Saturday, December 12, 2020

Winter Activities: Think Safety First

Thank god for Three-in-One Mittens for extra warmth
Mike and I just completed the Hot Chocolate Challenge and the Hartford Marathon Foundation's 12ks of Christmas challenge to walk or run 12ks (7.46 miles) a day for twelve days! We'd gotten a bit lazy, for our standards, since the colder weather set in, so I thought this challenge would be a great way to ramp up our activity during these cold, winter months. Our friend, Lauren, joined us (virtually, of course), but Mike and I decided to aim for 3.75 to four mile walks each day. We really needed a swift kick out the door. 

An hour's walk each day really did our bodies good. But...what we didn't consider during these challenges was potential inclement weather. I guess we were too excited about the sweatshirt, finisher medal, and the opportunity to win prizes on each of the 12 days of #HMF12ks challenge. But last Saturday, we woke up to freezing rain that made for a very slippery, wet, miserable trek. We had to pay attention to the sidewalk so we didn't slip or step in deep puddles. We were only out for one hour, but I realized that as close to the house as we were, that hour could have been dangerous if we hadn't been well-prepared.

Eclipse Headband, Velocity Glove,
Ambition Hoodie, Early Riser
This made me think about how so many people have become more active this year, due to the pandemic, which made me think about safety. Families are exploring in the woods and couples are going for scenic drives, stopping alongside the road when they see a sign for a "scenic hike." This is great, of course! There's so much of the world to explore, right in our own backyards. But, Mike and I have seen so many ill-prepared people wearing casual clothing like sandals and jeans on advanced mountain trails with no water or backpack of supplies. I can't even count how many people Mike and I have passed by who've asked us if they're "almost there" when they've only hiked half a mile of a two-mile climb that ascends a thousand feet.

Thinking about all of this reminded me of an article I recently read about three hikers who all died in the White Mountains in a span of six days in September, all from tragic accidents. My heart goes out to their friends and families. Life is so precious, yet when we decide to "just go out" for a hike, or a run, or a climb. we don't always consider the dangers. Over the years, I've learned, often from experience, the importance of being well-prepared when heading out. I'd say these are the most important things to consider, especially during the winter months.

Check the weather.

 Squall Jacket, Ascent Parka,
Cold Weather HoodVelocity Glove
This one seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes I look outside and see blue skies and don't realize that a brewing storm will hit my destination while I'm out there. So check out your phone's weather app or for a detailed hour-by-hour forecast. If you're heading to the mountains, check out Mike and I have started out at the base of a mountain seeing only a foggy, dreary morning, but by the time we reached the summit, clouds have parted and the sun came out to shine. Fortunately, Mountain Forecast knew the fog would roll away by the time we hit the top.

Venture out with a buddy and stick together.

This is especially important when going somewhere remote or that has technical trails. Even the most experienced mountain climbers can twist an ankle or get lost at a wrong turn or run into unexpected inclement weather. Or worse. Most importantly, don't take off ahead of your group, even if you just want to get to the top of that peak or explore a side trail "real quick."   

Always tell someone where you're going.

Tahoe Jacket, Second Skin Glove 
Whether you're running or walking a five-mile loop in your neighborhood alone, or going for a hike with a group of people, let a loved one know where you're heading, the route you're planning to take, and what time you expect to get back. If you get lost or hurt, it will be easier (and quicker) to find you if people know your general location and the general timing of your trek. 

Once your adventure is over, and you're safely back home or your car, be sure to let them know so they don't worry. 

Use GPS to track your location. 

Wearing a GPS watch, like a Garmin, an activity tracking app like Strava, or a family/emergency dispatch location tracking app, like Life360, could literally save your life if you're in an emergency situation in a remote location. 

Pack up your back up supplies. 

Eclipse Headband, Ambition Hoodie
Even if you're going for a short hike through the woods, bring a backpack for supplies. Choose a backpack that's comfortable but also has the capacity to carry emergency supplies, such as a first aid kit, water, food, flashlight, headlamp, bear spray, portable cellphone charger, rain poncho, utility knife, MicroSpikes or YakTraks, trekking poles, etc. and still have enough room to pack extra layers of clothing, such as an extra pair of gloves, socks, head coverings, and thicker shirts.

Time management is key during winter months.

It's important during the shorter, darker days to know what time the sun rises and sets before you plan your outdoor adventures, or you may find yourself wandering blindly in the dark. has accurate sunrise/sunset times, but most smart phones can also give you this information. Even if your plan is just a short hike in the early afternoon, it's best to be prepared with a headlamp and/or flashlight, just in case something unexpected arises.

Reflective clothing and accessories keep you visible to others.

I wear my IllumiNITE reflective clothing and accessories, even when I'm going on a sunny daytime adventure. Mike and I are seasoned hikers and runners, and we usually can gauge how long a trek will take. But we have found ourselves in situations where we've been out two-to-three hours longer than expected. Fortunately, no matter how dark it gets, Mike and I light up brighter than the insanely lit-up houses and lawns in the movie Deck the Halls with Matthew Broderick and Danny Devito. I feel so much safer knowing how visible I am to drivers and other runners and walkers wearing headlamps. 

Layer, layer, can always remove, but you can't add what you don't have.

Ambition HoodieTahoe Jacket, Synergy HatAscent Parka  
I've learned the hard way that cold legs, toes, and fingers are the worst. Muscles freeze up, hands stop working, and trying to get warm after being outside in subzero or wet weather can take hours. So now, I make sure that I layer up. Mike and I always start with a long-sleeved shirt as our base, then layer it with a thicker pullover, and then throw on a warm outer shell over that. We also throw an extra long-sleeved shirt and/or pullover in our backpacks for longer hikes/runs, in case we need a dry change of clothing midway through our adventure. For pants, we layer tights under our pants, and we often wear two pairs of socks! Thanks to IllumiNITE's Three-in-One Mittens, our hands are layered as well...and if it's really cold out, I'll throw in hot hands for extra warmth. For head wear, I often like to wear a hood with face mask or a hat with a hood over that. My head lamp on night walks/runs also keeps my headwear extra snug against my head.
Synergy HatTahoe JacketSecond Skin Glove,  Squall Jacket,

During these winter months, it's so important to be properly prepared—overly-prepared even—before
exploring the outdoors, especially as the days grow darker and inclement weather makes outdoor activities treacherous. So before you head out on your next outdoor adventure, check out the weather, wear layered, reflective clothing, make sure you're properly prepared, and think safety first. It's always best to cut an adventure short if you think your situation could get treacherous.

Thinking of gifting yourself and your loved ones IllumiNITE this holiday season, use my discount code Sera15 for 15% off your order.

I'd love to hear about how you stay safe outdoors during these winter months. Please share in the comments below.

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