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It's time for winter recreation; free parks on Veterans Day 

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
Winter is here...well, sort of. We had January-type weather in late October, then it warmed up to what is about normal for this time of year.

Then another cold spell, and the temperatures will be well above normal this weekend.

So, whether winter is really here or not, it is November in Colorado, which means it's as good as time as any to talk about how to stay comfortable while recreating outside.

You can hike almost all of your favorite trails all winter, with just a few adjustments in equipment. 
  • Your Feet: If there is little or no snow on the ground, then you may just need some insulated hiking boots, or a sock liner, or both to keep your toes toasty warm while out. Traction aids that slip over your boots will help prevent nasty slips that result in bumps, bruises, or even broken bones. Gaiters help keep deep snow from infiltrating into the tops of your boots, helping to keep your feet and calves warm and dry.
  • Your Body: Dress in layers, with a moisture wicking fabric, such as wool or any of the specifically designed synthetic fabrics, as your base layer to pull heat sucking moisture away from your skin. Cotton fabrics trap moisture against your body, and can increase the chances of hypothermia, so avoid cotton as your base layer. Thin, skin-tight insulating undergarments go a long way towards keeping you warm, without a lot of movement reducing bulk. For your upper body, pile on additional layers as needed (try not to end up looking like the Michelin Man). I favor coats with zip-out liners that allow the flexibility to easily adapt to changing conditions. For your lower body, fleece, microfiber or flannel-lined pants help keep you warm without a lot of bulk.
  • Your Hands: While everyone reacts to cold temperatures differently, typically speaking, lightweight gloves are sufficient to keep your hands warm, especially while you're being active. Many lightweight gloves have conductive fingertips, allowing you to use touch-screen devices without taking your gloves off.  Carry some heavier gloves with you in case things get colder.
  • Your Head: While it's a myth that you lose most of your heat through your head, you do lose heat through any part of the your body that isn't covered, so of course, put something on your skull. Don't forget to cover those ears, too. For very cold weather, a balaclava helps keep your lips, cheeks and nose insulated. 
  • Your Eyes and Skin:  The sun can be especially intense here, and our elevation increases the amount of UV rays we're exposed to.  Wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays. Consider goggles for when it's windy and you're fighting off blowing snow. And while you should be pretty well covered in the winter, sunscreen is a year-round accessory in Colorado.
  • Hydration and Nutrition: You're going to work up a sweat, even in the winter, so you still need to drink water.  Bring some with you, whether in your hydration bladder pack or water bottles.  Insulated bottles will keep your water from freezing, and insulating sleeves are available for the drinking tubes of hydration packs. If not that, blowing air back through the drinking tube when you're done will help keep the tube from freezing. If you run out of water, don't resort to eating snow - it will only lower your core temperature. Instead, scoop some into your water bottle and let it melt before consuming it. Don't forget to bring calorie-dense snacks with you, since outdoor recreation can be more taxing on your body than warm weather.
  • Electronics and Devices: The batteries in your favorite devices will drain faster in colder temperatures.  Carry spare batteries, and put your electronics in inside pockets, where they can take advantage of body heat to extend their life.
This Monday, November 11th, is Veterans Day. Entry fees are waived for everyone at all National Park Service sites, while active duty, retired and military veterans get free admission to all Colorado State Parks on the 11th.

Be Good. Do Good Things.

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for almost 28 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (@hikingguide), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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