The year has flashed past, the days are shorter and it is turning decidedly wetter more often. November still offers plenty of opportunities to get outdoors, with bonfires, fireworks and fabulous autumn colours. Here are a few ideas and tips for fun winter activities that will help you make the most of November outdoors.
How to Stay Warm and Dry when it’s Dark and Wet
The start of November sees the darker evenings due to the clocks going back at the end of October. The morning dog walks soon become darker, but it won’t be until December that my early morning runs need a good torch. The evening walks do benefit from my pocketful of photon power that comes in the form of an LED Lenser torch. I can see exactly what squidgy thing I have just stepped in is and spot where the dog has gone. Although the torch will pick the dog out of the darkness at up to 200 metres, I stick a flashing dog collar around his neck as well so that I can check what he is doing. It is most entertaining when he gets the scent of a fox, as all you can see is a flashing red strip darting left and right across the fields. He never catches up with them, and you can pick out the reflection of the foxes eyes giving that last glance back as they disappear through the hedgerow.
The wet weather that November brings also means a change of clothing for those outdoor walks and runs. Wellies, waterproofs and hats are dug from the back of the cupboard. Out come the handwarmers. Bonfire night requires plenty of layers to keep you warm whilst standing there watching the fireworks display, a cup of steaming mulled wine warming your hands. The place we go to watch a fireworks display is in a farmer’s field. Endless entertainment can be had watching those who turn up without wellies and losing their footwear in the mud. Prams and pushchairs also succumb to the quagmire. Still, give a kid a glow stick or flashing spinny toy and they usually stay happy.
Commuting into the city also requires decent weatherproof clothing to make sure you arrive at work or school looking good. A bad hair day is bad enough without turning up for the day looking like a drowned rat that has been dragged through a hedge backwards.
The outdoor gear stores do a roaring trade this time of year, and it’s not just the adventurers and weekend warriors who buy the latest gear. Take a look around you in the city and you’ll spot all of the leading outdoor clothing brands – Helly Hansen, North Face, Berghaus and Under Armour to name a few of the top brands. You get what you pay for though. If you don’t fancy touring the stores, watch out for some Outdoor Clothing Bargains on Amazon.
Under Armour do some great running gear. Reflective, warm and waterproof, the clothing is designed specifically for the outdoor athlete.
On the Road
Cycling to work in November becomes a bit of a chore. The worst experience I ever had was when it decided to snow. By the time I headed home, the roads were a sea of icy slush. Within 100 metres my feet were soaking wet, frozen and cars were constantly splashing bow waves of slush over me. Not pleasant to say the least. I subsequently discovered a great winter cycling clothes product range called Sealskinz. These were initially a range of waterproof socks, but have now expanded to gloves and other cycling clothing. Absolutely brilliant. You get home with warm, dry and toasty feet.
Waterproof trousers and a decent cycling jacket complete the protective covering. Lights become an absolute must to make sure the determined car drivers spot you before they squeeze you into the gutter or some hidden drain.
Talking of driving, November is the time to get your winter driving essentials ready. Check on the screenwash, deicer and that funny T shaped windscreen scraper. Now where did I put it? Actually, I gave up on the traditional Halfords windscreen scraper. I found that the flexible piece of plastic you can get from Homebase or RAC is much more effective. A store card also works well in an emergency for scraping off the ice.
I feel for motorbike riders in November road conditions. Rain, cold and wet leaves making the roads slippery make for a challenging ride.
In Scotland and ski resorts across Europe, mid November sees the first snow falls. If you are planning on driving in snow, time for snow chains. In the UK, the sporadic snow makes snow chains a bit of a pain to use. It takes you a while to put them on, and before you know it, you are back on tarmac. There is an alternative to snow chains called snow socks. These fabric coverings for your driving wheels act like woolly gloves in snow, wicking away the moisture and sticking to the snow. Easy to put on and off, they are a useful tool to keep in your car for emergencies (along with the snow shovel, flask, blanket and torch).
Christmas Activity Experience Days Gifts
With Christmas looming, some eager people are already doing their Christmas shopping online. If you are stuck for Christmas gift ideas you will definitely be onto a winner by buying experience days gifts.
For the person who has everything, you will always be able to find a gift they will love. Red Letter Days are my wife’s best friends. I subtly drop a few hints about some of the fab activities I would like to try, and magically on Christmas Day I get to unwrap a cardboard box containing details of some fantastic activity gift, complete with a voucher that lasts for a year. All I have to do is go online, find a location that suits me, validate the voucher and then book the day.
Top gifts people buy include:
- Go Ape treetop adventure, rope swings and zip wires
- Aeroplane flying, biplanes, fast jets, gliders, aerobatics
- Driving Experience Days, supercars, vintage cars, trucks, tanks, hovercrafts
- Hot Air Ballooning
- Go Karting
- Clay Shooting
- Indoor Skydiving
Winter Holidays Aren’t Just About Skiing
November sees the ski holiday companies kick things into high gear to sell you the best ski holidays they can offer. By mid November, most of the available ski holidays for Christmas and New Year will have already been booked. February is the best time of year to go skiing, as there is better snow and the days are mostly sunny. You can sit outside a mountain top restaurant with great food and drink with your shades on looking decidedly cool.
But winter holidays aren’t just about skiing. Not everyone can ski or snowboard. The coordination and balance are beyond some people, and the thought of heading downhill with the risk of hurting yourself if you do it wrong puts some people off. Save yourself lots of cash by having some lessons before you book your ski holiday. That way you will get to know if you want to spend your hard earned cash on an expensive ski holiday. There are plenty of indoor ski centres these days where you can ski or real snow all year round.
But if you really don’t like the idea of skiing, or want to do something different whilst at a ski resort, then you could always try one of these other activities:
- Dog Sledding – sit in style on a sled being pulled by a pack of huskies. If you want something a bit more exciting, you can go mushing and race through the forest being pulled by dogs.
- See the Northern Lights – Visit the Arctic Circle and see the Aurora Borealis. This wonderful effect caused by electromagnetic interference in the Earth’s atmosphere is awesome. A photographer’s dream. You can see the Northern Lights in Norway, Greenland, Iceland, Canada or Alaska.
- Astronomy Tours – The darker skies of winter help you to see the stars much easier. There are quite a few astronomy tours available all over the world.
- Snowboarding or Skiing – This guide explains the difference in skill and safety.
- Sledging – Learn what makes the best sledge, how to make one and where to get one.
- Doughnutting and Snow Tubing
- Ice Skating
Even if you do go on a family ski holiday and don’t ski yourself, there is always great food and drink to be had. No French ski trip is complete unless you eat some tartiflete.