There are a lot of things we can do to help our children learn to love the outdoors. I enjoy taking my Little Gal (LG) out with me any chance I get. If you will be taking a little gal or guy outdoors in cold-weather seasons, it requires a lot of extra attention. In colder months, going outdoors together involves an overall awareness of the elements and terrain, as well as appropriate cold-weather gear. Ultimately, we want young ones to be comfortable so they can learn to love the outdoors as much as we do.
Know where to go
It is always important to know the area where you will be hiking, camping or hunting. It is especially important when you are bringing a child along, because you want him or her to have fun. If possible, take your child to an area you have already been, so you will already know what to expect. Learn orienteering methods or bring a GPS on your journey, so you don’t become disoriented. In order to avoid accidents, make sure you know where trails, rivers or cliffs may be. Take your child on terrain that is suitable for children.
Bring a headlamp
Bring a headlamp for yourself and your young one. It will help so you can see where you are stepping and avoid accidents in the dark. Headlamps have an advantage over flashlights because your hands are free to aid in balance and maneuvering throughout the woods. A secondary headlamp will help your child feel included and increases confidence in the dark.
Check the weather
It’s easy to access the weather forecast. Check it before you leave the house. You can get current updates via television news, websites such as NOAA and weather apps available for your cell phone. It is imperative that you know what the weather conditions will be so that you can bring the appropriate clothing for the conditions. It is always better to have too many layers, than to end up in a snowstorm without a jacket.
Baselayers are essential in cold months. If the weather warms up during the day, you can remove clothing down to the baselayer, so you don’t get hot. If you end up overheated and sweating, the sweat can turn into freezing-cold moisture as temperatures drop later in the day. Always try to stay dry as temperatures change. Jackets, sweaters or sweatshirts should be added, depending on the conditions.
Prepare for rain
Rain gear is important in winter months when moisture is a possibility and cooler temperatures can occur. Light-weight, packable rain gear can be rolled up and stowed in your pack. It is easy to add layers beneath or remove a jacket without adding weight to the load you will be carrying. It will keep you dry and protect you from wind chill.
Keep head and hands warm
Hats and gloves will help keep you and your child warm. Mittens or gloves with pockets can be handy for children because you can insert hand warmers in them. Hand warmers come in sealed packages and can be opened and used at a moment’s notice. They give hours of warmth to cold hands.
Take care of your feet
Toe and body warmers are also useful. Toe warmers have a slim profile and can be inserted into boots to keep toes from becoming frostbitten. A body warmer is larger and can be inserted into a jacket pocket to add heat to the core areas of your body.
Waterproof shoes may be necessary if you will be hiking through mud, streams or snow. Make sure your child can walk up hills and down hills without slippage. Choose appropriate socks for those boots and for the conditions. Always bring extra socks, in any type of weather, to replace wet, sweaty ones. There are a lot of wool-blend products out there for children that are not itchy. Again, make sure you are aware of the weather and terrain where you will be.
LG and I recently went on an elk hunt in Colorado. We left before daylight and returned by the time it was getting dark each day. Temperatures never rose above 40 degrees. We dealt with wind, rain, snow, sleet and hail. She was successful on her hunt, in part, due to her hunting gear.
LG’s elk hunting gear list:
Pay attention to how your child is feeling. You know your child better than anyone else. Pay attention to signs that your child is becoming overly chilled. React accordingly. If you’ve already used up all of your layers or supplies, it is best to head for warmth.
If you teach your child to be prepared, he or she hopefully will learn to love the outdoors. Dressing for an outdoor activity is a very important part of the experience, and you might be surprised how well your child catches on to this concept.