Friday, November 30, 2012

Ways to Utilize Hand Warmers to Maximize Comfort

***Like most of the things we write about for getting your kids outdoors, these are things that have worked for us in the past, but it is up to you to determine what is appropriate for your family's needs. We are not responsible for how you to choose to prepare yourself of your children for the outdoors***

A question from my last post was "Can you tell me more about how you use handwarmers and other warming devices in stroller? I've received burns from handwarmers used in my pockets so I'm nervous about figuring out how to use them best in a stroller or chariot. I was meaning to write it to ask you so I was glad to see this post to spur me on!"

Safety and sanity are always our top priority. Personally I have a love hate relationship with hand warmers. I despise how wasteful they are, yet I haven't personally found reusable ones that work quite as well, or even half as well. I have Raynaud's which is described well on as "a disorder of the blood vessels, usually in the fingers and toes. People with this disorder have attacks that cause the blood vessels to narrow. When this happens, blood can't get to the surface of the skin and the affected areas turn white and blue. When the blood flow returns, the skin turns red and throbs or tingles. Cold weather and stress can trigger attacks. Often the cause of Raynaud's is not known. People in colder climates are more likely to develop Raynaud's than people in warmer areas." For me these little beasts are absolutely necessary. They are also very handy when keeping kids warm and comfortable outside in the winter.

***The warning on the label says not to allow the hand warmers to be "applied directly to your skin for an extended period of time." ***

1. Mittens & Boots

  • Put in mittens - NEVER put one directly on a child's skin. I always have my little kids' hands in a pair of their own wool socks (or mine - which provides a nice arm gaitor). This provides a liner. Then I put a hand warmer inside their mitt and check on them frequently. Some manufacturers make mittens & boots with pockets specifically for hand & foot warmers. I have an old pair of REI mittens that have this feature. I'll have to see if they still do that. 
  • Boots are the same. They make foot warmers that stick to the top of the sock and are less bulky. Always a sock in between the skin and the warmer.

2. Strollers, Chariots & Pulks

  • This only works with buggies that have a footmuff, weather shield or rain cover to keep the warmth in.
  • You can either use a couple of hand warmers or a larger body warmer. I place them either in the foot well of my Chariot or the bottom of the footmuff. Since my kiddos are already dressed from head to toe I don't need to worry about their skin making contact. While they're still in stage when they put everything in the mouth  I make sure they are secured in so they can not get a hold of the warmer.
  • Warmers do a pretty good job of keeping the babes toasty on frigid days in that little enclose space while being pushed or pulled by their parent.
  • Always make sure when you are bundling up a babe in stroller, chariot or pulk,  not to compromise the venting and fresh air exchange avenues.
Please add to the discussion below in the comment section for ways you use hand warmers or if you have found a great reusable one! 

Weather Shield & Footmuff

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Upper Huffman Hike

The group setting off
  It is mornings this this one that truly take an effort to get out of the house. Temperatures ranged from -6 to 8 degrees all over town. Lucky for us, a temperature inversion made it slightly warmer at Upper Huffman (6F!) We, and 5 other families, set out to explore.

The pink sky made a gorgeous backdrop for our morning
 If you have yet to see the new design of the parking lot, it can be a bit jarring-- where to go? Luckily two of the parents had been lately, so we chose the "high road" trail to the right--- by walki g up the road above the parking lot and taking the trail behind the striped gate. This was I stead of the trail that winds down from the parking lot.

Kids getting prepared for the wild sled ride down the trail
Sleds were a boon on this hike, and we all worked out (and remembered) how best to pull our wee ones. It seemed as if the "pack mule" approach worked best while going up hill. This involved extending the sled rope (like with a dog leash tied in a circle) slipping it around the pack mule parents waist and heading upward. The kiddos had fun and marveled at the large ice crystals everywhere!

Our fearless leader showing good form on the ride down

After a short while cheeks turned very rosy, so three families opted to sled down the trail. This made the hike even more worth it! To note this was performed with adults in the sled and braking quite a bit for obstacles, slowing down for safety and ruts, etc. Either way, it was an exciting way to end the hike!

Trekking in the Cold - Wearing Your Little One & Knowing Your Own Limits

In the past we've debated about whether or not we should set a temperature at which we will not hike past. The general consensus from the feedback I've received has always been... keep Trekking, even when I was the one wimping out. All parents in the group are responsible for dressing themselves and their kids appropriately for the conditions and knowing what their own personal limits are. You'll notice in the winter that the group that starts off on the trail tapers off rapidly as families turn back when they know they've gotten what they needed. We all have had those days where we've lasted only 10 minutes because of a gear malfunction or we just know it isn't what our kiddo wants. We've agreed that those 10 minutes were so worth it, if just for getting us out of the house in the depths of winter, when it is soooo easy to stay in and work ourselves into the winter blues or hibernation.

Having been in Kodiak for what winter we've had so far, I haven't seen single or even the teens yet this season. When thinking about gearing up my now two kiddos for Treks when we get back seems daunting, but exciting. The one thing I wish to improve on this year is keeping my non-mobile hiker sufficiently warm. Knowing all I do about keeping comfortable in the cold, I still have a few things to learn. I looked back at some of my pictures of previous year's cold hikes, and my oldest looks cold. He didn't complain, but he looked it.

Here's the deal... unlike Skedaddle where kids are moving on their own and generating their own heat while running around the playground, kids that are worn, in strollers, sleds, pulks or chariots do no create their own heat. Strollers and chariots are easy fixes, as you can throw in handwarmers and layers of cozy blankets. Carriers are my concern. While their cores are kept warm from being close to you, the arms and legs of worn children dangle and because they do, they can get cold much, much faster as their circulation is compromised, even in the best carrier. So do we keep those kids in? Absolutely not. The remedy. Make sure you get them out and moving periodically through out your hike. Check on them frequently. Layers only go so far. Most importantly, turn back when you know either you or your little one have had enough. Sometimes it is tempting to keep pushing when it took so long just to get out the door... but just let getting out the door be the accomplishment and everything else a bonus. There isn't anything better you can role model for your child than knowing when to push your  limits and when not to. The deep cold is not a time to test our your max threshold. It makes for a nasty car ride home. Talk about with your children why you are putting the layers you are putting on them. Debrief with them after a hike and talk about what worked and what didn't to get your own tailored system down.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Earthquake Park

 Thank you to Faye for choosing the location and getting me out the door on this cold morning.  The sun shone so brightly on the little group that set out from the Earthquake Park lot.  Just three boys tromping through the woods and one little girl in a stroller eating goldfish.  It was nice to see another family join us along the path too!
 While the cold winds off of the inlet kept us from going on a long walk, it did at least afford us a fantastic view of Denali!  If you have a favorite hike, please sign up to "host" it next week.  Just change the details on the site and point us in the right direction!  No additional skills needed!