Cold Weather Walking Tips for Winter Walking

Don't Hibernate, Be Prepared to Enjoy Cold Weather Walking

Ready for Winter Walking
Ready for Winter Walking. Katja Kircher/Maskot/Getty Images

Have you ever walked when the temperatures and wind chill together are below freezing? Have you enjoyed it? It is possible to prepare yourself for winter walking and have a really lovely walk despite freezing weather  Here are a few tips to follow.

Dressing in Layers for Cold Weather Walking

You will see advice to dress in layers. What does it really mean? In order to feel comfortable as your body adjusts to the outside air and you work up a sweat from exercising, you have to have clothing that can easily be shed if you start overheating.

Very heavy weight turtlenecks or wool sweaters do not allow you to cool down enough while walking. Lightweight long underwear under a lightweight turtleneck, fleece, and/or nylon outerwear works well until the temperature goes below freezing. Then, a sweater or t-shirt also layered with the other clothes or a down vest will make up the difference.

A typical layered cold weather walking outfit includes long underwear, sweatpants, turtleneck and t-shirt with some sort of down filled outerwear when it is really cold. Add a scarf that has a head-covering built in as well as a ski headband, glove liners, and mittens to take off the chill at the start of your walk. Usually, the scarf and mittens come off once you warm up, but you still am protected from the effects of the wind.

If the temperatures rise as you walk, take the outerwear off and tie it around your waist or place it in a backpack. You will still be warm enough in the other three layers.

If long underwear is too warm for you, try tights or leggings under unlined cotton sweatpants or running pants made from sweat-wicking tech fabric. The two layers cut the wind that will otherwise seep through one pair of pants or sweats. Don't wear denim jeans as they give zero protection from the cold.

Shoes and Socks for Cold Weather Walking

Good shoes and socks are also essential for winter walking. Wear a thin sock liner and a pair of winter walking socks, leaving a little room so your feet don't get cramped and they won't get cold.

Shoes that stand up to snow and rain will keep you from the misery of damp cold feet that become cracked and sore. Hiking boots can work well in snowy weather, even on paved surfaces. Walking shoes leak while good hiking boots keep your feet dry and they keep you from sliding in the snow and ice.Invest in a good lightweight boot that is just a bit larger than your normal shoe size.

Never wear smooth soled walking shoes in wet or snowy weather as their traction is negligible on wet leaves or icy patches. You need lug-soled shoes or you risk injury from falling. You may also want to add slip-on ice cleats for your winter walking shoes and boots.

The Well-Equipped Pack for Winter Walking

Always take pack with the following items: tissues, lip protection, a fold-up poncho, sunscreen (winter sun is harmful), dry skin cream, sunglasses (to cut glare on snow and ice). You will need water if you are away from convenience stores as water fountains are turned off in the winter.

If the weather looks the least bit threatening, you may want to carry a small travel umbrella. You can carry your gear in a small backpack or fanny pack.

What are the Signs that it is Too Cold to Walk?

Check the wind chill index before your walk. Wind chills below zero may damage the skin on your cheeks if you do not protect yourself with an item such as a ski mask or balaclava. Always keep your hands protected with gloves or mittens in cold weather. If you sense body parts getting numb, shorten your walk and don't risk injuries to yourself.

With the right gear, you can enjoy sights such as hundreds of waterfowl at a wildlife refuge in February, or walking through the Korean War Memorial in Washington DC on a snowy day with no crowds.

You will never enjoy your walk if you are sliding on icy pavement or your hands or ears are freezing. Taking a little time to prepare makes it all worthwhile.

Carry This in Your Car for Winter Walking

You can be prepared for winter weather by carrying extra gear in your vehicle or keeping a stash at your workplace. Have a change of clothes and dry socks and shoes handy in case you get wet from rain, sleet, or snow. Your winter gear can include a walking stick or set of trekking poles, umbrella, rain gear, ice cleats, and fleece lined jackets.

If you like to walk and don't want to stop when it's cold or rainy, just plan ahead. You'll see the country in its wintry splendor on your two feet.

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