It's tough to match the exhilaration, challenge, and serenity of a day spent snowshoeing, ice climbing, or cross-country skiing — time spent discovering new trails, pushing your own limits, and checking out breathtaking views that most of your friends will only ever see on Google Earth.
But winter adventurers also need to take extra precautions to make sure they make it home in one piece. Luckily, a little preparation and some strategic use of GPS technology like the SPOT Trace and SPOT Gen3 can go a long way in reducing your chances of fatigue, frostbite, family members' nervous breakdowns, or spending the next three months trying to track down your stolen snowmobile. Check out these tips for a healthier, happier snowy season.
Keep on Snackin'
On a regular day, almost everything you do — from sending an email to composing a multi-part symphony — is essentially just a way of killing time until you get to eat again. But it's easy to forget to eat while you're out playing — and winter outdoor activities can dehydrate you in some pretty sneaky ways, too. When you're out in the cold, your body's focus is on maintaining a solid core temperature, not monitoring your hydration levels, so winter dehydration often won't even make you feel thirsty. Hunger-based fatigue can make you confused and disoriented, so don't wait until you feel thirsty or hungry to eat and drink — pack several small snacks for your outing, and force yourself to take regularly scheduled water and food breaks by setting an alarm on your phone.
Keep Your Valuables (and Yourself) Safe
Being outdoors in the winter is one of the last distraction-free experiences we have left — out there, there are no friend requests, status updates, or photos of dogs having a birthday party. But it's tough to enjoy the beauty and silence when you're busy wondering if someone's made off with the snowmobile you left at the trailhead. In addition to being annoying, that kind of distraction while you're hiking, skiing, or climbing can make things seriously dangerous.
You can prevent dangerous distractions by putting a tracking device like SPOT Trace on your valuables before you leave for your trip. The SPOT Trace can track anything — cars, motorcycles, ATVs, or whatever else you’d like to keep a virtual eye on — via GPS. It sends alerts to your phone whenever your gear moves, and you'll get automatic messages if your SPOT Trace is at low battery power or has powered off. The lightweight, tiny, waterproof device is able to operate at altitudes up to 21,320 feet, regardless of the area's cell phone coverage. Plus, an 18-month battery life means you can attach it to your car or snowmobile at the start of the season, and then you're done — leaving you free to concentrate on the really important stuff...like seeing which of your friends can build the most realistic snow-Gosling.
Yes, we know, that's kind of like saying, "Make sure to keep breathing at all times!" or "The Wire is a TV show that is enjoyed by many people!" But while keeping warm in winter weather might seem like a no-brainer, the fluctuations in sweat and body temperature that occur during a day on the slopes can make it a challenge. Dress in layers, so that warm air gets trapped between them; you can shed and add clothing as you feel heated or chilled throughout the day. You can also try spending the first half of your outdoor outing facing the wind, so that it will be at your back as you return to your cabin — when you're more likely to feel sweaty and tired.
Use Technology to Stay In Touch (in the Most Low-Maintenance Way Possible)
One of the best things about cross-country skiing or snowshoeing is discovering new trails, where you'll be the only one exploring. It's also one of the scariest things — especially for the folks waiting for you back home. Reassuring loved ones once required a time-consuming detour to an area with cell coverage, trail traffic, and newbies posing for extremely awkward Instagram photos. But today, tracking technology like SPOT Gen3 can let everyone know that you’re happy, healthy, and still in one piece — without disrupting your adventure.
The SPOT Gen3 can send a text message with your GPS coordinates — or an email with a link to your location on Google Maps — to 10 pre-selected personal contacts with the touch of a button. And it handles emergencies the same way — the “S.O.S” button connects you to GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center, which sends your GPS coordinates to local emergency responders. Meanwhile, the “Help/ SPOT Assist” button can notify your contacts list or roadside assistance of non-life threatening emergency situations. Whether your family is prone to worrying or you're in need of actual help, you're pretty much covered. Here's to more time adventuring and less time sending your loved ones status updates from the slopes.
Gabrielle Moss has written mostly funny stuff (but also some serious stuff) for GQ.com, The Hairpin, Nerve, etc. You can follow her here.