Wellness Wednesday: Winter Safety Tips – 6 On Your Side

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IDAHO — Idaho has plenty to offer when it comes to the great outdoors all year round, including winter.
Ashley Knight, a Clinical Account Manager for Regence BlueShield, says taking time to plan ahead for those outings will help you enjoy your time outdoors.
“Choosing the right gear can definitely be the difference between having a fun hike or having a cold hike to make sure you wear layers,” says Knight. “Base layers help wick sweat away. Synthetic fibers and wool are best for that wicking function. Then, you want a middle layer for insulation and an outer layer to keep the wind, rain, and snow out.”
Other things to remember: gloves, socks, and a hat to make sure your extremities stay warm. Idaho has all-weather trails for use, but in winter, trying to use them can be challenging.
“During the winter, sometimes finding the trail can be a little bit more difficult so I personally like to have a GPS unit or I have an app on my phone that allows me to track where I’m at and definitely make sure I know where I’m going and how to get out,” says Knight.
Just like with your clothing, making sure to pack the right gear will make all the difference.
“I also like to have either microspikes or snowshoes to help maintain traction. Trekking poles are also something, depending on how you like to maintain your balance, that can help you get through your hike safely.”
Knight adds you should plan to start hiking earlier in the day since the sun sets earlier in winter. If you’re relying on your phone for navigation, keep it close to your body to keep it warm since batteries tend to drain faster in colder temperatures.
Another tip for backcountry explorers, make sure you’re aware of snow and avalanche conditions.
After you’ve collected all the right gear and clothing, next you’ll want to pack the right foods to keep you going on the trails.
“Definitely keep in mind that in the winter when your body is trying to maintain its body heat that you may have higher food and water needs as your body is working harder and burning more calories to keep you warm,” says Knight.
Consider packing nuts, seeds, crackers, protein bars, or even bagels for your trip. Knight suggests leaning towards foods that won’t freeze. With the threat of freezing temperatures on the trails, you should also consider picking up a new mug.
“An insulated mug filled with warm tea or warm water or even hot chocolate to make sure that you’re able to keep your calories maintained and also something warm to put in your body while it’s cold outside.”
Knight says your car is also in need of some winter preps. That includes checking the tire pressure and tread often and adding wiper fluid rated for below-freezing temperatures. Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid a gas line freeze and replace your wiper blades if you need to as soon as possible.
You should also pack an emergency kit for the car with a first aid kit, nonperishable and high energy foods, a car charger for your cell phone, spare warm clothes and blankets, flashlight and extra batteries, jumper cables, snow brush, shovel, and cat litter for traction, and a properly inflated spare tire.
To keep up with trail conditions, check the Ridge to Rivers website or Facebook page. For questions about your health or starting a new winter activity, check with your primary care provider.


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