I have noticed a strange trend in our area over the last few years, it seems that Labor Day for most people marks the death of outdoor activity in Northeast Michigan. No matter what the weather is like after the Labor Day long weekend the number of people I see outside dwindles. Posts on Facebook are already talking about winter as if it has already started with a number of comments of “wanting to try something next year”.
At least half of September gives us summer like conditions and temperatures, October is a beautiful month full of sunny days, amazing colors and crisp yet comfortable temperatures; and even November can surprises us often with warm and sunny days before the snow begins to fall.
For most in our area “outdoor adventure season” runs from May – August, here are a few tips and gear suggestions that can help you expand that time:
- Layering – Learn how to dress for the conditions. Layering clothing can be broken down into 3 simple categories; base, insulation and shell. Your base layer should be tight/fitted and worn directly on the skin. Use wicking synthetic materials to pull sweat/moisture from the body. Your middle layer should insulate the body by trapping air, a light fleece works perfect for this layer. The final layer is your shell which is meant to keep water and wind out. The shell is best used on wet or windy days and can sometimes be left at home. The key to layering is understanding that moisture is the enemy (that includes both sweat and rain)! Simply put, if you can keep you skin dry you will stay warmer and more comfortable. Lastly don’t forget a hat, gloves and warm shoes for your feet. Your extremities will feel the chill before anything else so keep them covered.
- Time of Day/Year – During the spring and fall mornings are chilly so, if you hate the cold, plan your activities for later in the day when it will be warmer outside. Once the sun dips under the horizon the temperature will drop drastically so, try to finish your outdoor activity before sunset. If you’re thinking about going in the water; large bodies of water do not warm up or cool down quickly which means spring water temps are quite chilly while fall waters are warmer than you might expect. Good rule for water temp safety is if the water and air temperature combined are over 100 degrees you’re in the clear but be smart and wear a wetsuit if you’re going to venture into the water.
- Check the Wind – Spring and fall tend to have much more wind activity than the summer months. Before heading out of any outdoor adventure check the wind direction and speed. This will not only help you plan for appropriate clothing but with your route/location. For example a 45 degree day with less than 5 mph winds might mean I leave the shell at home but a 55 degree day with 12+ mph winds I’m bringing it for sure. The wind can cut through your insulating layer leaving you chilled but by adding the windproof layer you will be warm and comfortable. In relation to activity/route on a 10+ mph wind day I might choose a mountain bike ride over a road ride as the trees will provide protection from the wind. If I do choose to head out on the road I will check the direction so I can choose a route that will not have me directly into a head wind the whole time.
Tips on Specific Activities
- General rule for running is dress for conditions 20 degrees warmer than the actual temp. For example if it’s 50 dress for 70, that will keep you comfortable once your body temp increases and keep you from sweating too much.
- Base layer includes socks, invest in a good pair of Smartwool socks.
- For spring, fall or even winter look into shoes with good grip for snow, ice, slush and mud. Trail running shoes work great for this, for extreme conditions check out yaktrax ice grippers.
- A knit hat under the helmet is a must for cold days.
- For hands and feet invest in a pair of insulated wind breaking cycling gloves and insulated windproof “over shoes”.
- I prefer arm and leg warmers, these are great layering options and are very easy to remove mid way through a ride if the weather warms up.
- Carry a light windbreaker on rides, wind can cut through you on the bike so a little shielding can keep you warm and happy for miles.
- Neoprene is your friend, even a 1mm-2mm base layer can keep you warm and safe in case you fall in or get wet. A “surf jacket” and insulated pants shorts (different styles available for men and women) are perfect for layering and can be easily removed if the conditions change.
- When the temps drop stay closer to shore/civilization that way if you do get cold or wet you can quickly get somewhere to warm up.
- For stand up paddling a pair of neoprene booties are worth their weight in gold! In the spring and fall when the temps drop the area of concern will be your cold feet so these boots will keep your toes from freezing and keep you out on the water comfortably for miles! We suggest 3mm-5mm for chilly conditions and 5mm-7mm for those colder days.
- Diving/Swimming (yes you can go in open water in the spring and fall!!!)
- Did someone say wetsuit? This is one of the single best investments you can make if you love the water and live in Northeast Michigan! For spring and fall temps we suggest 4mm-5mm or a 7mm for extreme conditions. You might finds suits that are 4/3 or 5/4/3 (mm), the first number is the thickness of the neoprene in the core, the second (or third) number is the thickness of the arms and or legs. If you need help come into Performance Locker and we will hook you up!
- Just like on the bike a neoprene hood, gloves and socks can help lock in body heat and keep your extremities warm, when the water temp starts to drop these are good options to have on hand.
- In regards to water sports practice good safety procedures, never dive/swim in open water along. Always have a buddy who can watch out for you and get help if necessary.
We are always here to answer any outdoor adventure questions you might have. Your PL team has a passion for getting you outside in Alpena’s beautiful natural landscape. We want to help you take advantage of our trails, lakes, and open roads. Let us know how we can help you!