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Cold Weather Out Keeping You In? 4 Pro Tips On Staying Warm

Szabo Ervin-Edward
Getty Images/EyeEm

Adventurer Blair Braverman says just because it's getting cold in much of the country, the outdoors can still be a pandemic refuge.

Braverman – who wrote Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North —grew up in California, but she and her husband are now dogsled mushers in northern Wisconsin. She's completed the Iditarod and frequently goes out with the dogs for days at a time. The temperatures can dip to 50 below zero, and she says that sometimes it's so cold the thermometer bottoms out.

"I think people always expect that in order to do that kind of thing, you must be made of really stern stuff, and in some ways that's true," Braverman tells NPR. "But in terms of staying warm, it's really a skill you can learn."

She took to Twitter this week after realizing, she writes, "a lot of people don't like winter because they don't like being cold." Have no fear, she advised, "I'm going to teach you how to be less cold."

So even if you're not about to dogsled across Alaska, Braverman has some tips for staying warm during lower-stakes outdoor fun.

1. Create an air bubble

The point of layering is to insulate yourself from the outside air, so Braverman says the bigger and warmer your bubble, the better.

That means don't shy away from a long puffy coat and plenty of thick layers underneath.

The outermost layer should also be wind resistant.

"If you're wearing a lot of big, knit sweaters on top of each other, the wind is going to come through and blow away your nice pocket of air that you've created," Braverman tells NPR.

It also helps to have layers you can unzip or take off if you start to get warm, Braverman says.

2. Wear good shoes

Insulating yourself from the ground is important, too, since "you lose heat much more quickly through contact with solids/liquids than through contact with air."

You should be looking for shoes or boots that create distance between yourself and the ground. Braverman says she also likes to size up to add a wool insole, which further insulates her feet.

Plus, you should make sure your boots and insoles have a chance to fully dry out before you put them back on.

"If your boots are damp, even a tiny bit, even if you can't feel the dampness, they're gonna suck the warmth right out of your toes." Braverman tweets.

3. Take: snacks as well as bathroom and movement breaks

Now that you're well outfitted, it's time to venture out.

Braverman says it's important to keep your heart rate up and move around to stay warm — she recommends activities that don't make you too sweaty in the process, like walking, jogging or knee bends.

It's also important not to get hungry. Braverman says a big meal will make you feel colder, but snacks throughout the day will keep you warm.

It might not sound like hardcore trail fuel, but Braverman likes to snack on pieces of frozen cheesecake and red licorice when she's out dogsledding for days at a time.

Staying hydrated and taking frequent bathroom breaks is also key, Braverman says.

"You gotta pee a lot," Braverman says. "A lot of people try to not drink water because they don't want to have to go to the bathroom while they're out. But if you have a full bladder, it's going to make you so much colder, because your body is wasting energy keeping that extra liquid warm."

4. Get cozy

If you're back inside and you're still cold, it might seem intuitive to keep your boots or coat on until you warm up.

Braverman says that's the wrong instinct.

"You want to take off as much as possible. Like, be barefoot, strip down to your base layer, because all your clothes are holding on to the cold air from outside."

Now that you're back in and warm, enjoy it! Heat up that cup of cocoa and snuggle under some blankets.

"Just embrace winter, go for the whole thing," Braverman says. "There's a reason that the places with the coldest climates also have real cultures of coziness. It's the balance of being outside in winter, you really enjoy this coziness all the more."

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Nina Kravinsky
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