A little over a year ago, I left the Pacific to rejoin the mountains. I missed seasons and snow, and willingly traded in months of grey rain for snow-dusted brown hills, year-round cycling for bluebird ski days. With over 100 parks located around the city, two ski resorts and a fantastic cross-country ski area, winter activities abound in Kamloops.
Winter in Kamloops can also mean frozen toes, skating rink death slide trails, ice-choked water bottles, cold air headaches—experiences you can avoid with preparation, smart layering, and a few key pieces of gear.
Long, socially-distant days have given me lots of time to research and test gear, and I think I’ve just about dialed it in. I’ve been messing around in the outdoors here almost every day for the past year-and-a-half and following are my recommendations to help you enjoy winter recreation in Kamloops.
Get yourself a pair of ice cleats
Winter hiking is popular around here, and all those footprints pack down the snow on trails, making them super slippery (Tower Trail in Kenna Cartwright Park, I’m looking at you). Sometimes the sidewalks are no better. One of the best purchases I’ve made since moving here is a pair of ice cleats, rubber and metal spikes or coils you can pull over the bottom of your shoes or boots. For $20-$50, you can prevent a tailbone-spraining, wrist-fracturing fall.
I wear a pair of Yaktrax, which stretch around my wider winter boots but also fit snugly on my trail running shoes. They provide that needed traction to climb up steep, snowy hills and a comforting grip for shuffling down sheer ice.
Make friends with wool and fleece
Cold toes and a chilled core can ruin a good adventure. Wool socks keep your feet warm even if they get sweaty or wet. I’ve also steadily added fleece layers for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding. Fleece holds in heat well but also dries fast (lightweight Merino wool can work too), which is important for any sweaty winter activity. Once that sweat chills, it can be really hard to gain heat back.
On top, I layer up with a sweat-wicking technical t-shirt (like the kind you wear to the gym or for running in summer), followed by a fleece long-sleeve mid-layer. Cover that with something that breathes but blocks the wind, like a soft-shell or Gore-Tex jacket with venting. Depending on the temperature, I’ll also wear fleece leggings and soft-shell pants or snow pants. You can always drop a layer, but it can be hard to warm up once you’re cold.
Cover up your head and neck
You can lose up to 50% of your body heat without head coverage. Plus, a toque or beanie keeps your ears and forehead warm. If you suffer from cold-weather headaches like I do, this is a super-simple solution. Even when it’s above freezing, I still wear a buff to cover my ears and forehead.
A buff, or neck gaitor, is a great piece of winter gear. Wear it on your head, or around your neck, or over your nose and mouth. I also recently read that if you suffer from asthma, wearing a buff over your nose and mouth warm up the air before it hits your lungs, reducing symptoms.
Stay hydrated with insulated water containers
After a few incidents with a frozen water bottle, I now pack either an insulated water bottle like this one from Kleen Kanteen (I find 12 oz is about perfect for an easier 1-2 hour hike or ski) or a soft flask inside my jacket. After recently discovering mold growing in my hydration bladder, I tossed it and picked up an insulated one from Hydrapak. I’ve only tested it once in about -5 degrees Celsius, but so far, so good. Insulated usually means heavier, but in Kamloops they double to keep your water cold for longer when it’s blazing hot out in summer.
A quick note about hypothermia and frostbite
While we’re lucky that Kamloops mostly doesn’t get super cold—the average January temperature is -5 degrees Celsius—we still get cold snaps here. On a breezy day, where the wind chills temperatures to -28 degrees Celsius or colder, frostbite can set in quickly. You should be wrapped up in warm layers from head-to-toe if going out when it’s this cold. Make sure you know the signs of frostbite.
Hypothermia can affect anyone out in cold, wet, windy weather. Shivering or cold, numb hands and slurred speech are good indicators that’s it’s time to warm up or head back. Also know the signs of hypothermia and what to do if you experience mild hypothermia.
Kamloops is a winter playground. Dress for the weather, stay hydrated, wear good traction, and you can enjoy lots of comfortable time out in nature.
I’m not paid to talk up any of the products I mentioned here. I just really like using them (though if you want me to test something for you, let’s chat!)