10 Winter Camping Hacks for the Eco-Conscious Camper

Winter camping can be a pain in the butt, but it doesn’t have to be a pain on the Earth. Here are 10 sustainable hacks to help you stay warm, comfortable and eco-friendly on your next winter camping trip.


1. Use a Dry shampoo.

When it comes to conserving water, staying warm and staying fresh in the wilderness, dry shampoo is your new best friend. We recommend Mellow Oak’s “North Loop” Organic Dry Shampoo, which comes in a recyclable paper tube and is made with all-natural ingredients. It’s a quick, easy and eco-friendly way to freshen up your hair. The last thing you need is wet hair when it’s cold out.

Mellow Oak Organic Dry Shampoo


2. Insulate your tent with a reflective blanket or tarp.

Reflective blankets or tarps can be used to keep the heat in and reduce the need for additional heating sources such as propane heaters. Don’t forget to put the reflective side inwards for warmth so your heat goes back to you.


3.Use a camping stove that runs on renewable fuel sources.

Instead of using propane or gasoline, find  a camping stove that runs on wood, twigs, or pellets. Not only are these options more sustainable, but you can impress your friends and cook over an open flame. One of our favorite products is BioLite’s CampStove 2+. It is a portable campfire that can cook your meals and charge your gear, all at the same time. It uses combustion technology to turn fire into electricity, so you can leave the gas canisters behind and use the sticks and twigs around you instead.


4. Invest in a camping mat made from sustainable materials.

Camping mats provide insulation between you and the ground. This can help to keep you warm and comfortable, especially in colder weather. Look for a camping mat made from recycled materials, natural rubber or cork, which will provide insulation and comfort while reducing the use of synthetic materials that are harmful to the environment. 


5. Find a warming muscle salve.

When it comes to camping in winter, taking care of your muscles and skin is just as important as the clothes you put on. One product that can aid in this is a CBD muscle salve. We like  Mellow Oak’s “Hike Recovery” CBD Muscle Salve, made with sustainably-sourced, organic ingredients with packaging made from post-consumer recycled materials. This eco-friendly choice is a great option to help take care of yourself during  your trip.

Mellow Oak Hike Recovery CBD Muscle Cream


6.Use a solar-powered flashlight or lantern to conserve energy and reduce waste.

Winter camping often means shorter days and longer nights, so having a reliable source of light is essential. Solar-powered flashlights or lanterns are a sustainable alternative to traditional battery-powered options as they use the sun’s energy to charge and don’t require frequent battery replacement.


7. Use a water bottle to keep warm.

Instead of disposable hand warmers, bring a reusable hot water bottle or hand warmer filled with hot water. These options will be more sustainable, and you can refill them with hot water as needed. A lightweight option we recommend is the 32 oz. Alabama Outdoors Nalgene Wide Mouth Bottle. And don’t worry, Nalgene bottles are BPA free so you are safe to use that water the next day.


8. Make your own fire starters with household materials.

Starting fires in the cold, and often wet, winter months, can be a major challenge. Fortunately, household items like butter wrappers, cotton balls, old birthday candles, sawdust, egg cartons, and dryer lint can be saved from the landfill and turned into effective kindling. For example, it’s easy and virtually free to make fire starters by melting down old birthday candle stubs and pouring the wax over dryer lint or sawdust inside the cup from a paper egg carton. Get creative with what you can find around the house and experiment. Just take care to only use clean burning and naturally derived materials that won’t release noxious smoke. Trying to keep that fire going? Check out our favorite gadget, the Pocket Bellow Collapsible Tool, and be sure to always follow local fire ordnances and safety rules!


9. Stay warm and dry with wool clothing.

Natural fiber clothing doesn’t shed microplastic fibers into the environment, but cotton doesn’t wick moisture away from the skin when wet, which can cause discomfort, or in the extreme, can be life threatening in very cold, wet weather. Wool fabric moves moisture away from skin and maintains warmth even when wet, making it perfect as a winter base layer. Shop wool base layers here.


10. For outer layers, choose PFC-free rain/snow gear.

One of the biggest environmental concerns with modern rain protection is the use of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) as a durable water repellent (DWR) finish. These toxic compounds, also known as “forever chemicals,” do not readily break down in the environment, but are found in many common products and will wear off your jacket, sleeping bag, tent, etc., with use, polluting the environment. Waxed canvas jackets can be a good alternative to synthetic materials, but may not always be the most practical option. More outdoor companies are introducing PFC-free gear all the time. 


By following these sustainable camping hacks, you’ll be able to enjoy your winter camping experience without sacrificing your commitment to the environment. Happy camping!

Written by: Mike Black, co-founder of Mellow Oak. Mellow Oak is a local Birmingham business focused on high-quality wellness products with sustainable, all-natural ingredients, sourced from trusted producers while minimizing waste. Check them out and give them a follow!


Ready to be outdoors more this year? We have the camping + outdoor gear you need to get you on the trails!  We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors


5 Ways to Beat the Cold on Winter Hikes

Please note: due to local and state guidelines surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, some information below may not be accurate. Before you travel and plan your next adventure, make sure to check each business/park/campsite for any closures or guidelines and for the most up to date information. Enjoy your next winter hike in Alabama this season!


When winter arrives hiking and backpacking just get better. On high mountain trails, the bare trees allow you to see for miles, and the cold, clear air creates perfect conditions for brilliant sunsets. Plus, you don’t have to suffer the heat and mosquitoes that descend on trails in summer.

Still, some people avoid trails in winter because they think cold temperatures will make them uncomfortable. But, if you take certain steps and follow the advice of seasoned hikers, you can beat the cold and remain warm, content and safe during cold weather.

As you contemplate a winter outing, consider the following five tips offered by veteran hikers.

1. Layer Your Clothing

The key to staying comfortable on the trail in winter is to regulate your body temperature so that you’re never too cold nor too hot for long periods of time. To do this, you should dress in layers and add or remove clothing as you begin to cool down or warm up.

During winter, your layering system should include a thin top and bottom (long underwear) to wear as your base layer; a shirt and pants made of lightweight or midweight material to wear over your your base layer; an insulated jacket; and a waterproof shell jacket. (You can also use an insulated jacket that’s also waterproof.) If there’s a chance you’ll encounter rain, pack waterproof pants as well.

Because we lose much of our heat from our extremities, it’s also important to pack a warm hat, gloves and warm socks. (On an especially cold night, you can put these on to warm up quickly.)

When you pack for a hike or backpacking trip, be sure that your shell jacket is easily accessible. If you stop for a long break, you can throw on your shell to block wind and retain some body heat. If you do get sweaty as you’re hiking, change into dry clothes when you get to your campsite, because this will help prevent your core body temperature from dropping.

2. Wear Synthetic or Wool Clothing

During winter hikes, wear synthetic or wool clothing, rather than cotton. Marcus Woolf


You should always avoid wearing cotton and opt for clothing that includes synthetic fabrics or wool. When cotton clothing gets wet, it retains moisture, sucks heat away from your body, and takes forever to dry.

Synthetic fabrics will dry quickest, and in cold weather they won’t steal your warmth as much as cotton would. In recent years, wool clothing has become more popular for cool and cold conditions because modern merino wool is much softer and more comfortable than wool of the past. Also, wool is a great insulator and will continue to help keep you warm if it gets wet.

To keep your feet warm and to prevent blisters, use merino wool socks or synthetic socks because they’ll pull moisture away from your feet, whereas cotton socks just get soaked.

3. Stay Hydrated

It’s harder to stay hydrated in the winter.


It might not seem obvious, but you need to take in adequate fluids to stay warm in cold weather. If you get dehydrated, it’s possible that your core temperature could drop, and you could be more susceptible to hypothermia. Also, dehydration can cause you to get disoriented, dizzy and lethargic. When this happens, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or get lost while navigating in the backcountry.

Many people associate dehydration with hot weather, but you can easily become dehydrated in cold temperatures. This is partly because people tend to drink less frequently when they hike in winter. According to experts, cold weather can cause a person’s thirst response to drop as much as 40 percent.

Also, if the humidity is low enough, the fluids you lose will evaporate rather than sit on your skin, and you won’t realize you’re sweating. When people don’t recognize that they’re sweating, they don’t drink as much.

To help you stay hydrated, it’s a good idea to use a hydration bladder with a drinking tube, such as a CamelBak system. Because this type of product allows you to drink while on the move, it will cause you to drink more often than you would if you used a water bottle.

4. Be Prepared to Make Hot Drinks

Even if you’re not camping overnight, it’s a good idea to take a stove or other fuel source on long day hikes so you can prepare hot chocolate or other warm drinks. If you or someone you’re hiking with gets too cold, you can quickly raise the person’s core temperature with a hot drink, especially one that delivers lots of calories. To help a hiking partner warm up even more quickly, you can tuck the person into a sleeping bag.

5. Sleep Smart

While it’s tempting to sleep out under the stars, it’s wise to sleep in a tent in winter. Kelicia Samuelson


If you’re camping overnight, carefully consider you’re sleeping gear to ensure that you stay warm at night. While it’s tempting to sleep out under the stars, it’s wise to sleep in a tent in winter because it will protect you from the wind and unexpected rain or snow showers. Plus, the tent will trap some of your body heat.

When you choose a sleeping bag, ensure that its temperature rating suits the conditions you’ll face. If you tend to sleep cold, choose a bag with a rating that’s a bit higher than the temperatures you’ll encounter. Or, buy a sleeping bag liner to slip inside your bag and increase its temperature rating.

If you’re feeling especially cold, you can sleep wearing a hat. For additional warmth, you can put on extra clothing, such as long underwear, socks and gloves.

Before you hit the sack, you can also drink a hot beverage to warm your core. Just be aware that it might cause extra trips to answer the call of nature. Another trick to stay warm is to fill a water bottle with hot water and stash it near your feet in your sleeping bag.


Find the best winter hike gear at Alabama Outdoors. We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

Written by Marcus Woolf for RootsRated in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

4 Alabama State Parks you won’t want to miss this winter



  1. Monte Sano State Park

    A small and accessible park, Monte Sano State Park is a great winter getaway. Be it a secluded weekend or a day trip, there are plenty of hiking and biking trails. Try the South Plateau Loop as well for a scenic overlook on the south side of the park. Check conditions before hiking though, and avoid using muddy trails in the winter. Relax in the North Alabama Japanese Garden or try something new and check out the Disc Golf Course!



  2. Lake Guntersville State Park

    While a frigid day on the lake may not sound ideal, there’s plenty more to do at Lake Guntersville State Park. From superb fishing to 36 miles of hiking and biking trails, you can see everything the park has to offer. The real fun this winter is their Eagle Awareness Event. This series of 3-day long events run every weekend from January 21 to February 13th. The guided eagle safari field trips show you local eagles in their natural habitat. And the indoor educational programs include live eagles and raptors up-close. So take advantage of the season and don’t miss this spectacular event!


  3. Cheaha State Park

    The state’s highest peak isn’t just a great day trip, it’s the perfect spot for a winter weekend getaway. From cabins, chalets, and resort rooms to the incredible views in the primitive campsites, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this scenic wonderland. Soak in the views from hiking trails like the Bald Rock Outlook or swing by Laurel Falls. Bring the whole family, including the dog, and enjoy some fresh air at the Bosarge Memorial Dog Park!


  4. Oak Mountain State Park

    Recently expanded, Oak Mountain State Park is the perfect spot for winter hikes. From the Green Trail that takes you by Peavine Falls to Maggies Glen, there are serene and spectacular views everywhere. But Oak Mountain is more than trails. With expansive fishing spots, a Treetop Interpretive Nature Trail, the educational Oak Mountain Interpretive Learning Center, and a world-class BMX course, you’ll want to stay for a while. Don’t miss out on special events like bird-watching, a polar plunge, or a scenic 5K this winter!


Wanting to get out and explore? Find what you need for your next winter adventure hereWe want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

Holiday Hiking: 10 Great Winter Hikes in Alabama



We all get busy this time of year, with one holiday following another. In fact, many folks get stressed out from the hustle and bustle of gift shopping and gatherings with friends and families. But, a holiday hike is the perfect cure for a frazzled brain.

Across Alabama you’ll find plenty of amazing trails that wind through calm woods to help you decompress. Whether you’re seeking a stunning mountain view, the soothing sounds of a cascading waterfall, or just a quiet spot beside a placid lake, you can restore your holiday cheer with these 10 hikes.

Shoal Creek Preserve

If you’re in Florence in northwest Alabama and you need a holiday break, head to the trails of the Shoal Creek Preserve, where two magnificent trails interconnect and allow you to do loop hikes. If you want to walk for just an hour or so, try the 2.4-mile lollipop loop hike on the Lawson Branch Trail, or a 2.5-mile walk on the Jones Branch Trail. For a longer jaunt, combine the two for a great 4.3-mile double loop.

No matter how you hike the preserve, you’re in for a treat, as the Jones Branch and Lawson Branch are home to babbling cascades and other tranquil water features.

Cane Creek Nature Preserve

A lot has been written about Cane Creek Nature Preserve and for good reason—the combination of geology, wildflowers, and rushing streams makes this a remarkable site to hike no matter what the season.

Located in Tuscumbia, the preserve has more than 15 miles of trails that intertwine, giving you almost unlimited hiking possibilities.

Of course, you won’t see a lot of wildflowers during the holiday season, but the landscape more than makes up for it. Take in a panoramic view of the canyon and surrounding hills from “The Point,” as hawks and eagles soar around you. Then, make your way into the canyon to several rock shelters, many of which are adorned with tumbling waterfalls.

Before you visit Cane Creek, be aware that the preserve has new hours of operation, which you’ll find on its Facebook page.

Monte Sano State Park Plateau Loop

Ringing the top of Monte Sano Mountain, the North and South Plateau trails make a double loop hike to beautiful overlooks. Joe Cuhaj


Circling the top of Huntsville’s Monte Sano Mountain, the Plateau Loop runs through Monte Sano State Park and provides nice views during winter. Traversing relatively easy and level terrain, this 5.4-mile double loop is comprised of the 1.9-mile North Plateau Trail and the 3.5-mile South Plateau Trail.

The South Plateau leads you to some nice overlooks, the best being the rock outcropping known as O’Shaugnessy Point, which is located about halfway through the loop.

The North Plateau takes you to another overlook and a short side trail near the park’s picnic area. If you follow the side trail, you’ll reach a nice waterfall where you can sit and contemplate all of those amazing hiking gifts you’ll see under the tree this year.

DeSoto State Park Falls Loop

DeSoto State Park is a beautiful park in and of itself, but add a dusting of snow—as is often the case during the holidays—and it becomes magical.

A favorite of hikers this time of year is the Falls Loop, which actually includes three of the park’s trails—Laurel Falls, Lost Falls, and Azalea Cascade—to form a 3.1-mile loop. As their names imply, each is a beautiful waterfall tumbling down the sandstone rocks, offering hikers the sound of a soft, soothing cascade as a holiday gift.

Sipsey Wilderness

Around just about every corner you’ll pass towering sandstone canyon walls with cascading waterfalls. Chuck Clark


Pick a route, any route through the Sipsey Wilderness, and you’re guaranteed an amazing winter hike. Around just about every corner you’ll pass towering sandstone canyon walls with cascading waterfalls. Plus, you can stroll beside the beautiful, clear waters of the Sipsey River. With 45 miles of trails, the wilderness holds a wide variety of hiking options, from easy walks to lengthy, challenging treks.

Cahaba River NWR Piper Interpretive Trail

A holiday celebration wouldn’t be complete without a walk through the pines. At the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, you can stroll down an impressive aisle of longleaf and loblolly pines on the Piper Interpretive Trail.

This 2.3-mile out-and-back hike not only leads you through impressive stands of pine trees, but it also visits high rocky bluffs that offer views of shoals on the Cahaba River.

To complete a loop, you can return on an old road, but be aware that the road is covered with gravel stones that measure 2 to 3 inches and make walking difficult.

Flagg Mountain Loop

Hikers sometimes say that Flagg is “so tall it generates its own weather.” Joe Cuhaj


Flagg Mountain is recognized as the last mountain more than 1,000-feet tall in the southern Appalachians. Hikers sometimes say that Flagg is “so tall it generates its own weather.” Of course, that’s a joke, since the mountain is only 1,152 feet tall. But, it does snow on Flagg, and when it happens the 1.8-mile Flagg Mountain Loop Trail is simply beautiful.

The loop is created by joining two trails, the Yellow and White Trails. If you go, be sure to add the extra 0.6-mile out-and-back from where the two trails join together to view the 1930s craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Along this stretch you’ll see cabins made of logs that were hand hewn for a proposed state park that never was.

Conecuh National Forest Pond Loop

The Conecuh National Forest in Andalusia has several great trails for backpacking and day hiking. In winter during the holiday season, many of the trails are shared with hunters, but you can still safely enjoy this beautiful longleaf pine forest along the Pond Loop Trail.

This loop is actually a collection of several different segments of the white-blazed Conecuh Trail, and they stretch approximately 2.2 miles when joined together. To begin the hike, start with a loop around the Open Pond Recreation Area’s namesake, Open Pond. Then, head off to circle the dark, placid waters of Ditch, Buck, and Alligator Ponds, where you might see wood ducks and wild turkeys, as well as Bobwhite Quail darting in and out of the brush.

If you need to extend your holiday respite, the Open Pond Rec Area has a 5-star campground that’s the perfect for a good old fashioned family winter campout.

Perdido River Trail

If you have plans to visit the Alabama Gulf Coast this holiday season and want to get away from the normal tourist trappings, take a hike along the Perdido River Trail. Located in Robertsdale, the trail is now almost 20 miles long, but the first segment from the south trailhead makes a wonderful 4-mile winter out-and-back hike.

The trail follows the banks of its namesake river, which runs along the border of Alabama and Florida. As you walk, you’ll be treated to beautiful sandbars and an Atlantic cedar swamp. Plus, there’s a good chance you’ll see bald eagles soaring overhead.

Bon Secour NWR Pine Beach Trail

Pine Beach Trail weaves through a series of impressive sand dunes before arriving at the snowy white beaches of the Gulf. Stephanie Pluscht


Snow on the Alabama Gulf Coast? Not quite, but close enough as you head to one of the most pristine and secluded beaches on the coast along the Pine Beach Trail.

This is an easy 4-mile out-and-back that begins in a maritime wetland and forest. Farther on, it weaves through a series of impressive sand dunes bedecked with waving sea oats before arriving at the snowy white beaches of the Gulf.

Be sure to pack a lunch, and about a mile into the hike stop at a two-story platform to view birds and other wildlife. And don’t forget, the dunes play host to many species of wildlife and help protect the mainland from devastating storms. Because of this they are federally protected, meaning you should stay on the marked trail.


Wanting to get out and explore? Find what you need for your next winter adventure here. We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

Written by Joe Cuhaj for RootsRated in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Winter camping is a great way to see more nature and fewer people

Winter camping is a great way to see more nature and fewer people

The trails are devoid of human life, animals wander freely through the woods, and snow falls soundlessly on the treetops—it’s wintertime in the great outdoors. But despite the sparkling vistas, uncrowded trails, and the beauty nature offers to hikers in this time of the year, many never experience the wonder that the fourth season offers because of one tiny detail: the cold.

What most people don’t know is that a little know-how, the right equipment, and simply wearing multiple layers can help with the challenges of camping in the winter. With some planning, you’ll easily stave off frostbite, sleepless nights, and never-ending shivers, all while enjoying beautiful natural sights.

Don’t fear the cold

“Winter is one of the best times to be outdoors,” says Tayson Whittaker, winter camping enthusiast, and founder of outdoor gear and clothing company Outdoor Vitals. He cites seclusion, wildlife activity, and the peace and quiet of a landscape covered in snow as some of the reasons you’re just as likely to find him setting up camp in the snow as next to a field of spring flowers.

To him, it’s easy to explain why more people aren’t outside, experiencing the magic of seeing a herd of elk feeding amid freshly fallen snow: “It’s plain and simple fear—fear of being cold, of doing something they haven’t, of the unknown, of the hypotheticals,” Whittaker says.

But to be fair, there are plenty of hypotheticals regarding cold that would deter someone from camping in the middle of winter: frostbitten extremities, feet that won’t thaw, a chill that never abates, nights spent awake and shivering in a frosty tent, wet gear, and worst of all, hypothermia. Whittaker has personally suffered through most of these situations, but he says preparation can make it easy for anybody to avoid them.

Choose the right gear

A sturdy tent is important if you don't want to wake up buried in snow.
Popular Science

While warm temperatures rarely require hefty sleeping bags or insulated sleeping pads, winter temps demand you be familiar with your gear and what it can handle. But fear not—this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a lot of money on new equipment. “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Whittaker says. “A lot of times, you can take the gear you have and stretch it to work in that forth season.”

Start with a warm enough sleeping bag for the temperatures you anticipate. (Keep in mind men’s and women’s bags are rated differently, since women tend to sleep colder.) If you don’t think your current bag will do, you still might not have to shell out several hundred dollars for a new one—you can often spend less than $50 on a sleeping bag liner or a backpacking quilt and layer the bags.

But that’s just half the battle. A sleeping pad designed for winter is what separates you from the frozen ground, so it’s also of the utmost importance. Choose an insulated variety with an R-value (an insulation rating used from everything to sleeping pads to the fiberglass you stuff in your walls) of at least four, or simply stack an inflatable pad on top of a closed-cell foam pad for extra insulation from below.

Next, mind your tent: “Make sure you have a shelter that can handle a bit of a snow load,” Whittaker says, warning that if it can’t, the entire structure could cave. Four-season tents are designed to handle harsh winter conditions and the extra weight of snow, but they are expensive and less commonly stocked at your local outdoor retailer. A three-season shelter will do the job, too, as long as it’s freestanding. But Whittaker recommends avoiding single-wall tents or semi-freestanding tents that don’t have sturdy frames, since they are more likely to bow and collapse under a few inches of build-up.

As for boots, opt for an insulated pair. If they have removable linings, keep them in your sleeping bag at night so you don’t have to put your feet in cold boots in the morning. You can also keep your boots in a zip-top bag inside your sleeping bag to prevent them from freezing in extra cold temperatures.

Keep everything dry

No matter how big the fire, forget about your wet clothes until you go back to civilization.
Popular Science

Wet gear is often the first sign that trouble is on the horizon. That’s because if your jacket, sleeping bag, or boots get wet in the winter, they won’t dry out as quickly as they would in warmer weather. In fact, if temperatures are below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, they’ll freeze before they dry.

That’s why keeping everything as dry as possible is crucial. And that goes for clothing and gear alike. These are the maxims you need to abide by:

  • Keep tents, clothing and sleeping bags in waterproof stuff-sacks inside your backpack.
  • Don waterproof gloves and keep a spare pair handy in case they get soggy.
  • Wear waterproof boots and gaiters to keep the snow from soaking your socks and always carry several extra pairs.
  • Be particularly careful with the clothes you sleep in. A warm base layer and a dry pair of socks are vital when it’s time to turn in for the night. Don’t even try sleeping in the same damp clothes you hiked in—you’ll be in for a long, miserable night.

Layer it up

“Have a layering strategy,” Whittaker says about clothing. Don’t just throw on a long-sleeve shirt and a jacket—you’ll have no wiggle room if you get too cold or too warm. Instead, start with a warm synthetic base layer, add a mid-layer such as a fleece, wool shirt, or mid-weight jacket, then top it all off with a waterproof layer. Make sure you remove layers when you start to sweat and add them back on when you begin to cool down.

But whatever you do, avoid cotton. Once the material gets wet, it doesn’t dry easily, which means that unless you want to suffer from hypothermia, you won’t be able to wear it again.

Whittaker also suggests ditching some of your down when you’re winter camping—if it gets wet, it loses its insulating power. Instead, opt for synthetic insulation in jackets and other clothing layers. Whittaker does make a case for down socks which, according to him, are the only down garment he wears in the winter. He recommends them for use inside your tent and to keep your feet warm overnight.

As for your hands, treat them like you do the rest of your body, and dress them with layers. Start with a snug synthetic base layer such fleece or nylon, which will wick moisture, provide warmth, and allow dexterity when it’s time to light your stove or set up your tent. Then layer with a waterproof glove or mitten, adding one additional layer in between for extra warmth if you feel you need it.

For your feet, start with a synthetic layer, then a thick pair of wool or synthetic socks. Make sure your boots are big enough to accommodate these layers (one size larger than what you would normally wear should do) or circulation may be restricted, which will not only be uncomfortable, but will keep you feeling cold.

Tips for winter camping

Sleeping with your phone is not always the best idea, but consider winter camping the one exception.
Popular Science

One of the upsides to camping in the snow is that you won’t have to bring as much water as you would in warmer weather. You can use clean, fallen snow and melt it in a pot over the fire until it comes to a boil—this will kill viruses and bacteria and make it safe for drinking or cooking.

Speaking of snow, stomp down on and compress the snow where you plan to place your tent so you start with a flat surface and don’t sink throughout the night. Don’t forget the area around your vestibule, either—it’ll give you a place to stash your bag and climb out of your tent without tumbling into deep snow.

If you’re worried about fingers and toes getting too cold, bring along single-use hand- and foot-warmers, or fill a water bottle with hot water before bed. Place it in your sleeping bag to help warm you up at night, but make sure the lid is on tight so you avoid getting burned or soaking your gear.

But you’re not the only one who has to keep warm: make sure your batteries, GPS, cell phone, and other devices don’t freeze, since they won’t hold a charge if they’re cold. During the day, keep them near your body in an interior jacket pocket, and store them in your sleeping bag at night. Most bags even have a special zipper pocket near your chest for this purpose.

Get out there

Don’t let winter weather keep you indoors. Instead, protect your stuff from the damp, choose gear wisely, layer up, and don’t let the thermometer readings frighten you out of enjoying the season.

“If you can backpack in the other seasons, you can backpack in the winter,” Whittaker encourages. “It’s not as scary as you think.”


Written by Alisha McDarris for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Wanting to get out and explore? Find what you need for your next winter adventure hereWe want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoorsrs

Featured image provided by Popular Science

Why Winter is Best for a Trip to the Sipsey Wilderness


This rich ecosystem draws plenty of visitors during Alabama’s peak hiking and camping seasons.

Please note: due to local and state guidelines surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, some information below may not be accurate. Before you travel and plan your next adventure, make sure to check each business/park/campsite for any closures or guidelines and for the most up to date information. Enjoy your winter adventure to the Sipsey Wilderness!


Alabama’s Sipsey Wilderness stands out in the Deep South as an anomaly of natural beauty and conservation. Hiking past hundred-foot rock faces, river canyons, hemlocks and countless waterfalls, you may think you are deep in Appalachia rather than northwest Alabama.

A little backstory on the Sipsey Wilderness: in 1975 it became the first designated wilderness area east of the Mississippi River. It now consists of roughly 25,000 acres within the larger Bankhead National Forest. The Sipsey River and several tributaries run throughout the diverse terrain, ranging from thick, brushy forest to river canyons to rocky ridgelines to hardwood swamp bottoms. Massive lime and sandstone rock formations—and the dozens of resulting waterfalls—are defining features of the Sipsey Wilderness.

This rich ecosystem draws plenty of visitors during Alabama’s peak hiking and camping seasons. But the environment of the Sipsey and its special combination of natural features also makes it a great destination for colder months. If you’ve only visited the ‘Sip in spring, summer or fall, here are several reasons you should consider visiting in winter.


You’ll Avoid Hot, Sweaty Conditions


Even if it is freezing cold, hiking and camping are much more enjoyable when you’re not sweating buckets from the very first step. Paul Gandy


As uncharacteristic as it may feel, the Sipsey is still in the heart of the South, and the humidity in late spring and summer often make it feel especially hot. But, by the time the leaves begin to turn, the humidity has usually dissipated and the temps stay cooler. Winter in northwest Alabama can be quite frigid at times; I have personally frozen my butt off by underestimating it before.

Even if it is freezing cold, hiking is much more enjoyable when you’re not sweating buckets from the very first step.

The other benefit of cooler temps is that you can fully take advantage of a campfire at night. In hot, humid months after a day of sweaty hiking, the thought of a campfire isn’t exactly comforting. But, in the winter a campfire is a source of rejuvenation, a makeshift community center of eating, laughing, and unwinding, not to mention warmth.


Fewer Nuisances


In the winter a campfire is a source of rejuvenation. Paul Gandy


In the Sipsey Wilderness, the only threats as far as wildlife are snakes, ticks, and mosquitoes. While mosquitoes are more of a nuisance than anything, they can certainly compromise your sanity on a long, summer hike. Of course, as the hot temps disappear with the onset of fall, the “skeeters” follow suit.

The activity from ticks also dissipates in the colder months, although they can be found year round. You should check yourself during and after any outing in the Sipsey, but at least in the winter, the little bloodsuckers should be scarce.

Snakes pose the most significant health threat to humans of any wildlife in the area, with three venomous species native to North Alabama: the copperhead, timber rattler and the water moccasin (aka the cottonmouth). During the warm months, constant vigilance for these snakes is paramount. However, they stay inactive during the winter months, so count snakes as something else you don’t have to worry about much in the winter.


Unobstructed Views

In the winter, visibility increases exponentially, and the forest takes on an entirely different aesthetic. Paul Gandy


While they mostly affect the aesthetics of the wilderness, the leaves from trees (or a lack of them) can have a big effect on your Sipsey experience.

During the fall months, the Sipsey Wilderness brightens with every hue of yellow, red and purple, as the leaves of the deciduous trees and shrubs turn. But once they fall, visibility increases exponentially, and the forest takes on an entirely different aesthetic.

Because you can see farther in the woods, you can better appreciate the natural wonders the Sipsey has to offer. For instance, hiking south on trail 206 in the leafless hardwood bottom, you can see the towering rock formations like Ship Rock and the Eye of the Needle in the distance.

In the winter, the bare trees also allow good views of the many beautiful waterfalls in the wilderness, including favorites like Fall Creek Falls and Feather Creek Falls. Typically, waterfalls in the Sipsey are more impressive after a good rain, and the wilderness still receives enough occasional rainfall in winter to make the falls really crank.

Much of the Sipsey Wilderness was once logged, so it’s largely comprised of second-growth forest. However, there are some stands of old-growth timber in certain areas, including Buck Rough Canyon and the banks of the Sipsey River. These are rare havens for such trees, with untouched tulip poplars, beech, hickory, oak and even hemlocks growing to spectacular heights. With most of the leaves on the ground, it’s easy to make out where these old-growth stands start and end by obvious differences in tree height, circumference and breadth.


The visibility in the winter also helps with navigation on the trail. Paul Gandy


Many hikers come specifically to check out a large and renowned tulip poplar, known simply as “the Big Tree.” The regional icon stands more than 150 feet tall with a circumference that exceeds 26 feet. The Big Tree paired with the nearby 90-foot East Bee Branch Falls makes a great destination for an out-and-back hike.

The visibility in the winter also helps with navigation on the trail. As is the case with many Wilderness areas, the trails in the Sipsey have minimal signs and markers, putting a premium on being able to recognize landmarks.

Due to the tricky navigation, it’s a good idea to do your homework before a trip and compile maps and trail descriptions. As you begin planning a winter trek, be sure to check out the Sipsey Wilderness Hiking Club website for details on trails.


Wanting to get out and explore? Find what you need for your next winter adventure hereWe want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

Written by Thomas Lambert for RootsRated in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Chuck Clark

Chat with our Holiday Promo Tee Design Contest Winner!

Each year leading into the holidays, Alabama Outdoors offers a limited edition holiday shirt featuring a holiday-themed design. This year Alabama Outdoors partnered with AAF of Birmingham to find local talent through a design contest. We would like to congratulate Savannah Kurtz from Ashville, Alabama as the winner and creator of our official Alabama Outdoors Holiday T-Shirt design. Her design features a cozy A-frame cabin nestled in the pines, reminiscent of many winter scenes here in Alabama. We sat down with Savannah and asked her some questions!

Purchase your Limited Edition Holiday Tees HERE!



Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

A: I just got home after exploring the west and living out of my van, Clifford, for the past 6 months! Lots o’ desert climbing and mountain summiting and thanking God for creating such a beautiful world to explore.


Q: How did you hear about our t-shirt contest?

A: I saw a post about this contest while I was using wifi at Jackson Lake Lodge. I’m glad I saw it when I did because it was the last day to enter!


Q: Were you familiar with Alabama Outdoors before? If so, tell us a little about that.

A: Yes, long-time fan of AO! Support your local gear outfitters!


Q: Where do you live? Have you always lived in Alabama?

A: Home is in the woods of Ashville, Alabama! My family and I lived in Pennsylvania when I was a wee child before moving here. I lived in a van this summer, which felt like living everywhere and nowhere all at once!


Q: Can you tell us a little about your design and what inspired you to create it?

A: I have a Pinterest board dedicated to tiny cabins and A-frames. I’ll build my own in the woods someday and you can come and stay! 


Q: How long have you been an artist or designer?

A: I’ve been a professional designer for 2 years, but I’ve loved creating in many ways for as long as I can remember.


Q: What’s your favorite thing to do outdoors?

A: Rock climbing! Climbing has unlocked places in the US that I wouldn’t have thought to visit otherwise, like the top of the Grand Teton in Wyoming or the middle of nowhere Joe’s Valley in Utah. Want to get into it? Try climbing at the local gym @bhamboulders!




Q: Where can people find your work?

A: Online at SavannahKurtz.mountainridgemedia.net

Looking for more gifts for those on your list? Check out our Gift Guides and find the perfect gift for the whole familyWe want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your First Ski Trip

At Alabama Outdoors, we love skiing! While it may not be as popular here as it is up north, we’ve got you covered with essential ski gear and all the insider info. So if it’s your first time heading to a slope, check out our top 5 tips to enjoy your trip to the max!


Buy the right gear, rent the rest

Skiing takes a lot of gear. Between the skis, boots, and poles, there are also jackets, pants, helmets, goggles, beanies, socks, and more. Don’t sweat trying to buy everything; renting is essential. The nice part about ski gear is that you can wear some styles daily, so consider buying versatile ski gear. Look for beanies that you’d rock in the fall, a triclimate jacket with zip-in liner, and wool base layers. Triclimates can go from a thick winter jacket to a lightweight rain jacket or a warm midlayer in seconds. And wool baselayers are perfect for winter camping down south. So you can get the most out of your gear! Here is what you (need) to buy, and what you should definitely rent:


  • Skis/ snowboard
  • Poles
  • Boots
  • Helmet


  • Goggles
  • Ski gloves
  • Ski apparel & other accessories

Layer, layer, layer

Versatile gear is great, but just as important is layering. The key to staying comfortable on the slopes is wearing multiple layers. We go over it more in detail on this blog How To Layer Clothing, but the basics are simple. First, you want a moisture-wicking base layer made of wool or polyester, these will be your best friend all day. Then, you need a midlayer that’s thick enough to keep you warm but thin enough to breathe, like a fleece or hoodie. And finally, you want a waterproof shell layer that locks out moisture and vents heat. You can check out our favorite layering pieces here.


Protect your skin

One of the easiest mistakes is not taking care of your skin. Whether it’s chafing, sweating, exposure, or getting a sunburn, skincare is crucial for a fun ski trip. The best way to avoid skin issues is quality base layers. Base layers should wick moisture, regulate temperature, and reduce friction to prevent blisters. Cover your face with a thin, breathable neck gaiter or ski mask on the extra-cold and windy days. And make sure it’s adjustable so you can uncover your face and breath easily. Always make sure to apply sunscreen- even if it’s cold! Being at a higher elevation, you will get sunburn much quicker, so keep that in mind and remember to reapply and keep your skin and yourself hydrated! Another usually underrated accessory is socks. Don’t grab your old cotton socks from your dresser and think- “ah, these will work”. Find a ski-style sock that reaches up to your knees with minimal seams and is made of moisture-wicking materials, like your base layers. Check out our favorite ski accessories here!


Pack essentials plus extras

Snacks, water, sunscreen, lotion, and extra accessories like a beanie and buff can make or break your trip. If you’re staying far from the slope these are great extras to have on hand. An extra beanie and buff are perfect for swapping out midday if they’re gotten wet or icy. It’s good to swap out beanies and face masks to avoid sweat building up and keeping you cold.


Prepare to relax & have fun

Pack for some serious relaxation too. Not only is the ski slope great for shredding, but there are lots of fun ways to relax there, too. Whether it’s curled up by a fire, going for a winter walk, or spending time with a warm cup of coffee on a chilly porch enjoying the view, you’ll need extra clothes for lounging. That’s why we love the Free Fly Bamboo Fleece Hoodies


We hope this has helped you prepare for a great time in the wintery outdoors on the slopes! If it’s your first time or you only get to go so often, just remember to listen to your body and not overdo it. Relax and have fun and be sure to plan ahead to make this trip an all-around stellar time!


Planning a ski trip this season? Find what you need for your ski trip or winter adventures here! We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

3 Tools to Help Young Skiers Learn


Don’t hesitate to introduce kid-friendly tools that can help your young skier progress faster and have fun doing it.

Teaching your young kids to ski can feel daunting. Heck, getting young kids to the mountain, dressed properly, and clicked into their skis can be daunting, let alone teaching them to ski. We’re here to help.

But first things first: How do you know your kiddo is ready? We asked Brian and Aleks Smith, PSIA instructors at Aspen Snowmass and parents of two daughters. The Smiths work with the youngest sliders all winter, and what’s more, they went through the process of introducing the sport to their own girls not too long ago. In other words, the instructor pair is a wealth of information when it comes to the how and when to get the groms sliding.

Most kids are ready to hit the slopes between the ages of 3 and 4, says Aleks Smith, but some 2-year-olds may already be interested and able. One thing to look for is the ability to balance, says Smith, e.g., riding a push bike or playing soccer or other sports. The other thing is interest: Do they want to try skiing?

Once you’ve determined that your child is ready, one option Smith recommends is using props. “Many parents choose to use tools to aid in their children’s skill development,” Smith says. “If used properly, these tools can be useful.” The props Smith reaches for most often are the harness, the Edgie Wedgie, and the Hula Hoop. Here, Smith walks us through how to use each prop safely and successfully.

Prop: Hula Hoop

Ski Magazine
  • Age : 2-3
  • Indication : Child is struggling to maintain balance while sliding

The idea here is to teach young kids to stand independently while sliding forward and resist the urge to lean back. Slip the hoop around the child’s waist and hold onto the back of it. You’re in control, while the child feels the sensation of sliding.

  • _ No longer needed : When the child isn’t leaning against the front of the hoop_

Prop: Edgie Wedgie

  • Age : 2-5
  • Indication : Child is having trouble keeping his tips together
Ski Magazine

Making a wedge can be difficult for kids five and under, as they often don’t have the leg strength to hold their skis in that position. That’s where the Edgie Wedgie comes in. This device easily attaches and detaches to the tips of the child’s skis. Ashe stretches the Edgie Wedgie, his skis will naturally form a wedge; the bigger the stretch, the wider the wedge. Once the child understands the shape and knows what it feels like to arrange his skis just so, he should be able to start to wedge without the Edgie Wedgie.

  • No longer needed : When the child isn’t stretching it while turning or stopping

Prop: Harness

Ski Magazine
  • Age : 2-6
  • Indication : Child can’t stop on her own or is nervous

A harness is a great tool for very young kids who haven’t figured out the wedge stop. It can be tricky to put on properly, so be sure to read the directions. The idea is to keep your little skier in front of you as you descend very gentle terrain, holding the straps with some slack. Don’t ever tug on the straps, or you can throw the child off balance.

  • No longer needed : When the child can stop on her own


Now that you have the tips, tricks, and tools, shop with us in-store or online for all of your ski gear essentials! We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

Written by Samantha Berman for Ski Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.


How to Plan a Ski Trip With Kids

Maybe you grew up on the slopes. Maybe you discovered your love for skiing as an adult. But few things are as special as being able to share your love for skiing with your family.

The fresh mountain air, blue skies, and exhilarating feeling of actually skiing down the bunny slope: Who wouldn’t want to experience that? However, any weathered parent will tell you that every successful family trip starts with a good plan.

That is especially true when you are transporting your children to a high-altitude setting with below-freezing temperatures to learn a sport with strange boots and lots of layers. But the challenge can be worth the trouble if you keep in mind a few tips.

Keep everyone comfortable

If you are bringing little ones to the slopes for the first time, it’s critical that you ensure everyone stays comfortable, ie. warm, but not too warm, and dry. That’s not easy when you are outside for hours at a time on a mountain covered in snow. That’s why layering is so important. Be sure everyone has a base layer, a mid-layer, and a waterproof outer layer along with appropriate socks, gloves, and headwear.

If you are unsure if you have the right clothing, check with a trusted expert at a local outdoor recreation and apparel store like Alabama Outdoors before you leave for your trip. Last-minute clothing purchases in a resort town can be pretty pricey, and you want everyone to feel prepared the first time you head to the lodge.

Pick the right ski resort

Any vacation with kids can be tricky, especially when it comes to making sure everyone has fun without draining your bank account. Skiing can get expensive, especially if you are outfitting an entire family in the clothes and equipment, getting lessons for the newbies, and buying passes to the mountain.
And, if, despite your best efforts, one or two of your crew doesn’t enjoy skiing, you need to be staying at a resort or in a town offering fun activities off the slopes.

That’s why it pays off to do your research when it comes to resorts. For instance, some offer deals where kids can ski for free. TravelingMom.com has compiled a state-by-state list of resorts offering children-ski-free deals. Travel+Leisure Magazine also has compiled a list of family-friendly resorts.

Get your head right

A ski vacation can be a logistical nightmare with or without kids. Weather delays, illnesses, the potential for injuries, and all the clothes that have to be managed make it challenging even for adults.

That’s why it’s important to remind yourself that children may not make it as long as you would on the mountain. You will likely have to be more flexible in terms of when you go skiing (not at peak times) when you leave, and how much time you budget for getting your gear and getting from Point A to Point B. Finally, invest in a day of lessons through the ski school. Even if you are a black-diamond skier, you may not be the best person to teach your child. Chances are your children will learn more and behave better for a ski instructor.

A well-planned family ski trip can help create wonderful family memories and, hopefully, launch a family tradition that allows you to #BeOutdoors with the ones you treasure the most.


Planning a ski trip this season? Find what you need for your ski trip or winter adventures here! We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors