Dress (and Plan) for Winter Success!

December 20th, 2014 | By Marjie No Comments



Even here in the temperate climate of Athens, Georgia, weather conditions can change rapidly during the winter months, especially at night or at higher elevations.  Whether you and your family like to hike or ride bikes, go to the playground or play tennis, you need to aware of potential weather conditions, dressing and packing accordingly so you are comfortable and, above all, safe.

As we researched material for this article, we came across the following phrase no fewer than four times … no joke.  This is what we read from four accounts that helped us decide what information we should include in this article:

It seemed like a good idea at the time, and we thought we’d be just fine.

That was written by people who thought they were dressed appropriately for the weather, prepared for their activities, and safe from any potential climate-related problems.  It was written by people who are lucky to be around to write about their experiences, because their experiences could have ended very, very differently.

Most of us have apps on our smart phones that help us prepare for the weather of the day, the week, and the weekend ahead.  It’s important, though, to realize that weather changes, and we need to be extra vigilant, particularly when it’s winter.  That doesn’t mean we should be afraid to go outside, or overly concerned about the weather.  It simply means that we should be informed, remain diligent, and make careful choices when we do go out for a hike, a bike ride, a run, or even just a walk around the block.

It’s not difficult to be ready for outdoor activities during the colder months.  Here are some simple guidelines for you and your family.  We’ve compiled them from actual stories about people who have learned ‘the hard way’ how to be better prepared.

These recommendations apply no matter what activity you are planning.  From a long walk on a local trail to an overnight hike in the North Georgia Mountains … from a bike ride around the county to a weekend trek … no matter what your activity, follow this advice to stay safe and warm:

  1. First and foremost, don’t go out alone.  And if you’re taking an overnight (or several nights) trip, be sure you’re hiking/biking with at least four other people.  You’ll want to help each other, watch for any danger signs in each other, and have plenty of supplies that you can share if needed.
  2. Keep drinking water.  Too often, people think that if they’re not sweating profusely, they’re not losing fluids.  The problem is that the cold weather often disguises your sweating.  Just remember, if you’re exercising, you’re losing fluids.
  3. Have a travel plan.  Even if you’re just biking or walking for a few miles, know your path, and leave a note so someone knows where you’re traveling and when you plan to return.  Make sure friends and family know that if you and your group aren’t back at the appointed time (and haven’t checked in to let them know), that they should feel completely justified in looking for you.
  4. Stick to your travel plan.  Too often, adventurers do just that … they go on an adventure.  This has proved dangerous (or deadly) in extreme weather.  Refer to 3. above.  If you need help, the people who care about you are going to come looking where you told them you’d be.  Don’t make a bad situation worse by veering from your planned path.
  5. Dress for the weather.  That may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people thought “it just wasn’t that cold” or “there wasn’t any rain/snow/sleet expected … it came out of nowhere” or “it was warm when we left but got so cold” or “we didn’t expect to be out that long and it got so cold.”  Really … listen to the age-old advice to layer your clothing.  You want to be able to take off and add on layers depending on your body temperature.
  6. Read about where you’ll be going. If you’re headed to unfamiliar trails or terrain, make sure you have a good map (GPS only works if you have a signal for your device!) and reliable information about the area’s weather, available services, wildlife, and topography.
  7. Live by the motto … when in doubt, don’t go out.  That doesn’t mean stay inside and let the fun of a crisp winter day pass you by.  It means that if the experts are telling you it’s not a good idea, then listen to them.  If those same experts (like the ones we researched for this article) recommend specific kinds of clothing, equipment, or nutrition (like the ones we’ve listed here), then listen to them.

Each year, hikers, bikers, walkers, runners, and even those just playing at the local playground find themselves at risk (or, worse yet, experiencing) severe illness, injury, or worse from being unprepared.  The safety of you and each member of your family relies on judgment, experience, proper equipment and clothing, and attention to the environment, including the weather.


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