Wandering Around This Winter

For thousands of years, man has struggled with getting around in snowy, icy conditions. Snowshoes made from pine tree branches and trekking poles made from tree limbs were about as advanced as this technology got. Lucky for us, we have the advantage of modern technologies and constant innovation to give us affordable, effective methods of getting around in the winter’s worst.
 
Staying On Top
 
What’s the real benefit to wearing a tennis racquet-looking contraption on your feet? How does that help you walk on deep snow? According to Dan Roy of Yukon Charlie’s/Synergy Sports, it’s the design that keeps a snowshoer from sinking down into the snow.
 
“In deeper snow conditions, snowshoes will keep the user from sinking right in up to their waist, which would make it almost impossible to walk or travel through,” Roy explains. “By using snowshoes, the user’s weight is distributed under the area of the snowshoe which allows the user to walk through snow with a much more reasonable level of exertion and stability.”
 
But it’s not just the deep, fluffy snow that is best for snowshoes. Because of their wider design and crampon treads on the bottom, walkers wearing snowshoes on harder, icier terrain will also benefit from the use of snowshoes.
 
One of the most important features to keep in mind when shopping for snowshoes are the bindings. Roy explains that with Yukon Charlie’s, they designed a 1-pull binding system that enables the user to take them off easily as well as EVA padding, which eliminates hot spots and pressure points for longer treks. No matter the terrain, be it deep and fluffy or hard and slick, snowshoes will keep you on your feet this winter.
 
A Well-Balanced Trek
 
What about keeping your balance in these wintry conditions? No matter the season or weather, trekking poles will keep hikers balanced and hiking as far as they can. In order to keep a trekking pole from sinking right into the snow, as a traditional walking stick would, snow baskets act as a snowshoe for your trekking pole. They displace the weight and pressure, keeping the trekking pole from sinking into the snow.
 
“Typically, the snow baskets are larger in diameter, which helps to prevent the trekking pole from just pushing right through a pile of snow and sinking to the bottom. The trekking baskets are smaller, as the ground conditions during non-snow seasons are firmer and do not need the larger basket to be able to gain some firm ground underneath.”
 
Through Snow and Ice
 
But if you’re not necessarily looking to be hiking or walking in terrain that would require the use of snowshoes or a trekking pole, there’s another variety for the minimalists out there. And the best part is that they’ll allow you to wear them with any type of footwear. Although, we wouldn’t recommend wearing these in high heels.
 
YakTrax are made from elastic outer bands with steel coils along the bottom — similar in design to the crampons on snowshoes — fit easily over existing footwear, offering a safe grip in icier conditions, even for runners.
 
“Anyone and everyone who has to stand or move across ice and snow can use them,” explains Eric Lund of Implus. “Mailmen, construction workers, utility workers, or anyone that spends a lot of time outside on their feet will appreciate the Yaktrax Pro. Runners and athletes will appreciate the Yaktrax Run, which has a hybrid coil and spike design and anatomic right/left design that makes it ideal for natural running and jogging on ice and snow.”
 
Dry and Repeat
 
As anyone who’s hiked, or even made a snowman, can relate, winter conditions often result in cold, wet gear. However, it’s not only moisture coming from the snow. As activity increases, so does the amount of sweat that winter gear can absorb. And when your gear gets wet, it means you get cold. Luckily, through warm air-circulation, DryGuy dryers can quickly get all of your attire warm and dry so you can get back out in the snow.
 
“Heating elements in the dryers warm the surrounding air which circulates in and out of the footwear, evaporating the moisture as it leaves,” said Lund. “This can be convection based, where warm air currents rise naturally which is usually a slower, overnight dry system. Overnight or it can be forced air based, which a fan physically pushes the warmed air for accelerated drying.”
 
As Lund explains, DryGuy has been on the forefront of innovating these older, convection-based dryers that kept snow enthusiasts at bay. The advances that they’ve made aren’t limited to speed of drying — they’re also focused on safety.
 
“There are also now a variety of portable units available,” said Lund. “Today, dryers also have timers to automatically shut off, and thermal switches to shut the unit down in the event of overheating, reducing risk of fire.”
 
When winter arrives, bringing in those beautiful snowy landscapes, they’ll also bring dangerous icy conditions. However, that shouldn’t sway anyone from getting out there and experiencing all that winter has to offer outdoor enthusiasts. While earlier man resorted to items found in nature to assist them in getting around, products from Yukon Charlie’s, YakTrax and DryGuys offer efficient, affordable and most important, effective methods to wander around this winter.
 
-Ski Bum
 
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Taking on the Great Outdoors

While some outdoor sports are relaxing, others are invigorating. Tramping through the woods, hunting wild game, paddling upstream — they’re all activities that not only entertain but get your heart rate up as well. Let’s take a look at some activities geared toward the more adventurous outdoor types among us, along with some tailor-made gift ideas. 
 
Dashing Through the Snow
 
Snowshoeing is America’s fastest growing winter sport. That’s not surprising, since this odd and ancient footgear, which can resemble an oversized tennis racket, is a great way to venture forth into places where others don’t dare tread. That means getting away from the crowd and enjoying nature at its most pristine.
 
Snowshoes are as old as recorded history itself, going back all the way to about 4000 B.C. or earlier, and first coming to this continent with Asian adventurers who crossed the Bering Strait and settled in Alaska — long before Europeans got the bug to travel.
 
So how difficult is snowshoeing? Can you walk? If the answer is yes, then you can snowshoe. At its most basic, the sport involves nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other with snowshoes on your feet. But in truth, efficient snowshoeing does require a technique that is somewhat different than walking in ordinary shoes. When walking in snowshoes, it’s best to lift each shoe a bit and slide the inner edge over the inner edge of the other shoe. If the shoes don’t overlap a bit when you stride, you’ll be forced to walk with a bowlegged gate that can be taxing.
 
While ancient snowshoes were made from wood and leather, most of today’s snowshoes are made with aluminum, plastic and various synthetic materials. But the idea is the same: the snowshoe gives walkers a big footprint, so they won’t quickly sink into the snow. Because snowshoes distribute body weight over a large area, even soft snow can provide adequate support for walking.
 
The health benefits of snowshoeing are multiple. First, it’s good aerobic exercise that can keep your heart rate up for an extended period of time. What’s more, it improves leg muscle tone, and if trekking poles are used, it can improve upper body fitness as well.
 
Bill LaPierre of Yukon Charlie’s, a major supplier of high quality snowshoe equipment, recommends using poles, since they can help you remain stable and upright on challenging terrain, while reducing the burden on your knees. Dunham’s carries a wide range of Yukon Charlie’s snowshoe gear.
 
Snowshoes are available in a variety of lengths and widths. The larger snowshoes are for bigger people and more difficult conditions. Children’s sizes are also available. In addition to various sizes, snowshoes come in a range of styles, each designed for a particular type of hiking. Aerobic or running snowshoes are small and light and are not meant for wilderness hiking. Recreational snowshoes are larger than the aerobic models, and are great for moderate walks. Mountaineering snowshoes are the largest. They usually have a long tail and are meant for long-distance trips and serious hill climbing.  A Dunham’s sales consultant can help you choose the size and type of snowshoe that’s right for you and every member of your family. 
 
Hoofing It
 
Most winter sports require some heavy-duty foot protection. And while some, such as skiing, call for purpose-built footwear, for many activities a pair of high-quality insulated boots can keep you warm and on the move. In fact, for those whose idea of great winter sport is a hike through the woods on a snowy day, boots and warm clothing are all the equipment that’s necessary. Of course a good boot is essential gear for hunters as well.
 
Winter hikes are an activity that the entire family can enjoy. Because only minimal gear is needed, it won’t break the bank. Hunting has also become more of a family activity in recent years, as parents strive to teach their offspring the value of self-sufficiency, while experiencing the joys of outdoor activity and skill development.
 
While a variety of boots that claim to be waterproof and insulated are available, not all are created equal. Nothing ruins a nice afternoon hike or a winter hunting trip faster than cold feet. Dunham’s carries several types of heavy-duty insulated boots that can keep your tootsies warm in the most severe conditions.
 
For men, the Rocky Jasper Trac Insulated Pac Boot is a superb choice. With a polar-trac outsole for great grip, a removable three-ply liner, 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation, and guaranteed waterproof construction, this boot is ready to take on old-man winter.
 
The Itasca Snowbird Boot is a popular choice for the ladies. This heavy-duty insulated boot is great for hunting and other winter activities. Dunham’s also carries boots for the kids. Ask your sales representative to help you find the winter footwear that’s right for your outdoor activities. 
 
Safe, Not Sorry
 
While most hunters think of gear in terms of what they’ll be taking out to the field, a good gun safe is a critical piece of equipment for every hunter.
 
Gun ownership carries with it a measure of responsibility. In the home, the only safe weapon is one that is stored in such a way that it can’t be accessed by an intruder or curious child. And the best way to ensure that your guns are secure is to lock them in a safe. Of course, a good safe has other uses as well, such as the storage of precious metals, jewelry, cash, and important documents.
 
A small safe is okay for cash and handguns, but for long-gun hunting weapons, a fairly large safe is necessary. However, many modern safes are designed to economize space by allowing for alternate rows of barrel up and barrel down storage.
 
Plan carefully before choosing a safe. Consider possible future needs as well as current requirements. Fire and water protection should also enter into your decision. ETL ratings are an assurance of fire protection, but waterproofing can be important as well, particularly if you live in a flood zone. Your Dunham’s representative can help you decide what kind of safe best meets your requirements.
 
Among Dunham’s most popular safes is the Stack-On Elite Gun Convertible Fire Safe. With storage for up to 24 long guns, the safe features reinforced steel doors and five large live-action locking bolts. An additional three solid-steel dead bolts secure the hinge side of the door. It’s a safe that will protect your weapons and provide peace of mind.
 
 Paddle the Day Away
 
Kayaking is a water sport the entire family can enjoy. Few outdoor sports offer as big a return in fun for as small an investment. And because kayaks are light and compact, they’re easy to store and transport.  
 
While kayaks are well suited to hunting and fishing, they’re now used primarily for recreational boating. And in comparison to other watercraft, kayaks are a bargain. For example, KL Industries eight- and ten-foot Water Quest Kayaks are very stable and come with padded seats and storage. And they’re available at Dunham’s.
 
Other very affordable choices are the Pelican Ultimate 100 and Escape 100 kayaks. These boats turn and track with the best of them, yet they’re stable and easy to paddle. Ask your Dunham’s sales representative to help you choose the kayak that’s best matched to your needs.
 
-Deer Abby
 
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Out of the Gym and into the Snow

While a lot of people view the winter season as a chance to stay inside and hibernate until spring, there are a lot of valuable ways to keep your body healthy while enjoying the beautiful snowy weather.
 
Two fun activities that actually have a bevy of health benefits, snowshoeing and sledding, are fun, inexpensive ways to make sure your body stays in tip-top shape for the coming spring.
 
According to Carol Wilson, R.N., M.S.N., snowshoeing is a low-impact activity that can be beneficial to people with bad knees. It also burns calories better than running, about 400-900 per hour, and is recommended by the American Heart Association as an excellent aerobic activity for the cardiovascular system.
 
“It works quads, hamstrings, calf muscles and muscle groups in feet and ankles,” Wilson explains. “With poles, it works muscle groups in the back, shoulders and arms.”
 
Judy Shanks, CVCSN, echoes Wilson’s statements and adds that there are other ways snowshoeing can be a benefit, such as alleviating stress and contributing to overall health and well-being.
 
“Cold air increases metabolism, contributes to better sleep patterns, balances hormones and promotes weight loss,” Shanks says. “It increases positive emotions and decreases negative emotions through exposure to nature.”
 
While jumping onto a plastic disc and sliding down a hill might not seem like the best type of exercise, sledding can actually burn about 470 calories for a 150-pound person in an hour. With the long trek back up the hill after the ride, you’re toning your leg muscles and keeping your heart rate up.
 
“The steeper the hill, the more beneficial the workout,” Shanks said.
 
One aspect of sledding that might go overlooked in terms of exercise is the fun factor. Just think about how much you laugh when sledding. That giggle while on the hill actually has some health benefits.
 
“Fun that is free,” Shanks said. “It makes you laugh, and laughter doubles heart rate for one minute afterwards. Muscles re-lax for 45 minutes after you laugh, and the immune system is boosted by decreasing stress hormones, increasing immune cells that fight infection and releasing endorphins.”
 
To fully enjoy all the benefits of snowshoeing and sledding, there are some preseason preparation exercises that should be implemented prior to hitting the hill or strapping on the snowshoes.
 
“At least two weeks prior, begin gradually increasing endurance exercising until you reach a 45-minute session three times per week,” Wilson said. “Include incline work on a treadmill.”
 
If you’re a parent and will be pulling your child around on a sled, Wilson recommends that you check with your doctor, espe-cially if you’re over 50, and see if you’re able to engage in some light weight lifting. This will prepare you for performing a mo-tion you’re not accustomed to.
 
“Lift weights so that you can easily lift a child weighing 40 pounds if you plan to take them sledding,” Wilson said. “Ride an exercise bike with moveable handlebars, pedal hard, and turn the handlebars since you will be steering the sled.”
 
Wilson also suggests that you perform stretches prior to your winter activity. Calf stretches, calf raises, leg raises and angled walking should get the body warmed up to prevent any injury. A good warm-up will raise the body’s temperature about 1-2 de-grees Celsius. Some endurance running on a treadmill can prepare the body for extensive outdoor winter exercise. She also rec-ommends some items to bring with on your journey.
 
“Keep hydrated, and keep water with you,” said Wilson. “Take sunscreen and lip balm, energy bars, a cell phone, flashlight and a portable GPS, if available.”
 
Prior to sledding, Shanks explains, sledders should perform some warm-up exercises to aptly prepare for the activity, includ-ing some easy squats and chest-knee stretches.
 
“Before sledding, do knee-to-chest stretches to avoid compression injuries due to repetitive bouncing over snow,” she said. “Either sitting or lying on your back, pull your knees to your chest and hold for 30 seconds. At the bottom of the sledding hill, do some more knee-to-chest stretches or squatting movements to restore flexibility.”
 
With some preparation before the season and before your snowshoeing or sledding experience, your winter wonderland can stay just that. Preparing the body in the fall for your winter activity, ensuring sound hydration before, during, and after, as well as warming up before and after exercise can keep the body healthy throughout the season and throughout your life. So next time you strap on your snowshoes or wax up your sled, make sure your body is just as prepared.
 
-Fitness Fanatic
 
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Jingle All The Way

Enjoy winter sports without giving away all your coin.
 
The classic winter sports scenario is the stuff of fantasies. It usually includes a cold, crisp day spent skiing fresh powder at a gorgeous mountain resort, followed by an evening in front of the fire at the clubhouse lounge. The very thought of it is enough to warm your heart — while putting a chill on your finances. What’s more, with airline inconveniences, long lift lines, icy slopes and unpredictable weather, expensive winter vacations often fail to live up to the imagery.
 
Fortunately, winter fun need not be expensive. The beauty of the season and a full measure of cold-weather exhilaration can be had close to home for minimal dollars. Many winter sports require very little equipment, investment, or travel, yet they can be very enjoyable. Among them are snowshoeing, sledding, and ice fishing.
 
Snowshoeing
 
Snowshoeing? Didn’t that go out of style a few hundred years ago? Hardly. Snowshoeing has become one of America’s fastest growing winter sports. And it offers a number of benefits that have led to its rise in popularity.
 
First, a trek on snowshoes gets you moving in the great outdoors, and some of the best places to snowshoe are beautifully remote locations where others have not tread. Unlike skiing or snowboarding, snowshoeing is easy to learn. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. And you can do it for a minimal investment. Snowshoe prices start at less than $100, and even top-of-the-line models are affordable at around $300.
 
Finally, snowshoeing offers significant health benefits. It’s a low-impact sport, so your chances of injury are minimal. Long snowshoe walks build endurance and strength while burning calories. If you use poles while walking on snowshoes, you’ll build upper body strength as well.
 
Yukon Charlie’s, a major supplier of snowshoe equipment, says that while poles are not required they’re recommended, since they provide balance and stability on challenging terrain, while reducing stress on the knees and increasing overall cardiovascular activity.
 
Sledding
 
Sledding offers much of the speed and thrills of skiing without the expense. If you have a hill near home that gets a good coat of snow in the winter, your entire family can enjoy this winter sport for a truly minimal investment.
 
H2O Recreation, a major supplier of sleds, says that inexpensive plastic sleds are among today’s top sellers.
 
“These range from the basic round saucer at less than $10 to 39-inch, 48-inch and 66-inch sleds, ranging in price from about $10 to less than $20,” H2O says. “They’re used for recreational sledding, but also see service for things like hauling wood and ice fishing. They’ve been popular for more than 25 years.”
 
Inflatable sleds and tubes have come more recently to the slippery slopes. They provide a soft ride, but do not offer much steering control.
 
H2O says that foam sleds are a fast growing category. They are lightweight and fun to ride. Many come with colorful graphics. They’re available in various lengths, and most are priced between $20 and $30.
 
Among other available snow toys that can provide thrills on hills are snow scooters, which combine a snowboard with a scooter-like hinged handle. Classic wooden sleds are available as well. While more costly than modern alternatives, they are a blast from the past.
 
Ice Fishing
 
Ice fishing is a fast growing sport that offers relaxing entertainment for countless anglers. In the cold northern regions of the country, it’s not uncommon to see a flotilla of fishing huts out on a frozen lake.
 
The first rule of ice fishing is “be safe.” The U.S. Army Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory recommends that only those in good physical condition should venture out onto the ice, because of the intense exertion that can accompany ice emergencies. Clothing should not restrict your ability to stay afloat. Hip boots and waders are taboo. A flotation vest or jacket is recommended. Ice picks that can help a fallen fisherman grip the edge of an ice sheet can be life savers.
 
When heading out on the ice, check the thickness every 150 feet or so by drilling a hole with your drill or ice auger. Check it more often if you find that the thickness varies. Determining how thick the ice has to be to support a load is complicated, as there are many variables. You can find detailed charts and specific recommendations on the U.S. Army web page at http://www.crrel.usace.army.mil/ierd/ice_safety/safety.html.
 
While elaborate ice-fishing equipment is available, you don’t need a lot to get started. South Bend Sporting Goods, says her company offers a kit that includes everything you need to start ice fishing. It’s called the R2F Panfish Complete Ice Fishing Combo, and it comes with a rod, pre-spooled reel, a tackle box, and more.
 
Of course, you can’t fish until you’ve cut a hole in the ice. For that you’ll need an ice auger. A sled to carry the auger is most helpful as well. An ice scoop — essentially a dipper with holes in the bottom — is needed to keep your fishing hole clear.
 
The dangers of frostbite and overexposure can be significant for the unprotected fisherman. If you plan on being out on the ice for more than a couple hours, a shelter is a good investment. Frabill, Inc., a leading manufacturer of ice-fishing shelters, says that hub-style shelters are lightweight and range in price from $150 to $300. Black in color, they retain quite a bit of the sun’s heat on a bright day.
 
Whether you snowshoe, sled or fish, you’re going to want to end the day just like those folks at the fancy resorts do: in front of the fire with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. It’s the perfect conclusion to a great day of active winter fun. And you don’t have to travel to Aspen to enjoy it.
 
-Ski Bum
 
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