With the green season gone, there is still plenty of healthful outdoor work to be done in the brown months of late fall — leaves to rake, root crops to dig, stray clutter to round up in the yard. With a little protection, crops such as spinach and carrots can be grown or kept all winter long. It’s not time to hibernate yet.
In fact, why hibernate at all? There are plenty of ways to keep moving in wintertime. If it snows, shovel the walk, then take the kids and their sled to the grocery store, load the sled up, and pull it home. Cut up discarded Christmas trees and mulch perennials with their branches. Split wood. Winter-prune an apple tree. Walk, walk and then walk some more.
The outdoors can seem uninviting on a cold day, especially if there is cold rain, chilling wind and iced-over ground, all of those more common than snow. The key to winter fitness is to make sure you can quickly and successfully gear up for whatever the season dishes up.
If you are going out to do physical work, that work will soon warm you up. But first you need to get yourself out the door, and that may require bundling up in layers that you can gradually shed.
Everyone has a favorite combination of shirts, vests, jackets, and hats or hoods. Don’t overlook the secret weapon of long underwear and wool trousers, flannel-lined jeans, or some other insulation for legs and butt. Bibbed ski pants do it for me.
Far worse than being cold is being cold and wet, and that means seriously waterproof outerwear, not the chic garb you find on style-centered sites. Companies that sell hunting and fishing gear are a good bet. So are marine-supply places such as Hamilton Marine that keep a lobsterman going while he hauls traps in freezing rain.
Another place to look is Gempler’s, whose catalogue contains rugged stuff for men and women who need it every day. You’ll find PVC rain suits in a number of weights and styles, with bibbed overalls or pants with gathered waists. The Air Weave Breathable Rain Jacket, which can be bought in women’s sizes and with matching pants, “meets military waterproof specs.” That’s the one for me. I’ll buy it a bit large, to fit over my parka.
Waterproof boots are critical, even if you’re just going out to get the mail. I’ve tried all sorts of insulated lace-up boots that were not waterproof and were annoying to lace and unlace. Zipper versions have been prone to zipper failure. One with a plush lining was cozy until gravel got tangled up in the plush, where it remained, painfully.
My current favorite brand is Muck Boots. I wear the 16-inch-tall Arctic Sport extreme-conditions boots, which keep my feet warm and dry. They’re slip-on, so all I have to do is put on wool socks, stick my feet in the boots and head out.
The socks must be good, too. I’ve done pretty well with Smartwool socks, but I’m intrigued by the Gempler’s collection, which includes one that is “military grade” and a waterproof one called the Hanz Fleece-Lined Waterproof Sock, which, at $57, must be one heck of a sock.
In winters where the ground gets icy, the wardrobe item to have is a pair of metal grippers, attached to your boots, to give you traction and prevent falls. Most are clunky and cumbersome, but Yaktrax, inspired by equipment used in ancient Tibet, are simpler and lighter — just metal coils attached to your shoe or boot with a stretchy rubber harness.
Any of these would make good holiday gifts, but at our house the default present is a pair of warm gloves. We always need more of them because they’re so easy to lose. I have a drawer full of left gloves, widowed by right-hand ones set aside briefly for dexterity’s sake and somehow lost. I might just give waterproof insulated gloves to everyone on my list, with each pair safety-pinned to a length of elastic to run across their backs and down their sleeves. Just like the ones our mothers used when they zipped us into our snowsuits and sent us out to play in the cold, crisp winter air.
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