Beat the cold and get outside! I’ve spent several hours, every single day, since January 1, 2018 outdoors. It’s the only way I’ve been able to add 111 species to my Maryland big year list.
The temperatures have been brutal. Ranging from 3 F to a high of 40 F (although one day we reached 60 F), not to mention the windchill. (Visit my YouTube Channel to see what I’m talking/complaining about!)
“Nothing burns like the cold. But only for a while. Then it gets inside you and starts to fill you up, and after a while you don’t have the strength to fight it.”
— George R.R. Martin, “A Game of Thrones”.
This is how I’ve managed to stay outdoors for hours on end and minimize my discomfort.
Beat the Cold: 5 Tips
1. Layer Well
I cannot stress the importance of layering enough! Layer, layer, layer! This is what I have going on in my daily ensemble:
- Synthetic Wool Socks
- Fleece Lined Leggings
- Long Sleeve Undershirt or Turtle Neck
- Balaclava or Head Warmer (to cover my nose, mouth, and chin)
- Leg Warmers or Pants (depending on how cold it is outside)
- Sweater (to go under a fleece) or Fleece (depending on how cold it is outside)
- Snowsuit/Bib or Snow Pants
- Coat (heavy coat) or Parka
- Mittens with cutaway fingers
2. Use Toe Warmers
Nestled in almost each layer are toe warmers, not hand warmers, but toe warmers, and here’s why. Toe warmers come with adhesive on the back which means that you can stick them on the inside of pockets, boots, mittens.
If I’m traveling far away from home and I know I’ll be out for hours without any break, I’ll use hot pads and stick them on the inside of my snowsuit to keep my extremities warm. I use ThermaCare. Buy them here.
3. Eat and Drink
Drinking plenty of fluids and eating is very important. You’re burning calories to stay warm and you’re moving around a lot looking for birds. Staying hydrated and packing proper food will help you last longer.
This is what I pack:
- Thermos of Hot Tea
- Water Bottle
- Lärabars (Blueberry Muffin is my favorite)
- Homemade Trail Mix (This is my recipe: Van’s Cinnamon Heaven cereal, raisins, Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips)
- Two Sandwiches, one for lunch and one for the ride home
You might look at my list and think, “Whoa! That’s a lot of carbs!” Well, I start every day with high protein meal and when I’m outdoors, freezing and hiking, I eat a lot of carbs. In the evening I have another protein-rich meal. I just do what works best for me! You should do the same.
4. Take Breaks
Listen to your body. If your fingers hurt and you can’t even work your gear, stop and take a break. No bird is worth hurting yourself over, at least that’s what I’ve been told (and it’s what I tell myself).
Here are some ideas on how to give yourself a break:
- Sit in your car and heat up
- Stop at a rest stop or gas station
- Treat yourself to lunch
Sometimes all you need is a good break to help you refocus and gather your strength! Otherwise, it’s good to know when to call it a day.
5. Beat the Wind
The wind can take its toll on your skin, so beat it before it beats you. The best way to beat the wind, in my opinion, is to cover your skin (using a balaclava) and moisturize.
I use a heavy moisturizer underneath my SPF (I use SPF year round, you should too) and I use lip balm.
Take it from me, windburn sucks!
Preparing yourself for the cold weather is your best defense against it! There are instances when you just have to accept it, but more often than not, you can beat it by layering, using warmers, eating properly, taking breaks, and protecting yourself from the wind!
Now go outside and bird on!