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  • Kathy Schrenk

Hiking in the cold

I love winter hiking. Most of the time it doesn't get frigidly cold in the St. Louis area so you can hike almost every weekend. And kids seem to thrive in the cold -- we've all seen the crazies at the bus stop on winter mornings in shorts. They handle freezing temps much better than heat and humidity. Just take a few easy steps to help you and your kids safely enjoy a winter hike.

* It's not cold-related but my number-one safety tip for winter hiking is to bring a headlamp. Dark sneaks up real fast in December and January. Even if you think you'll be back well before dark, things happen -- missed junctions, a twisted ankle -- and you're a lot more likely to get back safely with a light source. Plus they make great stocking-stuffers!

* Layer up: Obviously this is a big one. The more layers, the better. Everyone should wear a light base layer (t shirt usually) a second layer like a zip up or pullover fleece and a third layer that's warm but not crazy-heavy. Most kids winter coats work well for this. I'm crazy about my Patagonia Nano Puff jacket, pictured below. I've worn it all winter every winter since I bought it eight years ago. It packs down to nothing and you can find lots of good deals on them online, including on eBay. (They make a kids' version, too.)

* Stay hydrated: You won't be sweating like you do in the summer, but you and your kiddo will still be exercising so make sure to bring plenty of water.

* Don't forget sun protection: Even when it's overcast and the sun in low in the sky, some of those damaging rays still get through. Wear sunscreen.

You don't really need this much coverage for most winter hikes. (This was me at the start of a hike on a 25-degree day. I needed to knock out a few more hikes to finish my book. I had shed many of these layers after about 10 minutes of hiking.)

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