How to Prep for a Wintry Outdoor Adventure

Photo: Shutterstock; Illustration: Marissa Dickson/Thrillist

Staying active this winter requires a bit more creativity, since many of our usual options for getting out of the house are still unavailable. But luckily, there are plenty of great ways to get outdoors during even the coldest months, whether it’s hiking, ice skating, or just exploring your city on foot. (We can’t exactly recommend a picnic, though.) When you’re gearing up for braving the elements, there are some basics (and not-so-basics) to keep in mind. We put together a list of what to know, including some recipes from Campbell’s® to provide comfort food for when you’re back indoors.

Have a plan

“Go outside and see what happens” only really works in the summer months. In the winter, it’s smart to have an activity in mind, so you’ll know exactly what to prepare for. Hiking to cold-weather sights like a frozen waterfall is one suggestion, or you can find a pond to skate on. Some tips for safe traveling on ice: make sure it’s at least 4 inches thick, and keep in mind that new, clear ice is stronger than white ice. If you’ve got a particularly athletic dog, check out skijoring, AKA cross-country skiing with a dog towing you. It’s good exercise for both of you, and you’ll get some fun looks from anyone you pass by.

Photo: Campbell's; Illustration: Marissa Dickson/Thrillist

Eat a hearty meal

Consuming a warm breakfast can help you maintain your energy out in the cold (remember: keeping that body temperature up requires calories). Our suggestion: this Sausage Breakfast Casserole, which you can prepare the night before and pop in the oven in the morning while you get ready for your trek. There’s also this Ham and Asparagus Strata, made with Campbell’s® Cream of Mushroom Soup and enough layered ham and cheese to fill up an entire family of adventurers. Of course, you’ll need food when you return home, too, and after a long day out in the cold, you probably aren’t in the mood for a long cooking session. That’s when to turn to this 15-Minute Chicken & Rice recipe, a quick and easy dish made with Campbell’s® Cream of Chicken Soup to enjoy while warming up.

Bundle up

It’s obvious advice, but your mother was right: you gotta bundle up. The best way to do this is layering, with multiple thin shirts or jackets, which lets you add or remove insulation as you warm up from exertion. Ideally, your base layer should wick sweat off your skin to keep you dry and warm, a middle layer should insulate you as much as possible, and an outer layer should block the wind and water. Cotton layers are usually a no-go, since they soak up water and can get heavy and cold. Instead, look for insulation made of wool or synthetic fibers. One last factor to consider: sun exposure. When the sun reflects off of snow, it often hits exposed skin that’s not accustomed to the UV rays (think the underside of your chin, for example). Covering up with a neck gaiter or just ensuring you’re diligent with the sunscreen will make sure you don’t come home with sunburns.

Photo: Shutterstock; Illustration: Marissa Dickson/Thrillist

Stay hydrated

It turns out that keeping well-hydrated is just as important in the winter time as it is during summer activities. It’s often easy to not feel exerted in the cold, so dehydration can sneak up on you. Every time you see your own breath in the air, that’s water leaving your body, and it speeds up as the air is dryer. The simplest solution is just to bring along water, keeping it agitated or inside a pack to ensure it doesn’t freeze. Two liters per person is usually enough, unless you’re embarking on a multi-day hike. Alternatively, you can carry an insulated mug of caffeine-free tea or even a soup, like Campbell’s® Tomato Soup, to get additional water intake and warm you up. (Coffee or caffeinated teas are OK, but they can also act as a diuretic and work against you.) If all else fails, fresh snow will do the trick. Keep an eye out for the signs of dehydration: dizziness, fatigue, and headache. These can also be confused for hypothermia or lack of sleep, but no matter the cause, they indicate it’s time to head back inside and rest.

Put safety first

If you notice anyone you’re with shivering, exhausted, confused, or slurring their words, consider it an emergency situation, as hypothermia is the biggest safety concern with venturing into nature during the winter. Always have a backup option for warming up, whether that’s a nearby indoors area, car, or just getting them out of the wind. Emergency warming can be done with hot packs placed on the armpits and neck, or simply by huddling together as a group. Also, keep an eye out for frostbite. If you’re noticing redness or numbness in fingers, toes, ears, or nose, get them warmed. If the skin starts to go pale or harden, you may even need to see a doctor. Another safety concern to keep in mind: light. Shorter days mean earlier sunsets, so bring along a flashlight to ensure you’re not stuck in the woods as it gets dark.