Staying Warm and Safe in the Outdoors

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LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve. Photo by Naturalist Erica Lemon.

The temperatures have dropped, leaves have fallen, and ice covers the ground. It’s officially winter here in Kane County! Although the greenery may be gone, there are still plenty of things to do and places to explore in Kane County’s forest preserves.  The preserves remain open 365 days of the year, and trails offer a look into the winter wonderland that our preserves transform into during these months. Hiking in the winter is different than in other seasons, and it is important to ensure you are taking all precautions to keep yourself safe and warm in the outdoors. Keep reading to learn about some safety measures you can take to make sure you have the safest experience outside.

 

Bring someone along or communicate your location. This is an important precaution to take, as going out into the wilderness alone without anyone having knowledge of your location can be dangerous. Be sure to express to others where you’ll be going and about how long you expect to be outside. Or, bring someone along with you! This will not only make your trek safer, but provide company as well.

 

Dress warm and bring essentials. It’s well known that winter in Illinois can be very chilly at times. It’s best to dress in layers, and choose materials that will keep you warm. Winter boots will help to keep your feet warm as you shuffle through the snow, and wearing two layers of gloves rather than one can be helpful in keeping hands dry. It’s very important to remember to cover any exposed skin, such as your face and neck. Bring other necessary items such as water, food, and safety items such as a first aid kit.

 

Be aware of shortened daylight hours. Nighttime comes quickly in the winter, with the sun setting as early as 4:30 p.m. Plan outdoor activities for earlier in the day and keep a watch or phone on you to keep track of time. This will help you avoid getting stuck in the dark, and make the most of the daylight! Visibility can also be lower in the wintertime with blowing snow, so pack navigation tools such as a map to prevent losing track of where you are.

 

Pack a warm drink. Who doesn’t love a good hot cocoa break? In addition to water, bringing along a warm drink will help in keeping your body warm. Additionally, it will help to prevent dehydration, which can still be a danger in winter when exerting yourself. To prevent liquids from freezing, consider carrying them in a thermos or close your body.

 

Be prepared to turn around. Weather conditions can change quickly during the winter. It’s important to check conditions ahead of time and plan to end your activity early, if needed. If you feel the weather is getting worse, it’s best to head home to avoid a potential accident or getting lost. As always, prepare ahead of time and bring items you may need when facing rough weather such as a headlamp and extra clothing to keep you warm.

Learn more about Kane County’s Forest Preserves and programs at www.kaneforest.com, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter @forestpreserve.

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