No matter where you live, cooler weather can pose a unique challenge for getting outside. Even without extreme shifts in seasonal weather, a dip in temperatures can mean you have to pack away some of your go-to things in exchange for different seasonal choices.
There are some pretty obvious swaps as you spend time outside in winter versus other seasons — sandals for boots, shorts for pants, hoodies for puffy jackets.
But for our seasonal Get-Out Gear Guide, I want to highlight some of the less obvious gear changes or considerations that you might only think about after you’ve encountered a problem.
Also, a side-benefit to this guide: you know that gifting holiday coming up soon? Yeah, Valentine’s Day. Nothing says “I love you” like well-researched outdoor gear and tested by your pals at Humans Outside. Better yet, we’ve got a few giveaways running with this guide. Say “I love me” and keep them for yourself, or give them away a gift.
This post contains some sponsored and affiliate links.
Cairn: Gear Boxes That Make a Great Gift and Fill a Need
You know that feeling of discovering the perfect item that exactly fills a need … but you had no idea it was the thing you needed until it was in your hot little hands? It feels like a real unicorn moment that you can’t possibly plan in advance.
Except that thanks to the Cairn outdoor gear subscription box program, you totally can. Cairn will send you a monthly subscription box packed with tested gear that you didn’t even know you were missing until it’s your new favorite thing. It was through Cairn boxes I bought Luke for Father’s Day last year that we scored my new favorite winter cabin camping light, an inflatable, rechargeable Luci lantern that I never, ever would’ve looked for in a store but has been the perfect addition to our winter camping kit.
Cairn also makes an awesome gift. With Valentine’s Day coming up soon, I know you’re looking for an easy thing to get the outdoor lover in your family — or to gift to yourself. Cairn is a fantastic option for this and, better yet, with a multi-month subscription you can keep that lovin’ gift feeling going way beyond February 14. Boxes run about $30 each and, in my experience, the gear you score is totally worth the investment. Check Cairn’s options out now.
Better yet? Cairn is giving away a two-month subscription to one lucky Humans Outside reader. Enter our Cairn giveaway between Feb. 4 and 11!
A great bluetooth speaker
Confession: I hate headphones. Sure, they have their place when you’re riding in an airplane or out in a crowded place or on an adventure near a lot of people. The rest of the time headphones seem like a great way to make sure you’re oblivious to your surroundings.
But if you’re someone who likes to get outside with music or podcasts (Humans Outside podcast, anyone?) your only headphone alternatives are limited. The speaker on your phone might not be loud enough to use easily and bluetooth speakers tend to be bulky.
That’s why I was really excited when Noxgear sent me their new 39g bluetooth speaker.
This speaker retails for $99.95, but you can score 35% off with coupon code HUMANSOUTSIDE.
It is the lightest weight wearable bluetooth on the market at just 39 grams, and clips right to whatever you’re wearing. It’s also loud enough for you to hear — and to use to warn off any wildlife as you hit the trial. I know you’ve seen my videos and photos of the moose I sometimes encounter. Letting wildlife know you’re coming is a big deal here and on a lot of trails. Unless you have endless things to discuss with your hiking companions or plan to sing out loud all the Disney songs ever written, finding an alternate way to make some noise will need to happen.
Finally, this speaker also has a microphone, so you can answer any incoming calls on it. I’m all about streamlining, and that feature makes streamlining possible!
Did you know that one of the most important keys to staying warm in cold outdoor temperatures is good hydration? This blew my mind when I learned it. Not having enough fluid can cause your core temperature to drop — and in cold weather that core temp needs all the help it can get. But because you don’t feel like you’re sweating and it’s not hot out, drinking water can be simply harder to remember when it’s cold outside.
My favorite way to remember to stay hydrated is simply to keep water with me. That means I keep a portable, refilled Klean Kanteen water bottle handy. In the winter it can be especially important to use an insulated bottle, especially if you live somewhere cold. I want to keep the contents of the bottle from even coming close to freezing, and the insulated bottle helps with that.
Klean Kanteen in early 2021 introduced a sleek, re-designed bottle and several new cap designs. I’m loving the twist straw for its convenience — and how it keeps me from dumping water down my front (… real problem, guys). That top is also impressively easy to clean since it can be completely disassembled and popped onto the top rack of the dishwasher. The bottle and cap retails for $39.95.
The Perfect Sunglasses
If you’re anything like me, you’re tempted to pack any old pair or even leave them home when the sun doesn’t seem quite high enough or it sets early in the day. That’s fine, right?
… Wrong. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been out for a hike in low-light conditions or hitting a trail when the sun whips itself outside and BAM there is blinding, reflective light. All of the sudden just having sunglasses on hand isn’t enough. You need to have a pair made for the condition. But what does that even mean?
First, you need to understand two types of typical winter light: flat and glare. “Flat light” produces little contrast in the landscape, making everything look the same. Glare light is absolutely blinding and happens when light reflects off something, like snow. And sunglasses can help with both of those things.
Can you guess what we’re going to recommend? Yup, Goodr. Coming in at a steller $25 a pair and in all sorts of fun colors, Goodr also makes polarized lenses in a variety of tints and platings, making it easy to find a pair that will work with conditions. For flat light, check out a light tint like these ones. And for glare days, you want something plated, like my personal favorite gold ones.
Maybe you’re thinking that socks are exactly what you expect to see on a normal gear guide, but stay with me here. When was the last time you stopped to think about what your socks are made of?
I used to think of socks in terms of cut and thickness — never in terms of material. I mean heck, it looks squishy, it’s probably thick and warm, right? Wrong. Just like with base layers and what you wear on your body, fabric matters. And as far as I’m concerned, for socks that fabric needs to be wool.
My favorite winter socks are from Darn Tough. Good socks can be an investment, but your warm feet will thank you. And thanks to Darn Tough’s satisfaction guarantee, if you manage to wear your pair out all you have to do is fill out the form on their website. You pay to ship them back, but they’ll pay to send a new pair to you.
Darn Tough socks start at bout $20.
Snacks That Don’t Freeze
If you’ve been following Humans Outside for awhile, you know how much I love snacks. But not all snacks are created equal when it comes to winter play. That’s because frozen snacks that are impossible to chew are a quick way to a major buzz kill. (I’m looking at you, Swedish Fish.)
Solution? Think through your snacks and how they’ll react to getting cold. My go-to for this is almond butter, which has to hit 0 degrees farenheit before it freezes. That means almond butter mixes, like those made by RX Bar in easy to transport packs, are an awesome snack for a cold day.
Bonus snack tip: cold weather experts recommend eating food high in sugar if you’re really cold. In my book that makes Jolly Ranchers a perfect option. Throw a few in your pack for an emergency snack. And who cares if they freeze? They are already hard. Also: Jolly Ranchers are delicious.