How to Dress for Cold Weather (Mollie Foster)

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Here at Humans Outside we practice getting outside every day for 20 minutes no matter the weather — and that means sometimes we go outside when it’s wet, cold or otherwise not that pleasant. Sometimes we go outside when the weather is bad.

But if you’ve never had an outdoor habit or spent a lot of time outside in the winter, then you might be feeling a little overwhelmed by what some folks think of as the basics, like what kind of jacket to wear or how to keep your hands and feet warm.

No matter where you live you’re likely to at some point face what you see as less than ideal weather. Cold is relative to your experience, whether you’re in Alaska or in Florida. So how do you know what to wear?

The good news is that learning how to dress for cold weather is basically the same wherever you are. What largely changes is how much you wear or the thickness or warmth of your choice.

Mollie Foster is an Alaska-based guide and outdoor author. Her guide company, Traverse Alaska, helps all sorts of people get outside, and her book, Hiking Alaska, tells others where to go.

In this highly practical episode of Humans Outside Mollie tells outdoor-lovers what to wear for going outside and how to dress for cold weather.

Some of the good stuff:

[2:26] Mollie Foster’s favorite outdoor space

[3:40] Mollie’s outdoor story

[7:03] Why outdoor attitude matters

[9:50] The most important advice for dressing for cold weather

[13:13] Why cold is relative

[16:22] How to know what is right for you outside

[23:32] The power of the wind layer and the vest

[27:32] Down vs. synthetic

[29:44] The glory of The Pants

[31:57] How to keep cold hands warm

[39:26] How to keep cold feet warm

[45:18] The glory of the face buff

[48:05] Keeping kids warm outside

[49:00] Mollie’s favorite and most essential outdoor gear

[51:22] Mollie’s favorite outdoor moment

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Below is an edited transcript of the show.

Amy Bushatz 0:01

It’s a question I get from listeners a lot. What should I wear to go outside – insert specific weather here. And I love this question. I love it because it comes from people who are trying something new and aren’t sure how to get started. I love it. Because it’s a question every single person who has ever had an outdoor adventure has wondered at some point. I love it, because the question I have personally had many times, and even a question I still have now, particularly when I’m trying something new. My top goal this podcast season was to drum up an expert to talk to us about this subject. But I didn’t want a person representing a clothing company. Although you know, I’m fond of certain brands. And I didn’t want one of my superhuman winter running friends. Although we know that they know what to wear and 100 miles and Alaska in the winter. I wanted to bring someone normal, a regular human who is an expert in getting outside and helping others get outside – a normal human who is also an amazing helper. And that is why I’m so excited to bring you the amazing Mollie Foster today. Like many people here in Alaska, Mollie isn’t from here. But for the last several years, her guide company Traverse Alaska has helped all sorts of people get outside in all kinds of weather. She’s learned how to dress herself to go outside and she’s learned how to help others do the same. She’s also the author of the guidebook Hiking Alaska, which as a writer myself, I think is pretty cool. And if you think her voice sounds familiar, it’s because Mollie is also the sister of one of my favorite people and so-called running wives, Claire Shea. Mollie, welcome and thanks so much for joining me on the Humans Outside Podcast today.

Mollie Foster 2:14

Hi, Amy. Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

AB 2:17

Okay, so we start all of our podcast episodes imagining ourselves in our guest’s favorite outdoor space. Where are we with you today?

MF 2:26

Oh, man, this is such a hard question. And I’ve had this question in reference to my guidebook that has 100 different hiking trails around the state, like, which is your favorite, favorite. And it’s impossible for me to answer. But I would say that one of my favorite places, and a place that I call home is Denali. So it’s one of the first places in 2009 when I moved to Alaska, where I spent a summer and now my husband and I have a cabin there and I spend quite a bit of time. So I would say, I mean year round being up there just watching the seasons change, and really growing to love winter, like I really liked this topic a lot. And especially now, because the flip side is I grew up in Michigan and hated winter. Didn’t like winter at all. And so now I really have grown to love it. And appreciate it. Thanks to the Alaska culture and, and whatnot. So it’s a super special, long season.

AB 3:31

Awesome. So you’re from Michigan. Okay, but how did you end up here in Alaska? And what led you to become an Alaska based guide?

MF 3:40

Yeah. So in 2009, I had visited Alaska once before my sister you mentioned, Claire lived in southeastern Sitka. And so I spent a week there. When I was in college, I really thought Alaska is cool. I would like to go work up there for a summer, you know, some day. And so I was living in Colorado at the time in 2009, and was able to talk my sister into helping me get a photography job up in Denali. And so I moved up there for just one summer as a common story for especially seasonal places like Denali. And pretty much stayed since and met my now husband that summer, and just didn’t look back. I mean, it’s the landscape. Definitely a big part of what drew me up here having families really awesome, but the community and the people that I’ve met here, it was just like, these are my people, you know, so yeah, so you know the feeling.

AB 4:50

So what’s the difference between getting outside here and getting an outside in Michigan that made you like this version of doing winter and dressing for cold Weather better?

MF 5:01

Yeah, great question. So I think it’s just the celebration of winter that I’ve experienced up here in Alaska. And of course, there’s just a variety of activities outside that people do here. Whereas in Michigan, and again, I was only in Michigan growing up until I finished high school. And so you know, you’re at a different point in your life. But Michigan winters to me were just gray and cold and not full of a lot of winter activities that I liked at the time. But now I’ve really grown to love skiing, or, you know, skate skiing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, and still working it improving my skiing skills, but I really love it and as well as things like dog machine, I have a lot of friends who are big dog mushers, who that’s their that’s their full time gig. I’m running thousand mile races across Alaska. So I’ve learned a lot from those folks and ice skating ice bowling, you name it, I mean, there’s just so many activities, what I tell to visitors like for for our guiding company, when they’re like what’s winter, like here, if they’re visiting in the summer, I say, you know, summer is great, we we generally stick to these trails or, you know, these areas where we can go up in the Alpine and whatnot. And in the winter, when the temperatures freeze all of these ponds and rivers, you know, I spend a lot of time in interior. So like literally everything freezes over. And so our whole playground just opens up, like I go to all sorts of different distant areas, like in Denali in the winter, that in the summer would just be a slog through swamps and things like that to get to. So I think that part in particular is really kind of flipped the switch for me. Whereas in Michigan, say in the city, when it snowed, or when you know, winter came, it was like a slow life down, you know, you have to plow the streets, and this and that. And it took longer to get places and it was kind of a pain. But here, it’s like we need those freezing temperatures and that snow and whatnot for all the activities that we Alaskans love to do.

AB 7:03

Yeah, but I want to go back to something you just said a couple of seconds ago, because even though we’re gonna get really practical here, and I love what you just said about attitude, because that’s what you’re describing, right? you’re describing the difference between here and Michigan as largely being your perspective on how you’re going to handle the winter time. And that you here are looking at it in terms of opportunity. And in Michigan, you were looking at it at it in terms of inconvenience. And in a lot of that’s maturity, right? You’re older now. We’re adults, you know, things you see differently when you’re an adult versus when you’re a high schooler, but at the same time, I think a lot of people who are just learning to be outdoors D are learning that this is a matter of perspective. And that how you handle getting outside is about wanting to and then choosing to overcome that and then choosing to find something that you love to do outside no matter the weather. What do you think?

MF 8:03

Oh, yeah, no, you You nailed it, for sure. I couldn’t agree more. I mean, like I was saying it’s Yeah, the perspective and the mindset for so many Alaskans and I learned a lot from people who homesteaded like in the Denali area people that homestead they just get out and do it. Yeah, it might be. Yeah, 40 below 30, below whatever the temperatures are, but you never know until you just start trying. And you figure out as we’re going to talk about, like what gear to to wear, what you need to be able to survive outside at those extreme cold temperatures. And in the south central area. It’s it’s typically not that cold, like say 40 below. But I have learned as well, that maybe we’ll talk more about this but the wet and the dry cold that really is a true thing. It is not equivalent on acreage below zero and definitely below zero for example.

AB 8:56

Yeah. Okay, so I’m so excited to get cracking. Quick caveat, because a lot of people don’t as you know, are listening to this outside of Alaska. So I want to make sure everybody understands that we are not standing here saying that, you know, if you’re not hanging it negative 40 not cool enough for this show. Because that’s not true. I just want listeners to know we’re going to talk about how to dress in the weather. Cold is relative to you and how you experience it. So if you’re in Texas, and you’re listening to this thinking, I have no room to stand on here it might be 40 degrees one day, who chili you know, listen, this is this is for you as well. We’re going to talk about dress layering and all that good stuff. So let’s get going. Excited. Okay, Mollie. Here we go. What’s the first advice you give to folks for how to dress for the cold first thing?

MF 9:50

Yeah, I get this question a lot. We we have visitors that come up in the winter for our getting business tourists Alaska and I’m really the the point That I had or that the underlayers are very important when you’re talking winter temperatures and yeah, you nailed it like from Becca be 37 degrees above to the opposite, you know below zero, really just those underlayers. So no cotton, definitely don’t want to wear cotton because then when it gets wet you you it’ll stay wet and you just get really cold. So layers like merino wool, long johns, and next to skin layers are super important. And then basically, it’s layering on top of that, and then I and then I talk with folks about fingers and toes, it’s all about fingers and toes after that. And for me, as we’ll talk about fingers, yeah, are a very special, special need for me. And I think for you as well, to be able to keep your fingers happy. And if you’re warm and dry enough, and you’re outside, like you’re gonna just enjoy yourself a lot more, I think, talking back to growing up, and not really enjoying Michigan winters. I hate to harp on Michigan so much. But on the winters, I think I was I probably didn’t know the thing, I definitely didn’t know the things that I know now in terms of layering and whatnot. And so it’s probably just chilly a lot and not wearing the proper, the proper gear as well as all these other factors that we’re talking about.

MF 11:19

That’s the thing. Yep.

AB 11:20

So we’re saying it’s about what you have on but it’s also about how you’re layering it on top of each other that no, no voodoo magic is going to save you if you don’t understand that at the very basic, no cotton, so like wicking fabrics, and wearing layers. So you might have on like a pair of long johns and then a pair of like pants over top of that. And then maybe even a pair of pants on top of that depends what you’re doing. And then on top, you could you know you’ve got your if you’re a woman, you’ve got a bar sports bra on of some kind, again, wicking, and then layer on top of that, and then go from there. And then how many layers you’re wearing is really dependent on just how cold we’re talking about.

MF 12:11

Right? Yeah, how cold and then also if you’re moving or not. So most of the time, when I was preparing for this, I was like, Well, most of the time that I’m outside, I’m moving and just recently went on a hunt. I’m not I haven’t hunted much before one of my first hunts in Southeast Alaska, and prepared for like 37 degrees and raining, which is what we had a lot of the time. And yeah, it’s it’s very important, like with the hunting, something I hadn’t experienced before was that we’re moving and then we’re just sitting for like hours. So also having those layers that you can keep in your backpack and throw on. So definitely, that part’s important. Whether when you’re when you’re preparing for going outside, yeah, are you going to be moving the whole time, if you’re going to be reading, if you’re going to be exerting yourself quite a bit like you don’t really need that many layers, as it turns out as you experiment and learn. Whereas the flip side is if you’re you’re sitting then yes, maybe you do need more, you know, those same layers, as you described, and then bigger outer layers and things like that. Yeah.

AB 13:13

But you want to have this stuff on hand and you want to remeMFer that and that you you might need it and that you’re going to figure out what you personally need to wear in different temperatures over time. But starting with having just an idea that it’s the layering that makes the difference is is important. It’s so funny when we moved here I didn’t like give me you don’t know you don’t know. I didn’t know about layering like we lived in Tennessee. If when I look back at that, okay, I have this pair of gloves that I have worn as a like a liner glove now under my mittens one time, one time, okay, since we moved here that I wore, that’s what I wore for running on the very coldest day in Tennessee, okay, like these fleece lined, Nike running gloves. All right, and I keep them Did you know just in case, but I’ve never probably never gonna wear him. Um, and I wore I mean, so coldest days for talking tights, socks, a long sleeve shirt, maybe a three quarter step like dry fit sort of wicking pullover, this tiny little hat that I can’t wear here because it doesn’t really cover my ears and those gloves. That’s it. That’s like the freezing is day. You know, and I think I’ve learned that three quarters up here in Alaska, one time in the fall like yeah, I haven’t worked since right. So my point is like that, it just depends where you are. But, but if you start with knowing that you can wear a lot of clothes at one time, just layer there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s actually a good thing.

MF 14:52

Yeah, yeah, definitely that hunting trip that I was describing, which was just earlier this month. We literally we had a transition Like where we would just like it was like totally change from cliMFing the mountain to this area. And then the next next zone was going to be like a little slower pace maybe even sitting for hours, things like that. So went from maybe even a T shirt long sleeve on top and just hiking pants to Larry now may be putting on long John’s putting on rubber rain gear, and lots and lots of layers on top on my like on top and then I wore my what I call emergency mittens because it was like high 30s and raining with gore tex liners on the outside. So it’s you know, it’s not one for fashion, but hey, I was comfortable.

AB 15:43

Yeah, well, that’s it like I think I posted a picture not long ago if my high Alaska fashion right. And I had a bunch of layers on that’s what the picture was like my hobo, you know, color coordinated not Layar situation. But that’s I mean, that’s what it was I tights, I had boots, I had socks, I got my skirt, I had events, you know, it’s like ridiculous looking. But I was comfortable. And you’re right. It’s not always, we’re not always the most fashionable looking people. But we are warmer than the other guy. So that’s what matters. So how do you know how many I mean? Is it experiment? How do you know how many layers to wear?

MF 16:22

Yeah, that’s tough to say. It just depends. You know, there’s a lot of variables but um, I definitely experiment and for folks that are like just trying to dip their toes for you know, for say, for going outside, I would start with like little walks you know, a little walk set your front door and whatnot at those different temperatures. And then you’ll figure out as we’re talking about, like, what you need because it varies so much from person to person. And like I have in my head if you know I’m going on a adventure and it’s going to be Surtees and raining and wet. I have a whole quiver of say gloves and gear that I that I pick from for that and then I have all the drier cold and interior Alaska where it can be pretty extreme temperatures, I have the layers in my mind of like what I approximately what I need, and then you just adjust from there.

AB 17:17

So you’ve not mentioned dry versus wet cold twice. And you talk a little bit more about the difference between that like how do people know what that means? And then also what is the difference between how you get dressed and that is to wear more for wet cold than for dry cold?

MF 17:32

Yeah, good question. So and the reason why I think I think about this so much is because I spend I split my time between anchorage which is for folks out of Alaska that’s right along the water so it’s a more wet climate, especially when you’re talking for winter like the temperatures range from like 15 below zero would be pretty darn cold for here and then and then up to closer to freezing and then Denali, which is a interior Alaska in the mountains, a little bit higher elevation, very dry climate, where temperatures are usually lower on the scale. But but it is that dry, wet cold so I’ve gone between the two locations frequently wearing the same gear and I’ve gone from like 30 below and Denali to downtown anchorage where it’s slightly breezy and zero and been wearing the same gear and been a little bit it’s like the wet cold is like a little bone chilling like it feels it kind of cuts through a little more than the dry cold if that makes sense. Um and I’m no meteorologists obviously. So to be able to describe the differences but basically just that like high mountain dry air or the more of the like maritime wet climate difference and across the lower 48 of course, there’s areas that are going to be dry or wet or cold.

AB 18:59

Yeah, I find I find that to be true as well. And maybe final thought just on the overall layer subject. Just sort of overarching is that my other mistake when I moved somewhere cold was that I thought that I only need one jacket. Like Hello, I have a jacket, why do I need like First of all, if you need if you own like more than four jackets of different varieties you own to make jackets that was not true by the way. And also you have a jacket, why do you need all these other clothes, but the truth of the matter is if you live somewhere where it’s below freezing, really, you are going to need you need your jacket and then you probably have layers under that jacket and how utilitarian the jacket is is based off of its warmth to start with how cold you it is where you live, but also how many layers you’re putting on underneath it. And so all jackets are not just Maddie made equal and you probably If depending again where you live might need more than one variety and I’m ashamed to say that it took me way too many years to buy the really warm jacket that I should have bought the first year. Instead, I tried to be the person who didn’t have too much stuff. And I was cold by the end

MF 20:19

and miserable

AB 20:21

and miserable. And now I am warm and wearing a jacket that looks like a sleeping bag. And it did not it was not cheap, but I will probably wear it until I die. I mean, you’re gonna have to kill me out of it because it’s, it’s expensive and I like it. So

hey, humans, just a quick break to thank our Patreon supporters. These guys make running the Humans Outside Podcast possible. Today’s special thanks goes to Rachel Grenache. Yes, what am I so called Marty wives who signed up to support the Humans Outside Podcast monthly. patreon allows fans like you to support the podcast remotely pledge. I pledge a little cash each month to support the Humans Outside Podcast, you can have access to my bonus features guides, discount codes and an exclusive episode on well just go check it out. Check us out on [email protected] forward slash humans outside that’s pa t ar e o forward slash humans outside. Now back to the show. Let’s talk about other layers because I think there are a couple things that people don’t think about vests All right, we make fun of the people in the great Northwest for their fleece fast but I think they might have something go in there. What do you think about this?

MF 21:46

Well I own many this. So I’m a big fan. And I think about this I have like my super big down vest that’s for when it’s really cold and then I’ve got like my medium winter where I’m like maybe hanging out inside maybe outside and then I have my lighter vest that’s more for I wear that pretty much all the time under all the different layers. One side note before I forget in terms of layers that I love and have been preaching to my friends about is just a nice thin wind layer so wind layer that cuts the wind but then also is breathable so for years and years and years I just had gore tex hardshell jacket jacket for for rain right so for for those rainy days. Keeps keeps the water off you that’s great. But then what about when it’s just a little bit breezy or really breeze really windy and you’re moving you’re you’re running or hiking or skiing or whatever. And so I just just recently just like a year or so ago after watching my husband wear his all the time I was like I should get one of those. And I got like Outdoor Research has one Patagonia has one they all have different different styles, but like the Patagonia Houdini, for example is one that that I really like and it cuts the wind and also is breathable so you don’t sweat. And that’s been a layer. This wasn’t one of my go two layers as of the last couple years for like, year round. So yeah,

AB 23:23

yeah. And of course you could then put that if you needed to you could put a warmer layer on top of that, right? Yeah. Or the glorious vest underneath it.

MF 23:32

Yeah, definitely in any order. So the fashion is definitely last but function is there. But yeah, my husband and I kind of have a joke he’s like how many wind layers do you have on today? Well, I have like that that breathable wind layer and then maybe a harder shell on top so but going back to your original question vest for sure. vests are amazing and you can wear them under layers and then wear jackets on top or you can rock the wearing a jacket long sleeve jacket and then invest on top but no a lot of people who do that especially thinking of some musher friends, dog mushers, people that run the sled dogs. Yeah, were they there in my mind, you know, people who have been here and spent time in in those cold temperatures and do it day and night, you know, your year round 24 seven, they, they learn a lot. So I usually watch what they’re doing. Ask them lots of questions. And, and, and yeah, use that for my own gear.

AB 24:29

And the reason avesse works really well is because it’s keeping your core warm, which is of course where your heart is and where all your blood comes from. And you know, other very minor things like that, right? Like that’s that, like the physiological reason that that it helps, right, exactly. Yep.

MF 24:47

Yep. It just keeps your core, your core warm and if your core is warm, usually your overall warm fingers and toes for myself and I think for you maybe as well takes a little longer to get to but yeah vest will keep your core warm, which is very important.

AB 25:04

I even thought so I even keep a fleece vest in the wintertime next to my desk in my office because my desk is in front of a window. And sometimes it can get a little chilly there and I find that if I throw on this vest, you know, I don’t have to put on a sweatshirt or, you know, go find a jacket or whatever I can throw this vest on and I am it’s like a it’s like the perfect coMFo, right? I’m not sweating because my arms aren’t too warm, but it just warms me right up. I I’m a big fan and I used to be the person who made front of the fleece vest. Where is that? The Pacific Northwest? So Count me in for doing a lot of Confessions on this. I guess. I guess this is good, like Amy’s cold confession. Okay, um, okay. another layer that I think that people don’t necessarily understand as an option is the skirt. It’s like a blanket for your legs. And I’ve never seen anyone wear this outside of outside of Alaska. Although I admit I haven’t spent a lot of time in cold snowy places outside of Alaska. Is the is a skirt a widely known option? Or are we just that cool here?

MF 26:11

We’re pretty cool. And Alaska, we set our own fashion that is distinct from the rest it seems like but Yeah, I agree. A lot of visitors that you know, folks that we have that come up here to Alaska in the wintertime, notice and comment on those vests, and then they try them themselves. And it’s similar to what you were describing with that vest, where it’s like, ooh, my butt can be warm. And I can like like, you’re just your whole, like your over your pants are warm, because it’s down skirt, and make them in a variety. It’s like there’s the short version if you’re running or moving, biking. And then there’s a longer version that is basically like a sleeping bag around your legs. And yeah, it took me a couple years living in Alaska to get into it. Because I was like, I don’t know. And then I tried it on I was like, I need one of these. And now I actually throw it in as like an emergency gear. You know, if I’m going back country skiing or things like that, we’ve talked to the friends about, you know, in terms of wilderness responsiveness, if something were to happen, it’s like you’ve got this almost like a sleeping bag that packs down really small because they’re down there synthetic. Okay,

AB 27:16

so you have mentioned down and synthetic a couple times. And then you also mentioned our soft shell and hardshell Can you break those terms down for us?

MF 27:23

Yeah, so down and synthetic, down being a really, really compact, very small, is the is the pro for down and it’s super warm, obviously. But the con is that if it gets wet, that like totally saturated, like a down sleeping bag gets wet, it doesn’t it’s not warm anymore. Whereas synthetic is the flip side where if it does get wet, it’ll still keep you warm. It doesn’t pack down as small as down, but it is comparable. And yeah, lots of jackets coming down or synthetic sleeping bags, lots of different equipment and gear that come in both of those and then hardshell and soft shell referring to most commonly like jackets, but also pants. So hard shell is like gore tex material or depending on the brand, they may have their own type of gore tex water repellent like to be waterproof. And it you know, obviously if it’s raining or things like that it will repel that water. Whereas a soft shell is it’s a little bit more moldable like it’s easier to move in this off show gear. But if it gets saturated, it’s not necessarily going to repel the water in that same way.

MF 28:44

Yeah, is that

AB 28:46

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. No, that’s perfect. And I think it’s hard to you know, I don’t want assume people know the differences between those things, or what they’re looking for. But yeah, absolutely. That’s that that sounds like a great great great breakdown to me. And you know, I own I think mostly I think I have one down jacket and the down vest and then everything else I have is synthetic and that that does the trick for me. It’s also easier to wash the synthetic, right like it’s not as tricky to, to launder and I like clean laundry. So what can I say? Yeah, and another thing I own in synthetic instead of down that my friends have and down is the puffy pants. Are you familiar with the glory of the puffy pants? Oh yeah,

MF 29:35

puffy pants are amazing. Yeah, so super warm. Yours are down or synthetic.

AB 29:42

Minor that mountain hardware synthetic.

MF 29:44

Uh huh. Yeah, those are those are great. I have the same ones. Just got them added to the to the gear closet a couple years ago and yeah, you can find me wearing those pretty much anytime in the winter. Especially her, make it out. Outside, but also really comfortable inside, you know, in our cabin in Denali, it’s like it could, if it’s a dry cabin, so I’m going outside quite a bit that’s, you know, or going outside to use the bathroom and things like that. And so why not wear down pants and be comfortable? But yeah, but yeah, similar to the to the skirt that I was describing the down skirt situation, it’s also worth throwing those down pants in the backpack on an adventure because it’s, I use the word emergency and just like emergency gloves, emergency pants, but it’s just when you’re super cold. It’s just really nice to have those layers that you can throw on. If you’re at the top of a mountain or you’re just, you know, a neighborhood park or wherever and if you’re getting a little chilly.

AB 30:43

Absolutely, there’s a I’m happy to announce to our podcast listeners that Claire has recently bought the pan. So this has been a subject of long discussion here on the Humans Outside Podcast, the pants, capital T capital P are they have a title?

MF 31:00

Yeah, it’s something else to add as well is when I when I’m thinking of when I’m wearing my down pants, a lot of times if I’m inside or in a cabin or whatever. I’m also wearing down booties, like around my feet. So I don’t know if those are in your your gear closet, but they’re really nice. They’re like having a sleeping bag around your feet.

AB 31:22

And they are not but they might be on my Christmas list.

MF 31:24

Oh, I heard they’re amazing. Yeah. And when I’ve gone on like longer winter camping trips, which I never thought I would say going back to like growing up not loving winter. I’ve done that in interior in the Arctic and and having the down booties are like essential camp shoes. And I’ll even sleep sleep with them on like in my sleeping bag, if it’s really cold. And then you know you’re going outside to to do your business and whatnot and like Coke and things like that. And you just keep on the down booties, because it’s like that, or your ski boots or whatever you’re

out of travel, you’re I look okay,


So let’s talk about hands and feet. Because this is like my biggest problem. And I know you have a problem with this too. So I think you need to have a condition known as radon, which is, you know, and I think a lot of people haven’t don’t know they have it, but without reason. So it would seem at times my hands and feet get very, very cold, or just one finger gets cold, weirdly. And it’s basically turns yellow, and you look at your hands like What the crap is happening now. And it’s sort of it happens. It seems to happen to me at very specific temperatures or humidities. Everyone experiences this a little bit differently. I’ve noticed it especially happens if my arms are cold or my wrists are cold. And I have to be just very careful and vigilant to be always keeping my mittens in such handy anyways, when it’s cold outside because my circulation is bad. Again, I think most people probably just recognize this as my circulations not great. What do you think?

MF 33:06

Yeah, I hear hearing you talk about that. I’m shaking my head like I I feel Yeah, I guess I have not been diagnosed with Raynaud’s. But chilblains Have you heard of this? Amy? Um, essential Blaine’s? Which is it’s similar, but it’s like not as advanced as Raynaud’s, if that makes sense. So it’s basically abnormal blood vessel response to the cold. So yes, just poor circulation. In other words, and yeah, for me, my hands for sure. NuMFer one, and then and then toes like my feet aren’t usually as bad or I’ve just kind of started to ignore them because maybe my hands are like screaming at me. But um, but yeah, basically, when I go out on adventures, I just end up having a whole nuMFer of gloves, like from liners like merino wool liners to down mittens, And then like a hardshell liner on top of that, that’s like my emergency clothes situation that I can wear to like below zero temperatures. And then like when I’m in a wet climate, where if it’s going to be rainy and closer to freezing. I’ve been wearing neoprene like thick neoprene gloves. And that’s been really helpful. So like when you know you’re just going to get saturated by the rain or whatnot, then it’ll still keep your hands warm. Now that is so a couple things. And the key for me thinking about this those chemical heat packs Do you ever use those? Yeah.

MF 34:34

I was just about to say those I stick into gloves like, majority of the time when I’m in class, and yeah, me when I go to the store I like it’s almost like I have a reflex where I have to buy them because it’s like it’s just a safety net for me to have those around and and every backpack and every jacket or whatever, just to have them yeah, so that so that so they’re a little little chemical heat packs that way You open them up out of the packet, they’ll start to warm up. And yeah, you throw them in your mittens and they help keep the like, get really warm pretty quickly. And you can actually, so the ones that I like they’re up to eight hours they say on it, and you can actually use it more than once. So like a lot of people, you open them use it once, throw it away, or burn it, but I’ve been you can put it in a Ziploc or some way to cut off the air, and then it will you can reuse them. They don’t work. Right. I did not know that. Yeah, they don’t work quite as well. But like it’s a good, you know, the battery is not at 100%. But the batteries at like, you know, 50 or 60%. So that’s kind of cool to know. And yeah, those things are awesome. I also purchased the battery powered gloves, like Outdoor Research came out with my thing. Have you heard about that?

AB 35:52

Yeah, first what you think about it? And I heard but I do not own. So tell me.

MF 35:57

Yeah, I have them. And I actually haven’t worn them as much as I expected, mostly because it’s like, Oh, I forgot to charge that like just another thing to charge you know. And so it’s a rechargeable battery, you just plug in the battery, which is great and convenient. Um, and then also when I want to use them a lot of times it’s below zero. And I found that they don’t really work that well. like think about 20 below that, you know, the battery just kind of dies because the batteries on the app, but I’m thinking about reaching out towards typically and saying hey, you guys want to want to use me as a guinea pig. And how about we make them so the battery I can keep them in my pocket? Right? I know from shooting photos. It’s like I always keep batteries in my pocket closer to my core to stay warm. So don’t die in those colder temperatures.

AB 36:42

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I want to go back to things you said one, you mentioned liner gloves. And and I mentioned earlier, most people like in most of us aren’t going to hear that phrase and not know what that means. Like envision the gloves you buy at the drugstore or just maybe even what you typically think of as gloves wherever you live especially if you live in the south like those little cotton gloves that you might buy at Target or anything that’s sold as like a running glove like a lightweight running glove would be considered you could consider that a liner glove. And I wear them I wear actually the Brooks running lightweight running gloves under my mittens because they want to while my hands get very cold my hands also get very sweaty for reasons I cannot explain like what just happened.

So the liner gloves helps with that because the these running gloves are made with that wicking material that takes that sweat away from my hand right. And then my down mittens which I cannot wash do not get weird smelling because I’m wearing a lighter gloves that are absorbing that sweat instead of making my my mittens stinky if you’ve ever smelled hockey gear. That’s an example of people who cannot wash their stuff. We don’t want to be those people. So yeah, we did not need that smell in our gloves.

And then the second thing you mentioned, of course was the hand warmers, and they’re sold under the brand little hotties or you might just see like called a handwarmer. And those are those chemical packs you mentioned. And the thing I like to remind people about these is that there is no shame in using I spent our first couple of years being like it’s not cold enough for me to use hand warmers. I don’t need that. That’s for when it’s really cold. Well first of all puts is really cold me and second of all, I’m an idiot, I should have been using them the whole time. I now keep them in my car year round. I without shame, we’ll bust them out just sounds like just like you like oh, it’s a little chilly time for some hand warmers. Like it’s just not worth it for me to get my hands cold. Because I have such a hard time warming them up again, that I would much rather start with them warm and quote unquote wasted thing of hand warmers if that’s what it comes down to. It’s just it’s worth it to me to have that. Okay, so feet what do we do about our cold little tootsies? How do you know what boots to buy? Like what’s going to be warm and what socks Do you wear? Like is the thicker the better? Is it material? What do we do?

MF 39:26

Yeah, good question. So um, before I talk about the materials, they also make hot hands and they also make hot feet so the little chemical packs they also make for your feet so you and they have a adhesive to it. So like I’ll put them in my when I’m putting my ski boots on for example. I’ll stick it on like my toes and it’ll keep your you know that area warm. So those are awesome as well. Um, in terms of socks and boots, what to wear in the winter time. Definitely same as what we’ve been talking about. It’s all about the materials, what materials you know, non cotton are Gonna be best because it’s going to wick away the sweat when you start to sweat or that moisture. And so I mean, my sister makes fun of me because I am like dressed head to toe and merino wool very often. And so definitely socks. merino wool, I have a lot of real wool or like regular wool or just any sort of wicking material. And then for booths, I’ve accumulated over the years living and spending winters in Alaska and spending winters in different climates and different temperatures within this huge state. You know, everything from rubber boots, like the extra tests that that are pretty iconic in Alaska that are great for when it’s raining. I have an insulated pair of extra tests that I wear pretty much in the winter, like in Anchorage, if it’s not if the temperatures aren’t too cold. And then I when I go north to more interior temperatures, I have a pair of MK locks, which are made in Ely, Minnesota, another similar climate. And they are like moose hide. They’re made for moose hide and have wool liners. And I just want to talk a little bit about intuition lighters like and this is getting kind of techie and whatnot. But like they come in a lot of ski boots, but those are pretty amazing because they and I’m not a super big gearhead, I swear but like to talk about the technology, but there, I’ve just seen a lot of folks use those and I use them myself intuition liners because they’re like a closed cell foam liner. And so it just it’ll keep your feet warm, even if even if they get wet actually, so like in my in my ski boots and for crossing a river or something and they get wet, you can actually just dump the water out and keep moving and and they’ll stay relatively warm. So long story short, it’s all about the materials and the technology. I don’t really have a general like this is the boot for the winter because it really does just depend on what the temperatures are doing what kind of climate you’re in and and even layering all even layer with socks, you know, like have a a little thin liner and then we’ll like a thicker wool sock and then and then my boots and maybe some little little hot toes or a little hobby you know if it if it’s really cold.

MF 42:31


AB 42:32

Well it depends what you’re doing to you know, like if I’m out hiking, I’m going to wear a different winter boots than I am if I’m going for a walk in the woods behind my house or even down the street, you know, here where I live ice is a big concern. It gets very very icy here in the mat su Valley. fact we have, we have ice fog right now. It’s just I mean it’s fog that’s so cold that it’s leaving, I saw everything over everything right. So it sounds very ominous. And but it looks really cool. So I really like a boot just in general for like general outside stuff this time of year for that has a good grip on it. So not going to fall on my butt while I’m walking around. Right. So I adore my iceberg boots that they’re actually a Michelin Rubber Soul that grips the ground really well. It’s the same thing that’s used in tires. They’re not stunted, because I like to be able to wear them in stores and wear them all the time. But boots are great to buy because they people who sell them rate them so that the companies that make them have a rating on them for how cold it’s supposed to be able to wear them too. And so I find that if I buy a booth that’s rated to well below zero, I’m good to go almost all the time for just normal outdoor walks and just casual outdoor stuff in the wintertime. And then of course, if I’m out running or whatever, I’m wearing a much different shoe than that particular boot. I also really like to have a boot on that is easy to get on and off. Because I am you know trying to just go for a walk during the day like just get outside a little bit, right. But I don’t the thing that drives me insane in the wintertime compared to the rest of the year is how much work it is to go outside. Like I have to find all of this stuff. And then I have to stop and put it all on. And then when I come home, I have to take it all off. And that just drives me drives me crazy. And so having things that are easy to get out of on and off are really important to me just as a sort of casual, you know, like I’m not mountain cliMFing just trying to go for a walk here guys. Yep.

MF 44:41

Yeah, make insulated like insulated hiking boots that I would think like if I lived in lower 48 I would I would probably wear those and just rock those all winter and then yeah, whether they’re laced or maybe a version that’s a slip on because I totally agree with you. It’s really nice to be able to just slip things on and off when you have so many layers that you’re dealing Within the wintertime it just makes it more realistic like okay flip these on go on a walk or go on a hike or whatever you’re doing.

AB 45:06

Yeah, absolutely. Okay so I we’re running out of time I want to talk about kids here just in a second but I think we’ve we’ve passed by the opportunity to talk about the buff, the workhorse of outdoor gear the face buff, so people were as a always call it baklava which is not the right word by the way. balaclava. You could wear it is that you can wear a neck wear around your head you wear it on ears, whatever, right? Do you love a good buff? Or are you just like, you know who needs them?

MF 45:42

Definitely I wear that, I have like a whole whole bunch of buffs and wear them yeah, around my neck. It’s funny when I don’t have a buff on my you know, were just under my chin and on my neck and my like neck will be cold, which I didn’t ever think I would be admitting but um, yeah, and then and then you like, if I’m skiing or I’m hiking or walking or whatever, and I’m wearing a beanie hat and then I get warm. I’ll take that beanie off. Maybe I have a hood that I’ll wear but maybe I’ll throw that buff from my neck I’ll move it up to over my ears and you know kind of keep your chest your head warm but it’s like open in the back you run it like a headband so that you can still you know because it’s a lot of your temperature regulating is about I mean this is beyond fingers and toes which we are you know very passionate about obviously I feel like we should have a whole episode on just our hands but but it’s about your you know your head of course and like keeping it covered to keep you warm and that’s I’ve really learned over the years spending a lot like weeks outside if I’m on a camping trip or something the power of you know a good warm beanie to hood different a couple different hoods when layer hood to like the buff that’s up on my head like there’s a lot of different uses for those different

AB 46:58

Rght yeah, different actually don’t buy jackets without or even vests now without hoods on. I learned the hard way that if I did that I wanted a hood and I didn’t have one. Because I’d rather have it back there and not have it on then have a jacket without a hood and be like, Where is it? Yeah, yeah, totally. It can get a little crazy.

MF 47:21

Yeah, you get crazy with it. Like I’ve had like, I got six hood. Yeah, what am I grabbing?

AB 47:30

Where is Mollie? She’s under six hoods and her ski helmet. Yeah. That’s it. That’s the thing. And I mean on that subject, like they do make the head to go over ski helmets often, although I find that that’s like, at some point no longer true if you have the ski helmet and three hoods on on. The fourth may not go on on top of it. Yeah, that’s sad, but it’s true. Okay, kids, you know, kids are like Vinnie, I mean, they’re just many adults. But, you know, so everything we’ve talked about can apply to a child as well. Is there any special consideration?

MF 48:05

Um, yes. So kids, you know, very similar, just a smaller version, and they may not be able to express their emotion span, how old they are in terms of like, Hey, I’m cold, they might just be crying, right. And I think that same same ideas, you know, those those good layers and layering. And also, I’ve seen those, those like one zips that are waterproof that that people put their kids in those seem to be pretty amazing.

Just like, throw them in a bunch of layers, and then throw that on top. And they’ll probably be good for a while. But kids are also pretty resilient. Like I’m thinking of friends in Denali, one couple in particular, who their their first child, he slept outside year round in his stroller. For the first I think it was like the first year like it would be below zero. They put them out there put a bunch of blankets on, like, you know, they checked on him. They weren’t like, this is not harassment. I mean, he was totally comfortable and fine. And so I think that goes to show you that well, first kids are really resilient. And you’re setting the tone as a parent of course, but also it’s so much of this is a can be about mindset, you know, and just getting used to getting outside at whatever those temperatures are in the winter, you know, those nuMFers are they do mean something but they’re kind of relative and and you can do it with the right gear. And if you get cold if you don’t have the right gear like moving will warm you up. Or at least a little bit. It’ll help so but but I also I also don’t have kids I just want to say that I don’t have any kids so I just have a nice nap. But you

AB 49:37

Well, you know, kids and you know being cold. I’m always baffled by how my children claim to not be cold one. I’m like, how is that possible? How are you out there doing this and you’re not cold right now? Surely you’re lying. But at some point, you just have to take their word for it. And like surely you’d complain if you were actually cold. And then the other thing is is my son, you know, my hands are always cold as we’ve discussed in great detail but They are like no bow. My hands are fine. Leave me alone. I you know, clearly we’ve talked about this for the rest of our lives. So let’s not do that because we both have other things. Other things to do, like go outside real fast talk to us because I, you know, we just like to end all these episodes sort of the same way. What is what is your favorite gear? Like? What’s your favorite thing?

MF 50:22

My favorite gear? Um, man, that’s a tough one. So I, I mean, the gloves. I don’t know if they’re my favorite, but they’re necessary. Right? Um, I think right now. And I think it changes based on which activities I’m doing, what season and whatnot. But the record for the past little while has been that that windbreaker like that nice then windbreaker that is also breathable. I’ve been wearing that almost every day. And it’s washable. So it’s great.

AB 50:52

Yeah. And so and you’re I think we’ve just established your gloves are your most essential item?

MF 50:58

Yeah, for sure. The quote unquote, emergency mittens. Yeah, they’re, they’re good and needed.

AB 51:06

Okay, and last but not least, if you were going to describe for us your favorite outdoor moment ever, just somewhere, like if you close your eyes and try to think of some, you know, just that perfect, perfect moment. Where are you? And what are you doing?

MF 51:22

Oh, man, that’s a toughy as well, um, I’ve had so many great moments. And really, really wild places that I feel like is a privilege to be able to experience. So maybe not just one moment, but like a trip that, for example, a ski trip up in the Arctic, my husband and I did two years ago. And it was just really spectacular, where we left this remote village in the Antarctic pass and gates of the Arctic and then ski to the road to Wiseman and just that trip. It was something I was intimidated about mostly because of the temperatures and mostly because of my hands. But wearable. I you know, I was able to do it. And we kept along the whole way. And I just we didn’t see a single person, tons of wildlife sign. And that was really, really special to me. Um, yeah, I’d say that was that was the standout trip of recent years.

AB 52:24

Mollie, thank you for sharing your expertise with us and with this highly practical episode of the Humans Outside Podcast today.

MF 52:31

Yeah, thanks. Amy’s pleasure to talk with you and talk about all these things for as we get ready for winter.

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