When it comes to enjoying the great outdoors, there’s no reason to feel like Randy. You remember Randy? He’s Ralphie’s little brother from A Christmas Story, the 1983 movie about the most wonderful time of the year. Poor Randy was bundled up so tight in a one-piece snowsuit that he couldn’t put his arms down. Things got even worse when he was knocked into a snowbank and couldn’t get back on his feet.
Don’t be a Randy this winter. Luckily, enjoying life outdoors in winter has become a lot easier thanks to huge leaps in clothing technology.
The worst thing you can do is wear heavy jeans and a massive parka when it comes to playing outdoors. The secret, as you may have heard, is in layering. Your dual goals in this exercise are moisture control and warmth. And it all starts with the base layer (in the olden days, we called this long underwear).
You have a choice of several base layer fabrics, each with a unique set of properties. The three most common are silk, polypropylene or wool. The first two will do a fine job of pulling sweat away from your skin, which will make you feel warmer and more comfortable. Wool will wick moisture too, plus it’s a lot warmer and has natural odor resistance (especially compared with polypropylene which gets smelly very quickly).
My money is on the new crop of Merino wool base layer garments. This fine fabric eliminates the itch commonly associated with wool, plus adds a layer of warmth that you’ll appreciate on the coldest of days.
After the base layer, load up with as many warm layers as you figure you’ll need. These can take the form of fleece hoodies, wool sweaters, light down parkas or insulated pants. The final layer, called the shell, is an important addition if you need to block wind or water (from falling snow). Choose a shell that’s waterproof and breathable.
Now that you’re all suited up, it’s time to get out there and have some fun. Here’s a collection of gift ideas to help you make friends with Old Man Winter.
The Tilley Aviator
Possibly the hippest Tilley hat around, this one has a rain and snow repellent wool exterior and has a genuine shearling interior. The smallish ear flaps that can be buttoned up to help you hear. Like all Tilley products, it’s guaranteed for life not to wear out and insured against loss. $135Journeys Travel & Leisure Supercentre 102-326 Wardlaw Ave. 982-9494
This video camera is rugged, waterproof and compact—perfect for that warp speed ride down the toboggan hill. It records in full 1080p HD (plus a couple of other modes) and comes with built-in software for easy sharing on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. It also works as a 5 MP camera. $159.95
At Best Buy, Future Shop, Walmart or at Kodak.ca
The Shore is a new model for downhill mountain biking. Yes, you read that correctly. This pair features shatterproof double lenses with integrated tear off posts, a vented frame, 100 per cent uv protection and a fog resistant coating—all very important while engaging in this somewhat risky behaviour. $49.99
Visit www.ryderseyewear.com for where to buy or call 1-800-665-2903
There are those among us that camp in the winter. That means sleeping outdoors. Luckily, there’s a bag for that. The mummy shape fits snugly around the body, plus there are drawstrings around the shoulders and head to keep out the draft. It has a rating of -17°C. Let’s just hope there’s no wind chill. $99.99
At some Canadian Tire stores or always online at www.canadiantire.ca.
GV Kid’s Trail Snowshoes
Easy to adjust, freeze-free and lightweight. Oh why can’t all snowshoes be this easy? For kids up to nine years old, these snowshoes fit over any winter boot. Strap them on and let them fly around the park. They even come in pink!$85.99 Cabela’s 1300 Ellice Ave. 786-8966
MEC Merino Long Johns
Keeping warm is all about the base layer. Make a good choice for what’s next to your skin and you’ll be good to go all day long. These long johns are soft, itch-free, stretchy and they pull moisture away from your skin. Plus they’re stylish enough to wear around the cottage as pajamas. In men’s and women’s colours and sizes. $62.Mountain Equipment Co-op 303 Portage Ave. 943-4202
Finding a travel mug that actually keeps your coffee hot is easier said than done. This one performs like a rock star, and looks pretty good doing it. The double wall vacuum insulation helps your bevies stay hot for up to five hours. Plus it features a built-in tea hook, which easily holds tea bags or most loose leaf infusers. Leak-proof lid with one-hand, push button operation $27.99
Available at London Drugs, Canadian Tire and Walmart.
The North Face Maplekat Boot
The North Face has become a big brand for one simple reason. It’s great stuff. These do-anything winter boots are super grippy for treacherous surfaces—like your driveway. They’re great for snowshoeing, a winter hike or a snowmobile ride. Available in a couple of colours for both women and men.$119.99 Cabela’s 1300 Ellice Ave. 786-8966