Winter is coming, and you know what that means: Its time to play in the snow!
Snow play can be a whole lot of fun, but it can also be a tad confusing at first. What do you wear? If snow is cold, how will I stay warm? Where are the best places to go? Continue below to see the answers to these questions, and more!
Need some extra snow gear? Come and visit us in the Recreation and Wellness Center (RWC), and see what snow gear we have available for rent, right on the tips of your fingers!
Cotton - Cotton is one of the most popular, and widely utilized fabrics in today's society. Chances are, if you were to check your wardrobe, more than half of your clothes would be 100% or contain a high percentage of cotton in them. Cotton itself is not inherently bad, and what makes it good for hot-dry climates, is the same thing that makes it bad in cold: it stays cold and wet for extended periods of time. Cotton will aborb the moisture and perspiration generated by our bodies, and it will retain that moisture, conducting the heat away from out bodies. While this can allow for convenience and comfort in a desert, this can cause you to loose valuable body heat in colder environments. The saying in the outdoor industry, used by guides and outdoor ambassadors alike, is "Cotton Kills." Find out why here!
Synthetic (polyester/nylon) - Synthetic materials, which can include polyester, nylon, polypropylene, acrylic and more, are generally made as an oil byproduct. When used as a fabric, these materials will wick the moisture off of our skin, and because of their naturally hydrophobic construction, will dry rather quickly. These materials are generally the best for use in snow and cold weather conditions, and in conjunction of their weight-to-warmth ratio, are often the most popular among outdoor enthusiasts.
Wool - Wool has been used by mankind for countless generations, and is by far one of the oldest and warmest materials used today. It will dry much faster than cotton, but slower than synthetic. However, due to the complexity of the wool fiber itself, it is one of nature's natural wonders for staying warm and dry. In recent years, a breed of sheep known as Merino have been utilized for their extremely soft wool, to create a series of fabrics and textiles that don't feel itchy to the touch. Check out some more information about the Merino sheep here! Want more information about other types of wool, and their different sources? Take a look here!
Now that we know a little bit about the fabrics we wear, how are we going to use them to stay warm in the cold? The single most globely used technique: layering. The warmth from our clothing is caused by trapped pockets of air, that absorb our body's heat, and reflect it back to us. By utilizing multiple layers of clothing, we can purposefully trap air, and keep it from losing it's heat. Here are the three most basic layers of clothing you will need in your winter adventures!
Base Layers - These layers provide against-the-skin warmth, while wicking away moisture that would otherwise keep you cool. These are most commonly either wool or polypropylene. Cotton should be heavily avoided.
Mid Layers - Mid layers insulate to help keep in heat. This is where a lot of those warm pockets of trapped-air are formed. Some excellent options include: Fleece, Synthetic Insulation, or Down. Fleece is a style of polyester fabric, that has been puffed up to create a thicker style of textile. Synthetic insulation are made from fibers of usually polyester, which are produced in a way to immitate down. Down, are the super soft and fluffy feathers that are shed from the underbelly of brids, usually collected from geese. These feathers, or down, are the warmest of the three insulation options, but will loose that ability completely when wet.
Outer Layers/Shell - Outer layers keep in heat, while expelling wind and precipitation. They do this by using either a coating of polyurethane on the inside of the shell fabric, or a layered system of nylon, polytetrafluoroethylene, and nylon. The basic idea of the shell, is that it will keep out the wind and rain of the outdoors, while releasing the moisture that is produced by the body.
The idea of water proof can be somewhat confusing. What will make the fabric water proof, and how will I stay dry underneath? Wouldn't the condensation from my sweat build up on the inside, and make me wet and cold on the inside? Usually that would be the case, but fortunately for us, the gear heads in the outdoor industry have designed and come up with a variety of materials that will keep out the wind and rain, and allow the moisture from our bodies to be expelled. Want to learn more? Check out this video from our outdoor industry friends!
It's always a good idea to let someone know where you're going, and how long you estimate you'll be gone for, before heading out into the snowy colds of the North. Making sure somebody knows where you'll be, and for how long, is a great way to mitigate risk, and keep yourself safe.
Do you want to go out into the wilds of winter, and get some academic credit while you're at it? Check out the Recreation Administration class 375, Winter Adventure Leadership! Check out the Rec links here, and here. (link here)
Where do I go? Arcata is beautifully situated, surounded by several nearby winter wonderlands, and several more at a greater distance. Come visit us in the Recreation and Wellness Center today, and learn about our favorites and recomendations!