More than a dozen state and national parks have caught on to the #OptOutside movement. They're waiving fees, or offering guided hikes and other enticements to bring people outdoors on Black Friday.
The movement started two years ago, when outdoor gear company REI shut its doors for the day on Black Friday and unveiled the Opt Outside campaign.
After a late breakfast that will probably include some turkey, Carrie Harris of Anchorage said she and her family plan to steer clear of the shops.
"My in-laws are in town and with our three little boys we're going to get out and do some sledding and try to stay away from downtown ... and just spend time together as a family outside," she said on Wednesday.
If you live in colder areas and do choose to venture outdoors, North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann offers 10 tips to make it more fun, and a little safer.
1. Tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back. This is a big deal, even if you're just walking in a park on the edge of town. If you turn an ankle or slip on ice and don't turn up at the appointed hour, you want someone to respond promptly. Make sure you leave your information with someone responsible, who knows what to do if you're late getting homem and stick to the plan you've outlined.
2. Dress in layers and manage your temperature. A big winter coat is fine, but take it off when you warm up. That means having layers underneath — avoid cotton — that will protect your skin. The goal is to avoid getting hot and sweaty, which will make you cold and miserable later on. As you warm up, strip layers off. If you start feeling cold again, add layers back on. This can be intimidating at first. That big coat feels like a safety blanket. But the goal is to stay cozy, not to overheat.
3. Have the right footwear. Get good boots and socks that really work on your feet, keeping them dry. Invest in a set of "micro-spikes" that strap onto your boots and give you extra traction. These can be really handy while doing chores around the house — they've saved me on some icy days when the sidewalks are treacherous — but they also make you a lot more confident in the outdoors.
4. Drink lots of water and bring something to chew on. When you're cold, you might not feel thirsty. You might even think it's an icky idea to drink cold water out of your jug. But your body needs hydration to stay warm. So bring plenty of water and drink often. You should also bring food (especially if there are kids in your crew). It doesn't have to be much, but always bring a little more than you think you'll need. A quick hit of calories can make all the difference if you start to feel shivery.
5. Carry a really good light source. Darkness comes early this time of year. It'll surprise you just how early. Tuck a flashlight or a headlamp in your day pack or your pocket. Check the batteries every time you take it out. Trails are already harder to follow in winter. Add darkness to the mix and it's easy to lose your way. If part of your route is along a road, you might also want a flasher so cars can see you.
6. Don't rely on your cell phone. Batteries die fast in the cold and you shouldn't count on finding a signal. Plan for your trip as if your cell phone doesn't exist. Ask yourself a simple question: If I can't communicate with anyone, what do I need to be safe and happy?
7. Bring a friend. This is a big deal. For one thing, winter is just a lot more fun when you share it. Laughter and conversation keeps the cold at bay. But it's also a lot safer. If something goes wrong in the outdoors, having a partner is your biggest asset. In wintry weather that's even more true. The flipside of this is that if you do head out alone, be super careful. The risk is much, much higher.
8. Find the sun. Seriously, sunshine is treasure in the winter. So plan your outings at times when you can get a little sunshine on your face, or at least some real daylight. Sneak out for a quick 20-minute park walk on your lunch hour. Come into work a little early, so you can head out for a quick hike when the sun is still above the horizon. People talk about cabin fever in winter? The best cure is getting out into the fresh air while the sky is bright.
9. Go wild. By which I mean you should try find a little bit of nature to enjoy in winter. Walking the dog around your suburban block is fine, but woods and meadows and big parks are often magical and luminous. Start with short well-marked trails that get you away from buildings and pavement. Build up gradually to bigger adventures.
10. Have your cold weather kit ready. This is huge. One reason people don't get out in cold weather is that can be a hassle. Where are my mittens? Where did I put my hat? Keep a winter day pack ready, with your flashlight, your power bars, your microspikes, your extra dry pair of socks, your jug of water, etc. Put it by the door or in the car. Next time a friend invites you out, or you find you have a free half hour on a sunny winter day, you're out the door.
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