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Cold Comfort: Hitting The Trails Safely This Week

We’re experiencing the first truly frigid week of winter all season long! Before you head out to the trails, take just a second for a few tips on staying warm and staying safe!

Scanning the five-day forecast and you won’t see many highs above the mid-teens! As hearty as northern Michigan adventurers surely are, it’s still a good idea to make sure you’re prepared for every trip into the woods. Especially with these temperatures, things can go wrong quickly, and by having a plan and the right gear, you can handle anything this cold weather can throw at you.

Whether you’re snowshoeing, fat biking, or skiing, having the right gear is crucial for having fun, but also staying safe. Dressing for the activity and the weather can take a little practice, but a good rule of thumb is to overdress by adding layers; if you get warm, being able to unzip and adjust to your effort can make your day in the woods much more enjoyable.

Wicking Fabrics. If you’ve even gotten sweaty and then stopped moving, then you know just how quickly wet clothes can cause you to start chattering. The key is to wear wicking materials close to your body to help get that moisture away from your skin and, ideally, evaporated through your outer layers. In cold conditions, long sleeve underwear and pants can help to keep you dry and reduce the chance of a quick freeze.

Cover The Core. A light athletic long-sleeve shirt under a breathable jacket is a great combination for vigorous activities, especially at lower speeds where wind chill isn’t as much of a factor. That’s typically why you’ll see skiers able to wear slightly less clothing than fat bikers. Softshell coats and jackets allow for a bit better breathability, while hardshell coats offer better protection against the wind.

Extremities. Hands and feet can be the toughest to keep warm. That’s because your body is quick to reduce blood flow away from your core when things get cold, which is certainly obnoxious if you’re trying to ski or fat bike, both of which require your hands to be active and dexterous. Just like the rest of your body, try to use layers to stay warm, including a thin liner inside a larger glove. Wear a size bigger glove or boot, which can help maintain a pocket of warm air between the fabric and your hand or foot. If that isn’t enough, use a chemical warmer to provide added warmth. Many fat bikers also use pogies or bar mitts that go over their hands when temperatures are particularly challenging.

Safety. Anytime you head into the woods, have a plan. The risks are elevated in extreme weather, and winter certainly provides some deceptively tough conditions for even the well-prepared. Always communicate your plans to a friend or loved one and check in with them before and after your activity. Remember that your electronics, like your phone, can lose battery quickly, so keep it close to your body to keep it functioning in the event of an emergency.

The cold can also freeze your water and food quickly, too, so make an effort to keep your water bottle close to your body for warmth and keep your snacks warm, too. And yes, you should always bring water and food into the woods for any winter activity.

Additionally, if you’re planning a long adventure, it’s not a bad idea to bring an extra pair of gloves, hat, or even a hardshell jacket. Having warm, dry clothes to swap out can help you stay comfortable longer, especially if you have to stop for a mechanical or suffer an injury.

Don’t let the cold stop you from enjoying a big day at Glacial Hills, but respect nature and the elements by hitting the trails prepared!


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