Staying Warm at the Cold Weather Game

Saturday's Big 12 Championship game has the potential of becoming deadly cold. The high temperature is forecast at 30 degrees, but the low is in the mid-teens. Given wind chill, fans will be experiencing temperatures in the single digits. This is a night game so you're going to be experiencing the worst of the weather. It's one thing to stay warm while you're running from the mall to the car, or while you're walking a half-mile to a dome stadium, but if you're serious about staying for the whole game, you'll need to stay warm for hours. That can be a tremendous challenge, but not impossible.

I moved from Nebraska to Minnesota in 1987. I've since become accustomed to being outdoors in Winter doing such things as ice fishing, hunting, hiking, sledding, and all sorts of other winter fun. I've learned a lot over the past 15 years about staying warm in weather much like Big 12 fans are going to experience Saturday night. In this article, I shared what I've learned about staying warm in very cold weather conditions.

You can spend a fortune on cold weather gear. There is a huge variety of cold weather gear available such ski outfits and outdoor hunting clothing. This article isn't about spending a fortune to stay warm - it's about staying warm using inexpensive cold weather clothing that everyone can afford. You can find anything in this article at an outdoor outfitter such as Cabela's (they have a location in Kansas City), an army surplus store, or in the sporting goods section of most department stores that cater to runners.

Don't Worry About A Fashion Statement

I remember some fans at Kinnick stadium (University of Iowa) laughing about a woman who came to a game in November looking like a super model. She came walking up the stadium steps wearing a large fur coat and in heels. She lasted less than a quarter. Remember - cold weather isn't about making a fashion statement.

If you are planning on worrying about looking fashionable while attending a cold game like this (or are attending with someone who worries about such things), please sell your tickets. Spend the money on watching the game at a sports bar, where it'll be nice and warm and comfortable, because you're not going to last more than a quarter when it's cold outside and the wind starts blowing.

The Challenge of Staying Warm Throughout The Day

The biggest challenge of staying warm is that you'll be experiencing a variety of temperatures and activities. You may have brief periods of exertion, like running up a flight of stadium stairs, walking a mile to the game, or playing a game of catch before the game.  Once you get to your seat, you'll be stationary for a long time. Once the sun goes down, the temperature will drop rapidly. It will become very very cold.
Here's what's happening to your body throughout the day. During the activity and warmth, your body generated heat which made you sweat, making your clothing wet. As it gets cold, and you stay motionless, your body won't generate as much heat. Your body will attempt to keep the core (your torso) warm, so your blood will circulate less to your extremities (hands, legs and feet), making them cold.
?The key to staying comfortable throughout the day is the mixture of the right clothing and activity. The tips below should help you accomplish that mixture.

Keep Your Hands Warm

Wear mittens, not gloves. Two simple reasons for this - when you're wearing mittens, your fingers will stay a little warmer because they can share body heat. Second - you can buy hand-warmer packets to stick inside your mittens. Hand warmers are inexpensive and can last several hours, making sure your fingers and hands stay reasonably warm.

If you don't have mittens, a good pair of ski gloves will work. If you can't do either, get some hand-warming packets and stick them in your pockets, and keep your hands in your pockets. If the wind comes up when the temperature is in the teens, unprotected hands can become unusable in a matter of minutes.

Keep Your Feet Warm

Simply - do NOT wear cowboy boots or tennis shoes.  For some reason, people think that cowboy boots are going to keep them warm in winter because "the cows are wearing leather and they're outside so I should be fine". Cowboy boots are terrible at keeping your feet warm in cold weather. They're too tight, they don't provide insulation, and they don't allow you to layer your socks.

What you need is a good pair of hiking boots. You can buy `pac' boots if you're going to be trudging through massive amounts of snow, but that's usually not the case at sporting events. Hiking boots come in all shapes and sizes, but you want to get some that are waterproof, because moisture is the enemy of your feet. Get them wet, and you will be cold and miserable.

Do I really have to explain tennis shoes? Heels?

Head Gear  Means More Than Just A Baseball Cap

Ever heard the saying "if your feet are cold, put a hat on?"  It's true. If you don't keep your head warm you're going to lose a tremendous amount of body heat (some say up to 90%) through the top of your head. You can do everything else right, but without a good hat, you're still going to freeze. There are a lot of options here, some very easy. A good stocking hat or a good old winter Bomber hat.

My personal favorite is a balaclava. When it's warmer, you can pull it down around your neck and it'll act like a scarf, allowing you to cool off without worrying about having to stuff it in your pocket and potentially losing it. When the weather gets colder, you can pull it up over your head. If you want to protect your face from the wind, you can adjust it to cover everything but your eyes. I have a couple balaclavas - one is blaze orange for hunting, the other Husker red.

It's All About Layers

Staying warm for an extended period is all about layers. You need to layer your clothing so you create layers of insulation. Unfortunately, most people focus on the last layer - such as buying a big heavy parka - when they should be focusing on the first layer - the layer closest to your skin.

The purpose of a good first layer is to wick moisture away from your skin - to get the moisture to the outside of the first layer of clothing. This is vital because moisture acts like a conductor, ruining the insulation that your clothing can provide.

What you don't want on your first layer is cotton, known by many outdoorsmen as 'dead man's cloth' because it retains moisture. A good fabric for your first layer is polypropylene. Wool is another good first layer, but many people (like me) can't stand wool next to their skin without it becoming irritated.  You can find inexpensive polypropylene winter underwear instead of a brand name like "Under Armor", but if you need to buy something, you're better off spending more money on a good first layer of clothing than on the last.

For the second and third layer, make sure that the clothing isn't tight. It needs to be loose fitting so that it can provide insulation. A heavy sweater and a good winter coat should suffice.

 The concept of layering includes your feet, so no cotton socks. Ideally you'll wear two layers on your feet, the first layer being a very thin sock of the fabric we've talked about above. This fabric is nearly as thin as a nylon stocking, but it will shield your feet from the next layer. For the next layer, you want wool socks.  

I personally don't like sticking the hand warmer packets into my shoes, because when you become active again your feet can get hot and uncomfortable. If you do this at the game, be sure to remove the packets from your shoes.  

Alcohol

You're going to the big game and you're wearing heavy clothing. I know what you're thinking - that you could sneak a keg into the game without anyone finding it. Alcohol can make you feel warm, but it will constrict the blood vessels in your hands, feet, and legs, which cuts down on circulation, effectively making you colder.

Most people don't understand that you can become dehydrated in cold weather, but it can be worse than hot weather. The air is dry, your body is working to stay warm, and you may not realize how much you've been sweating. Plan on drinking water.

If you're going to be drinking alcohol at the game, make sure you stick together with your friends. Don't let someone wander off into the night with the idea that they'll be okay. If they pass out, and they're outdoors all night, they will be dead by morning. This is not an embellishment.

Finally....

You don't have to spend a ton on winter clothing to stay warm. You can certainly go out and buy the best if you have the extra cash, because outfitters like Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops certainly have everything. But if you're going to a one-time event like the Big 12 Championship this weekend in Kansas City, why spend a fortune on something you might not need again?

Hopefully, we've provided some tips to stay warm this Saturday night and make the Big 12 Championship game a more enjoyable experience.

We have one more tip - we've saved the best for last. Cold nights are best spent with someone else. There's nothing like extra body heat to keep you warm.

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