Staying Warm in the Cold

January 25, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Mule_deer_RMNP_2023_1Mule_deer_RMNP_2023_1Two mule deer fawns (Odocoileus hemionus) stand at a snowy ridge during a snowstorm in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Staying Warm in the Cold

Most of us are in the depths of winter. Even places like Arizona have been seeing snow fall in some of the most iconic desert locations, like Monument Valley and Sedona. It has been a great year for moisture, including here in Colorado. Snow packs are well above average for this time of year in Colorado's high country. 

That also means if you want to be out photographing in winter, you need to be properly dressed. Over the years, I have found a few items that I don't leave home without if I am going to focus on animals in the snow. This year, I added a couple of new items that have improved my comfort in the cold. Here is that list from head to toe.

Please note that I may receive a small portion of the sale from any products mentioned here at no additional cost to you. 

Enjoy photographing in the cold. It is such a beautiful season, especially when you are prepared for the elements. 

1. Hat: I make sure I use a hat with a fleece lining that comes down far enough to cover my ears. Most of our heat leaves our bodies from our head so hats are one of the most important items of clothing. My favorite is a wool hat from Sherpa Adventure Gear but they unfortunately no longer sell it. Look for a hat that has a fleece lining to prevent that scratchy feel on your head but is made with a warm fiber, like wool. This is one option that comes in a variety of colors. 

2. Fleece Neckwarmer: I discovered these several years ago and now have a wide selection of colors. (Have to be fashionable too, right?) They are made by Buff and have a fleece lining in addition to their printed outer fabric. Use them as just a neck warmer or raise them up high to cover ears and head for additional warmth.

3. Base Layer: My favorite base layer is a thin shirt from Eddie Bauer. They unfortunately stopped making it several years ago but they have a new base layer shirt called the brushed base layer crew that seems to be similar. Just ordered one to try it out.

4. Fleece: I am all about finding the right clothing for being outdoors and often that means that to get the right quality you pay the price. Recently I discovered this fleece on Amazon and I have since ordered four. They are just the right thickness fleece, come in a variety of colors (including the harder to find neutral, earth tones I prefer for wildlife photography) and have a front zipper pouch for holding keys or keeping hands warm. They have also held up well after multiple washings. Best of all? The price is very reasonable.

5. Pants: Again, love these pants and have multiple pairs in different colors. These are the Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Lined Pants. (I also have several pairs of these not lined for summer adventures.) They wick water (and liquids that splash on them), have side pockets large enough for a cell phone and wash well. I have not needed a base layer legging under these, making the fit that much more enjoyable.

6. Jacket: This one has been a hard one over the years. Good jackets are expensive and I can be rough on them — snagging them on branches, putting too much in pockets and ripping zippers, sitting in unmentionables when photographing birds. I finally found a jacket that for the most extreme conditions (think Churchill when photographing polar bears) did the job perfectly. The length is great for keeping legs warm yet not too long to be cumbersome or difficult for driving. The faux fur on the hood keeps out the wind. And lots of pockets means I have everything I need at my fingertips for photography — batteries, extra hand warmers, extra cards and tissues. It is the Women's Expedition Down Waterproof Winter Parka from Land's End.

7. Socks: Never wear socks too thick for you shoes. If you cut off circulation, your feet will be cold. Find a comfortable pair of wool socks that are tall to help prevent snow hitting skin if snow should get in your boots. I prefer Darn Tough merino wool socks with cushion or SmartWool wool socks with cushion

8. Snowshoes_IPW_2021_4Snowshoes_IPW_2021_4A view looking down at a pair of feet in hiking boots and snowshoes standing on snow in Colorado. Boots: Most of the time I wear my favorite hiking boots, the Renegade from Lowa, for snowshoeing or hiking in winter. When the temperatures really plummet or I will be standing on snow or ice for a while, however, I ratchet up my footwear to the Muck Boot Arctic Sport Tall Snow Boot. I actually keep these in the vehicle throughout the winter in case I wind up someplace in deep snow or find an unexpected photo opportunity out on the ice. They are also waterproof so in summer I use them for walking through deep water since they will keep my feet dry up to mid-calf. 

Microspikes_RMNP_2022_1Microspikes_RMNP_2022_1A view looking down tot he microspikes on the feet of a hiker while standing on ice in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
9. Foot Traction: No, this isn't me putting my foot in a sling. Instead, this is a category of products designed to help you stay upright when walking on ice or packed snow. My favorite is the MICROspikes Footwear Traction from Kahtoola for their versatility for snow or ice. The pair photographed here have even taken me across glaciers in Alaska. Another option is to purchase a pair of YakTrax. These are not as aggressive as the micro spikes but work well for navigating through a parking lot or on packed snow. I use these for walking my dog in winter conditions. I also see people using these while running in winter. 

10. Gloves: I still have not found the perfect pair of gloves for winter to keep my fingers warm. It is really the only thing I have had issues with over the years when working outside in winter. The best solution I have come up with so far is to wear a liner glove with a flip-top fleece glove over the liner and then hand warmers between the two gloves in the palm, and if really cold, add a second pair of warmers in the flip-top area for your fingertips. My preferred liners, which I use all year long when out on cold mornings or up on the tundra are the Sitka Gear Traverse Glove. They have a thin fleece lining and grippy index and thumb fingers, helping with working camera dials and buttons in the cold. Then I put a thick flip-top fleece glove over the liners. And finally, add the hand warmers into the space in the palm between the two gloves. It does the trick. And keep a large box of hand warmers around if you plan to do a lot outdoors in the winter. It is cheaper and saves you time. I'll go through a box a season. Another option is to go with electric gloves. Although I have found these do the trick, to save battery life, you have to keep them set on low for longer wear time. The battery pack in them can also be a little bulky.

If you have made it this far in the list of products, then I know you are serious about being outdoors in the winter. Winter is an amazing time to be outdoors taking photos but to do it safely, you need the proper clothing. Happy shooting!

 


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