Layer up and make some winter memories

girl in winter clothes

Our recent snap in cold weather has me reminiscing about trips to the beach. One balmy beach day, I looked over at my husband and declared, “I think there’s a Pacific islander trapped in this pale body.”

I love warm weather. Humidity doesn’t even slow me down. The warmer the better is my unwritten rule. However, my ancestry absolutely does not include Hawaiian lineage.

My great-grandma was born in Switzerland. My other relatives came from Germany and Wales. Withstanding cold weather should be in my blood, but I still shiver through every winter.

Like everyone else in the midwest, I have to choose between being cooped up all winter or being cold. Staying inside makes me restless. Since I love hiking so much, I have developed a clothing routine for staying warm during inclement weather.

During our most recent hike to Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, some members of my family were very cold. I won’t mention any names, but she was shivering and couldn’t feel her toes. I know this is true because she told me several times with increasing tenacity.

Dressing lesson

It was evident that the onset of cold weather meant that my crew needed a reminder of how to dress in order to enjoy the outdoors during winter.

I rely on layering to keep warm and dry — specifically three layers. The first layer is a base layer. The purpose of the base layer is to wick away moisture.

Instead of cotton, which holds moisture against the skin, synthetic fibers like nylon, rayon or spandex are a good choice. Natural fibers in wool or silk are also good choices for a base layer.

The base layer also includes warm, moisture-wicking socks. I have several pairs of wool socks that I love to wear with my waterproof hiking boots.

The next layer provides warmth by trapping heat. Fleece jackets or puffy coats made with down or synthetic down fibers are perfect for trapping heat above the base layer. Merino wool is another great option for staying warm.

The purpose of the final top layer is to act as a shell to protect against wind and rain. I like my third layer coat to have a hood. When it is really cold, I like to pull the hood up over my hat as well. Insulated gloves and hand warmers are my last defense against getting cold. I was gifted reusable hand warmers that have been a game-changer.

It sounds like a lot of layers but it makes all the difference in making winter enjoyable. Now we just need the first big winter snowstorm.

My kids are wearing their pajamas inside out and putting spoons under their pillows in hopes of enticing a school-canceling snowstorm. I doubt the validity of their superstitious behavior, but I agree that it doesn’t seem like winter without a white-out snowstorm.

Hiking challenge

We have the perfect opportunity to test out my layering system during a hiking challenge this winter. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has issued a challenge to hikers during the winter months of January, February and March.

The Ohio State Park 2022 Winter Hike Challenge encourages participants to take a winter hike in a state park in three different regions of Ohio. There is a list of guided hikes on the ODNR website, but the hikes can also be self-guided. The length of the hike doesn’t matter. Hikers of all abilities are encouraged to hit the trails and make some winter memories.

New views

Bare trees, having shed their leaves weeks ago, create an entirely different landscape in the winter. It is much easier to spot birds and their nests without leaves to hide them.

Even if the wildlife remains hidden, we can see the trails they take and discern ridgelines that mark changes in elevation.

We have already narrowed down our options for the challenge. Hiking at Hocking Hills is a yearly tradition. I also enjoy seeing Lake Erie when it is frozen over — fingers crossed that we might get to see another Snowy owl along the lakeshore.

The five regions, along with more registration information can be found on the ODNR website,

We will keep up our ritualistic superstitions to bring a giant snowstorm. Stay warm and dry and enjoy all the amazing trails.


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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at



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