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And Suddenly It's Cold - Forest News

In a flash, summer is gone, and it looks like it’s going to be gone for a while. This means it’s time to start thinking smart about how to stay warm (and dry) during our days in the woods. It is an unfortunate reality that, though it may be raining (or even snowing) I will inevitably have students who arrive to the woods dressed in ankle socks and a cotton hoodie. Being that me and the other teachers are the ones who have to listen to them shiver and complain, I took time last Friday to speak with students about how to best dress for the weather so they can stay warm and dry.

As one student put it - think of it like making a sandwich! The sandwich consists of a base layer, a middle thermal layer, and an outer shell. Taken together, these layers minimize the amount of body heat lost through conduction, convection, evaporation, and radiation.

I should also stress that one does not need to go out and spend a ton of money on expensive gear. If you have a membership, or know someone who does, Costco has great and affordable base layers and wool socks. Walmart also sells quality gear at a good price. AND, you’d be amazed at what you can find at GoodWill - I recently got a fancy 100% merino wool Lululemon for $8.00!!!

Anyways, all students should now know the following recipe for their Dress for the Weather sandwich, but here’s the rundown in case you want to quiz them or you need to pick up an item or two.

Bottom Base Layer - warm socks and thermal (i.e. long) underwear (leggings and a top work too). The base layer is responsible for wicking moisture away from the body and helping the body maintain its natural temperature. One of the most important parts of staying warm is staying dry. This is why I encourage students to, if possible, stay away from cotton...especially if they think they might get wet. Cotton absorbs moisture, doesn’t let it go, and will suck heat away from your body. Now, if all you have are some old cotton long-johns - don’t fret, they’ll work fine, though I would recommend (if possible) getting a couple pairs of good warm synthetic or wool socks.

Middle Thermal Layer - for those who can’t leave home without their hoodie, students were happy to know that hoodies are perfectly acceptable as a middle layer. Additionally, sweaters, sweatshirts, and fleece are all great options. Students can even have a couple thermal layers if they tend to get cold more easily. It’s better to be too warm than too cold, and layers can always be removed. If possible, choose synthetics over cotton for cold days when there is snow or rain.

Top Shell Layer - warm coat and pants. Hats, gloves, and insulated, waterproof boots also fall into this category. Ideally, students have access to a coat that provides protection from the wind and is moisture resistant. Wind can strip heat away, thus wind chill, and even the warmest coat loses at least some of its insulating ability if it gets wet, so even a windbreaker over a warm coat will add a layer of protection. If there is rain in the forecast, a raincoat or a poncho is a must. A big trash bag with head and arm holes will work fine too. It’s like I told the kids - the birds and deer don’t care about how we look!

Once winter sets in I know that many of your children will have snow suits and snow pants, which are great. It’s this transitional time between Fall and Winter where we’re going to encounter cold temperatures with sleet and rain that can be tough. I consistently underestimate just how cold you can get even when it’s cloudy and 50 degrees outside. Throw in a steady drizzle and it can be a long day. But, if we can come prepared, we’ll be able to enjoy every season in relative comfort and safety.


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