Cold weather is here in the Johnstown area. Snow is flying and the winds are blowing. Some Johnstown area residents will curl up inside and wait out the winter. But others will head outside to take advantage of the wonderful winter outdoor recreation opportunities in the area.
One of the misconceptions is that you will get sick from being outside in the cold. Colds are caused by viruses and not the result of being outside in the cold. So it is perfectly safe to head outside, just dress appropriately and be prepared. Here are some rules for dressing for winter recreation, or just going out, in the cold Johnstown weather.
Dress in layers, especially when you are having fun or working outside. When you are dressed in layers, you are able to take off layers of clothing as your body moves and warms up. Then when you take a break or slow down, you can add the layers back on. This keeps the body from overheating during activity and from getting chilled from sweating when you stop or take a break.
Layers should include a wicking layer next to the body to draw moisture away from the body. Moving the moisture away from the body helps regulate the body temperature and helps prevent hypothermia. The wicking layers would include undergarments and thermal underwear. The wicking layer should be quick drying synthetic material such as polyester or merino wool such as SmartWool. Do not use cotton for a base layer because cotton materials tend to hold onto the moisture.
Next would be you insulating layer. This layer provides you protection from the cold weather getting in. It may consist of more than one layer. You should choose fleece or natural fibers such as wool or down. Wool can be heavy while fleece tends to be lighter. Fleece is also breathable and provides good insulation even in wet conditions.
The last layer is the outer shell layer which provides you the first line of defense from the elements. These are the things to consider when choosing a shell. Look for something with insulation such as a fleece lining. This type of shell is good for cold wet conditions, but is not as versatile for layering. Decide whether you need a water-proof shell or a water-resistant shell. A water-resistant shell would be appropriate for lighter precipitation and is less expensive. Lastly, look for a layer to provide wind protection such as a windbreaker, especially when in large open areas or around the ridge tops.
Cover up your head, hands and ears. Not only is this important to prevent frostbite, but also to prevent heat loss. The common reminder is that 75% of the heat loss by the body is through the head. In all actuality, any part of the body exposed to the elements losses heat. So grab a hat (or helmet for some of the snow sports). It should provide coverage and insulation. Do not wear a mesh back ball cap, but consider a solid material. Ski masks are a good choice, although they can limit visibility if they move around. I personally prefer a ski cap with a fully open face. It also provides coverage under the chin and it covers the ears.
For your hands, choose your gloves based on your activity. The parts of the body most susceptible to frostbite are your fingers, toes and ears. So choose gloves that keep you warm and dry. If you are skiing or taking part in another outdoor recreation activity like snowshoeing, choose some heavy waterproof gloves. This provides insulation and keeps your hands dry. I am not a big fan of woven gloves or mittens because they can get wet easily. Some activities like geocaching or nature photography may require you to be able to manipulate equipment or controls. Big bulky gloves do not work for these activities. However, Groundspeak (geocaching.com) has a pair of tech savvy gloves in the online store that reportedly provides protection from the cold while allowing you to manipulate electronic devices.
Don’t forget your feet. Choose footwear that has good insulation and that is water-proof. This will keep your feet warm and dry. Also look at the height of the boots. Higher boots provide for protection in deeper snow. I prefer wearing two pairs of socks. The layer next to my feet to draw moisture away and then a second insulating (and cushioning) layer. This also helps to prevent blisters on the feet.
Last but not least don’t forget your eyes. Anyone who has been out in the snow on a bright sunny day knows the importance of eye protection. Sunglasses or goggles are important in cutting down on the glare from the sun reflecting off of the snow cover.
Always bring extra clothes with you. You will feel much more comfortable driving home in warm dry clothing. One of the most important extras is socks. This will allow you to change your socks if they get wet. Wet clothing cools the body more rapidly and in the case of your feet can leave your toes more susceptible to frostbite. And bring a waterproof pack to keep extras in.
So get outdoors this winter Johnstown. It will help you stay fit and healthy. Dress properly and take in some of our most wonderful winter scenery.
Here are a couple of great places to find those layering materials in the Johnstwn area or online:
- Dunhams at the Galleria Mall
- Gander Mountain at the Galleria Mall and online
- Ski Den Sports on Scalp Avenue in Richland
- Snowflakes and Skis at Blue Knob All Seasons Resort
- Seven Springs Shops - Signature by Seven Springs and Willi's Ski and Snowboard Shop
- The Hidden Valley Ski and Snowboard Shops at Hidden Valley Resort
- REI in Pittsburgh or online
- Cabela's online