January 2, 2013 at 1:42 PM
"Santa Fe has beautiful winter days. With the right gear, you can really get outside and enjoy them"
At Home Outdoors
Karen Denison is owner of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing guide service, a former biologist, and a shameless admirer of the outdoors.
If your New Year's resolution includes getting outside more this winter, here are a few suggestions for making it more comfortable and fun.
If you are a walker, get a pair of "cleats" to fit your hiking boots. Yak-Traks and Micro-Spikes (both are brand names) are meant to give traction on packed snow and ice. Different models begin around $20 and go up from there. They are sized to fit very securely on your boot so when you step forward, there's no slide or slip. They work best on snow/ice; frozen dirt is harder on your feet. They are small enough, though, that you can stick them in your pack in case there's a stretch of frozen stuff along your route.
Taking up snowshoeing is a fine idea, too. Unlike Yak-Trax or Micro-Spikes, the larger size of a snowshoe permits you to "float" a bit higher in untracked snow so you're not restricted to staying on a previously-packed trail or road. Loads of styles and sizes are available and prices range between $100 to $300. Additionally, these may be rented at a number of local shops for a nominal fee. If you are thinking of trying snowshoeing, I strongly recommend renting a couple of times first so you may decide which features (like the bindings which fasten to your boots) are important for you.
Whether hiking, snowshoeing or just puttering around outside, having warm hands and feet make things much more fun! The right boots are essential being outside. No, they don't have to be heavy, old-fashioned rubber pac-boots. But invest in a waterproof, insulated boot that laces on to fit securely, but which still allows you to wiggle your toes and flex your foot slightly even when wearing your winter-heavy socks. If you intend to use cleats or snowshoes, get boots that have sturdy soles and some structure to the upper so straps won't pinch your toes. Don't expect your lightweight summer hiking boots or shoes to fulfill this purpose routinely.
Mittens are warmer than gloves so if you're prone to becoming cold, try some heavy mittens. Ones made of boiled wool are still some of my favorites, although becoming harder to find. The super-dense felted wool blocks wind and resists snow. If you get a very large pair, a liner glove may be worn underneath for extra protection.
Most folks have plenty of sweaters and jackets, but fewer bother to have good winter coverage for legs. Lightweight, wind-blocking pants to slip on over your regular insulation are a god-send. Whether windbreaker nylon or something more sophisticated like Gore-Tex, you'll feel many degrees warmer by having this loose, wind-blocking addition. In New Mexico, don't get insulated nylon ski pants for hiking or snowshoeing. On a sunny day, you might want to take off a layer during your hike and ski bunny pants don't lend themselves well to this.
Gaiters are waterproof protection for tramping about in the snow. They cover the junction between your boot and your lower leg so snow can't creep into your boot, and they also give a little extra warmth by providing a wind-proof layer for your lower legs. They're even good slapped on over jeans for walking the dog. Zipper and velcro styles are available from $20 and up and they should last many seasons. If you hike or snowshoe, get a pair you'll not regret it.
Santa Fe has beautiful winter days. With the right gear, you can really get outside and enjoy them!