, you ask, can one make such a change?

We could easily direct you to YouTube with an armful of links to amazing movies about snowboarding and skiing, ice climbing, cold-weather camping, and a whole host of other awesome snowbound activities – but at the end of the day, falling in love with winter starts right at home. You don’t need a whole bunch of specialist equipment, and you certainly don’t need a plane ticket. Just the will to head outside.

Now, which are some of the best and most fun outdoor winter activities?

Let’s find out:

Best activities for outdoor fun in winter

Hiking

This may seem a little vanilla, but a good winter walk is one of the most bracing, head-clearing, invigorating things you can do. And best of all, it’s free. Anyone who loves to ski or bike or climb or camp will all say the same — that hiking is one of their core loves. Pulling on your boots and a whole bunch of layers and then stepping into the cold. Oh, there’s nothing quite like it.

What makes a winter hike different from a summer hike you ask? Well, you’re going to need to be a bit better prepared — but outside of your own body, the winter brings quiet trails, deserted mountains, and a kind of quiet beauty that the summer just can’t. When all the leaves drop from the trees and the temperature plunges — it brings peace and clarity.

The world sleeps in the winter, it recovers, it waits, it prepares to renew. And being out there, enjoying the utter silence of winter. It’s special, and it really helps put things into perspective. If you need to clear your head (and your sinuses, too!), a winter hike is the best cure. Period.

Cold-Weather Camping

Cold-weather camping may not seem like the go-to for anyone inexperienced with regular camping, but honestly, there’s not a whole lot to it! All you need is the right kind of gear and a bit of an idea, and you’re set to go. 

Summer nights around a campfire are great. But as you sit there, listening to the logs crackle before you, wrapped up in a thick sleeping bag, clutching a mug of hot chocolate, the cold nipping at your cheeks – it’s special. There’s nothing like the silence of a winter night, and once you try it, you’ll find a new passion!

And the best thing of all is that it opens up a world of opportunity, too, allowing you to link your favorite winter hobbies together!

Read also: The best free camping spots around the globe

Skiing & Snowboarding

Possibly the most famous of the winter sports, slip-sliding down a snowy hill on some bits of wood has become a global phenomenon. So whether your vice is one or two bits, this is definitely a pass-time you’re going to want to think about if you’re considering becoming a winter-addict. 

And even if high-speed hijinks on a very steep hill don’t appeal to you, these sports have a lot to offer, with both nordic and touring options available. Nordic skiing blends hiking with skiing for a vigorous activity that’s sure to get the heart pumping as well as putting you in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. 

All in all, it’s a hobby filled with wonder and beauty, and if nothing else, is a wonderful social experience. Skiers and snowboarders are some of the friendliest bunch around and are always happy to talk snow! Believe us.

There is no such thing as bad weather only inappropriate clothing. 

– Norwegian quote

Dressing For The Great Outdoors In Winter

But what kind of clothing do you need for such cold-weather adventures?

It can be difficult to come to terms with the idea of needing ‘X’ clothing for this activity and ‘Y’ clothing for that one. Which is why we’re going to cover some of the basics of dressing for the winter, along with some basic premises that will no doubt help you brace the winter cold and feel much more comfortable, even in the worst of weathers!

A good coat is essential. Your legs, miraculously, don’t get as cold as the rest of your body does. This is for a few reasons — the muscles in your legs are some of the biggest in the body and demand a lot of blood flow. They’ll also be used continuously, so they’ll generate a lot of heat. As such, what’s on bottom isn’t quite as important as what’s on top.

Your body contains all of your organs (duh), and also plays host to your arms. Hands and fingers will get cold fast, and that will make your arms cold. The blood will then circulate back into your body, which can cause core temperature to drop. Much of your body-heat will also travel upwards and escape via the head.

As such, a lot of heat gets lost through the upper body — and considering that water conducts away heat fifty times faster than air, staying dry is imperative in the winter!

Choosing The Right Winter Jacket

A good and warm winter coat should be your first purchase, and if you want one jacket for all occasions, we recommend grabbing a sturdy technical shell jacket! A technical shell is a jacket with no insulation — it’s just a shell. 

Why we recommend this is simple. It’s because wearing an insulated jacket can be bulky sometimes, and it’s actually more effective to use a layering system for warmth than it is to have an insulated jacket.

So, when it comes to getting one jacket for all your walks, as well as your camping trips, snow-bound adventures, and everything else, a shell is a versatile companion that will work well in both colder and warmer situations, because you can use your layering system to tailor your heat management. 

This is definitely not something you want to skimp on, and going for something with at least 20,000mm of waterproofing is a good idea. This kind of rating will allow you to handle almost everything the winter has to offer.

Though if you’re really going to hit this season hard, you can’t go wrong picking up something from GoreTex. This material rates at a whopping 28,000mm+ and as such is capable of withstanding even the worst storms. It may seem like overkill, but you only need to get caught in a winter downpour once to get your money’s worth!

It’s not all about what’s on top though. We mentioned layering, so let’s get into it a bit deeper.

Using Layers

Layers trap heat. This is because the most effective way of insulating is by having an alternating solid-gaseous structure that forces heat to be transferred across multiple states. Ditching the science-speak, heat finds it more difficult to travel through air and then material – so by layering material-air-material-air, you’ll lose a lot less heat. And the best way to start this is with base layers.

What are they? Snug-fitting polyester or wool long underwear that help to trap heat against the skin. Even the thinnest layer close to the skin can help you stay warm in cold weather, and they’re a must-have for the upcoming season.

The best way to decide if you should go wool or polyester comes down to the activity you’re doing. Wool is warmer, but isn’t quite as breathable and gets damp, too! Polyester is more breathable, so if you’re doing some strenuous activity, it is the better choice.

Choosing a Midlayer

Next, let’s talk about your midlayers. Now, midlayers are the thing that goes between your base layers and your outer layers. Your outer layer – your shell jacket – is great at repelling rain and wind (and snow), but the midlayer is what really locks in heat.

Fleece is a good choice as it has lots of little pockets to trap warm air in. Thick or thin, you’ll have to make that call yourself depending on where you’re going and what’s on the schedule.

Choosing The Right Winter Trousers

What about pants then? Jeans can be a poor choice a lot of the time as denim gets heavy and inflexible when wet. We much prefer something like a chino or walking trouser if you can! Something made from polyester or another synthetic fabric is usually the best as they can be tough, waterproof, breathable, and best of all, quick-drying! Essential in the winter.

On top of that, synthetic fabrics often have some elastane or spandex in them to make them more flexible, which is great for walking and hiking!

How To Protect Your Head, Hands, and Feet

Protecting your hands and feet is essential in the winter. As we mentioned, you lose a lot of heat from your head, so a good hat is indispensable too. A beanie can be great for the winter, as they’re versatile and also super warm. Choosing between synthetic and natural fiber again comes down to where you’re going to be using it. For general warmth and comfort, wool is a good choice. But for more involved activities, you may want to go synthetic. 

A lot of beanies are made from acrylic, which is super stretchy and warm. And the fibers also don’t absorb water, so it doesn’t get wet easily. Handy in the most inclement season!

When it comes to your feet, this is one thing you definitely don’t want to make a snap decision on. A good pair of thermal socks and waterproof boots are essential for the winter season. Whether it’s a snowy hike, a stormy walk, or you’re dragging suitcases through the snow at a ski resort, a pair of boots that are waterproof and durable is imperative for you to enjoy the winter. 

As for the question of leather vs synthetic, it comes down to personal preference. Many companies make great boots in both – it’s more important to think about what you’re going to use the boot for and go from there.

Some boots are better for big mountains, others for everyday wear. But what we do know is that you generally get what you pay for, and going cheap rarely works out! Get something sturdy, waterproof, and with plenty of support and grip. Those three things will take you almost anywhere, come rain or shine.

Finally, don’t forget to pack lip balm, sunscreen, and UV-safe sunglasses, or goggles. Even on cloudy days, you can get sunburned as snow reflects the sunlight from below.

Conclusion

So, where does that leave us? Well, it leaves us staring down the barrel of another winter season. Hopefully with a little more perspective than you had before.

Winter can be a tough one, and it’s easy to shy away from it. But if you love being outside, and you’re not prepared to give up half of your year just because of a bit of wind and rain, then heed our advice, saddle up, and charge into those brisk days!

There’s so much that winter has on offer — whether you’re just getting your steps in or you want to pick up a new hobby. The winter is definitely not indomitable, but humans are. With the right gear, a little research, and some expert packing, you’ll be ready for anything, and having fun in all weathers.

You won’t run into many people when you’re out in the winter, but you might see one or two. And chances are if they’re out there as well, they’re just like you. So stop, say hi, share a hot chocolate on the trail, strike up some conversation, and embrace all that winter has to offer.

From uncrowded mountain trails to snowy mountain peaks. Winter is coming, and it’s sure as heck calling.

We’ll see you out there.