ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Outdoor exercise enthusiasts know that some of the most challenging days for walking, hiking, biking or running are unfolding as winter settles around us with darkness and chill.
Keeping warm and toasty, especially if you work out around sunrise, typically the coldest part of the day, is an individual experience, experts say.
Jennifer Schramm Cutillo, a park ranger at El Malpais National Conservation Area, says that to help people dress appropriately, she does her best to explain conditions of an area anytime she includes others for a hike, whether as a ranger or when she posts a hike for Albuquerque Hiking and Outdoor Meetup, an online hiking club of which she is a member.
“So really, it’s all about what you are comfortable in,” she says in an e-mail, adding that she did some recent hiking to historic homesteads in period clothing. “Honestly, a hoop skirt and an old-fashioned bonnet were not just fashion statements in their time. I was cool, comfortable and protected from the sun.”
She isn’t advocating retro clothing or the latest fad, saying, “I have a pair of pants that are ancient, with holes and rips and patches, and I love them.”
Still, staying warm is serious business for Cutillo, who has been a ranger across the country for 15 years. “It’s always a good idea to have a variety of fibers for layering. I like a thin silk layer, followed by a synthetic and then wool for really cold. But out here you can get away with just the silk and synthetic.”
Layering with thin and easily removed clothing makes hiking and other activities more enjoyable because temperatures can climb from below freezing to the mid-50s most winter days.
“I really stay away from anything bulky, like down jackets,” says Cutillo. “When you are very active, you tend to overheat in down.”
Cutillo likes a hat because the sun is strong in New Mexico even during the winter. Keeping a pair of thin gloves handy can keep fingers warm from the wind. She says to remember when dressing that dark colors absorb heat, so a navy blue shirt is a better choice for winter than summer.
“There are some great new styles out there of thin breathable fabric with armpit zips and cuffs that fold down to make fingerless gloves that are really worth looking into if you are going to be outdoors often,” she adds.
Keeping fingers warm
Nicole Rushton, a manager at Sports Systems in Albuquerque, says the Pearl iZumi Shine Wind Mitt, about $30, has thermal technology to keep hands warm, whether the wearer is running, biking or walking around the neighborhood.
The fingerless glove has a fold-over flap in reflective cloth to add greater visibility in the dark, she says.
“If you can keep your fingers together they stay warmer,” she says.
Visibility is sewn into many of the items that layer for colder weather to keep athletes warm and safe, Rushton says.
A lightweight red and gray wool long-sleeved top with thumbholes, about $100 for men or women, is good for layering on cooler days, she says. “Wool is breathable.”
The “smart wool” blend in the shirt also keeps it from being itchy on the skin, Rushton says.
Wool socks in the same blend, about $10, help keep feet warmer in winter without adding bulk to athletic shoes, she says.
Brooks athletic wear has a line of reflective gear that includes bands for arms or ankles, $10, and reflective vests for about $20, she says.
Brighter colors, especially for women, are fashionable this winter. For example, a turquoise Nike jacket, about $90, has a fleece back and a wind stop front with fully zippered pockets for phones and keys.
Sports Systems has Sugoi MidZero tights for men and women, about $50, that are warm and lightweight. “The whole idea with everything is to stay warm without getting weighted down.”
Mizuno has a line of gloves, hats and headbands with Breath Thermo technology that uses body moisture to generate heat. A headband is about $20 and a hat about $30, Rushton says.
At ABQ Running Shop, owner Randy Arriola drops some water on the Mizuno insulating fabric to demonstrate just how quickly it gets warm.
“It’s a great material, and it retains heat,” he says. The hats, bands and gloves range from $12 to $30.
Arriola recommends dressing for weather 20 degrees to 30 degrees warmer than the thermometer reads. “Otherwise you’ll overheat, especially if you run.”
Because Albuquerque weather can be unpredictable, a reflective Brooks hoodie jacket, about $74 for men and women, is a good bet. It weighs about 3.8 ounces and can roll compactly into an attached pocket with a zip closure when temperatures rise. “It’s easy for runners or cyclists to carry if it gets warm,” he says.
Writer and outdoorsman Stephen Ausherman, who is working on a second edition of “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Albuquerque,” due out in December 2011, says hoodies are good for every season.
“Hoodies provide good sun protection year round, and they’re not likely to end up littering the trails like hats and scarves,” he says in an e-mail.