Northern Wilds Magazine

Hot Tips for Cold-Weather Wellness

When my family moved from Texas to Minnesota, my winter-time skills were minimal. I quickly learned that while safely enjoying cold weather does require some planning, the rewards are well worth it. If you’re learning to live in (and hopefully love) our cold winters, here are 10 hot tips:

Wear Proper Clothing

“There is no such thing as bad weather. There are only poor clothing choices.” This was one of the first bits of winter advice I got. The key to staying warm in cold weather is layering. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin, add an insulating layer for warmth, and finish with a waterproof and windproof outer layer to shield against the elements. The second piece of clothing advice I got was, “Cotton is rotten. Wool is cool.” Cotton holds sweat and doesn’t insulate well. Wool, on the other hand, is outstanding at both. Remember to protect your extremities with insulated gloves, a warm hat, and insulated, waterproof boots.

Get Some Ice Cleats

Not long after moving here, I watched a new friend fall when she stepped on a patch of ice. As I drove her and her fractured wrist to the ER, the seriousness of slipping began to sink in. Winter is too wonderful to let the fear of falling keep you trapped in your house, and you don’t want the real dangers of broken bones or a head injury to make you regret stepping outside. Ice cleats can help you proceed with confidence.

Snow Tires Make You Powerful

I drive a small car, and when I have snow tires on, I can get pretty much wherever I need to go in the winter. Softer tires have better grip and offer much better control. People are kind here, and we will pull you out of the ditch. However, it’s better to avoid the ditch in the first place. In my opinion, snow tires are definitely worth the investment.

Check the Weather

Winter weather can go from sunny and friendly to white-out scary in minutes, so plan your adventures accordingly. Know what weather is coming and when it’s going to arrive. Keep an eye on the wind chill and temperature readings. If conditions become severe, have a backup plan or be ready to cut any outdoor adventures short.

Tell Someone Your Plans

Even if you’re just planning a short outing, let someone know the details: where you’re going, what you’ll be doing, and when you expect to be back. This way, if there’s an emergency, someone will be aware of your whereabouts and can send help.

Respect Your Limits

It can feel great to be outside in the winter, but know when to say when. Hypothermia and frostbite are real possibilities, so pay attention to your body. If you start feeling too cold or fatigued, it’s sensible to call it a day and head indoors.

Stay Fueled, Hydrated, and Focused

Being active in the cold burns a lot of calories, so keep nutrient-dense snacks on hand. The dry air of winter can quickly cause dehydration. Pack water and drink regularly. Heated beverages can keep you both hydrated and warm. If you’re imbibing something that alters your perception of your body or your surroundings, such as alcohol or marijuana, it’s safer to stay indoors.

Protect Your Skin

A daily moisturizer with sunscreen combats both the dryness and UV damage that winter sun exposure can bring. Chapped lips are common, so keep lip balm handy. Hot showers can feel fantastic after being outside, but if the water is too warm or you linger too long, dry, itchy skin can be the result. You may find that you don’t need to soap up your entire body every day. Dry, cracked skin can be more than just uncomfortable—infection is a risk too. Using a gentle cleanser and lotion can help.

Keep Emergency Supplies Nearby

It’s better to be over-prepared than caught off guard. When heading out, be sure to have at least a basic emergency kit: first aid supplies, extra clothing, high-energy snacks, and a flashlight. Since we all end up in the ditch at some point, it’s a good idea to keep a tow rope and shovel in your vehicle.

Try a Sauna

When you come from someplace like Texas, voluntarily sitting in a hot box sounds like a pretty awful idea at first. But now I think it’s brilliant. Beyond the research showing possible health benefits, there’s just something primally “right” about getting really, really warm when it’s really, really cold.

Winter weather should be an invitation to explore this amazing place, not a deterrent. Keep your well-being at the forefront of your cold-weather adventures, and embrace the beauty of a North Shore winter.

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