When the Green Bay Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys to win the 1967 "Ice Bowl" on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field, the temperature hit -17F (with wind chills of -40F). At kickoff, the whistle froze to the ref's lips, band members were carted off to the hospital with frostbite and hypothermia, and sadly, one fan died due to exposure.
When the Cowboys and Packers meet up again at Lambeau Field tomorrow, it won't be nearly as frigid (projected temps are in the low 20s to high teens), but that's plenty cold to be sitting outside for a few hours. It may be Packers vs. Cowboys on the field, but between the icy January wind and the frozen metal seats, fans will be fighting their own battle to stay warm.
The good news is that dressing for a few hours outside on game day isn’t nearly as complicated as dressing for a Winter wilderness trip. Since you’ll be able to head inside to warm up and dry out after the game, your choice of clothing material isn’t as important as when you're heading into the backcountry. As long as you can waddle to your spot in the stands, bulkiness doesn't matter too much, and the typical concerns of moisture management and layering are not as important. Still, there is a science to staying warm—and many spectators get an "F" in this area. With Rodgers' calf injury, the Pack needs you to bring your "A" game, so you can warmly cheer the green and gold to victory—and send our friendly visitors from the south packing back to Texas!
10 tips to staying warm at the game:
1. Coverage! I'll admit to stripping down and doing a few quick victory laps in the deep snow following the Packers' 1996 Super Bowl win, but in the long-run, the bare chested guy with the green and gold body paint is going to have a hard time staying in the game for long. Facing off against the cold, your body's natural reaction is to constrict blood flow to your extremities to prevent heat loss and protect your brain and the vital organs in your core. Having plenty of insulation around your head, neck, and core will keep your core temperature up and keep the blood and heat flowing to your fingers and toes.
Although there may appear to be exceptions, generally there is a lot of blood flow to the brain. So, if you want to enjoy the game, a knit stocking cap is the minimum. A lined or insulated hood that you can flip up between points, or when you're getting cold, is a fantastic extra because it’ll keep your head AND neck covered. A scarf is also great for protecting the blood flow in your neck and allows you to cover your nose and cheekbones (areas especially prone to frostbite).
2. Block the wind. People pile on layers of sweatshirts and fleece jackets for the game, top it off with their favorite team's jersey, and freeze because their outfit is as drafty as a 100-year-old barn. Each slight gust of wind steals the warm air from your insulation, forcing your body to reheat. Avoid the biting cold wind by wearing a protective wind layer or outer garment with a tight weave. You can still wear your Aaron Rodgers jersey, but wear a windbreaker under it—you’ll be remarkably warmer!
3. Fire up the offense! Tailgate-ho! Bring on the brats, cheese, and hot chili to stoke the boiler! Fats provide long-lasting fuel to help your body generate internal warmth. Simple carbs and sugars can give your body a quick heat rush, so have a mug of hot chocolate with lots of real Wisconsin whipped cream when you feel the chills coming on.
Staying hydrated is also very important for warmth. It keeps the blood thin and flowing, and helps with the digestion of all those tailgating calories. Most Cheeseheads can't imagine game day without draining some suds, but without going into the long lecture, just know that while the alcohol may numb you, it's actually working against your warmth.
4. Don’t get cold feet. Cold feet are often the result of one or more things: poor insulation (over your entire body, as well as your feet), boots that are too tight and restrict circulation, or not having enough insulation underneath your feet, causing you to lose heat via conduction to the ground. Avoid cold feet by wearing warm and roomy boots. Of course, adding another layer of socks can help, but adding a thick felt insole (or even cardboard insoles) is a true special play! Just make sure your feet have enough room to move—if they’re squished in your boots, blood won’t be able to flow through them very well, and you’ll still get cold feet despite all the layers of socks. If you don't have adequate room or insulation in your boots, standing on something to insulate your feet from the frozen concrete goes a long way toward preventing conductive heat loss.
Sweaty feet? Sweaty feet means wet socks, which means cold feet. You can create a "vapor barrier" by putting plastic bags over a thin liner sock, and then wearing your thicker insulating socks on top. This can add considerable warmth.
5. Don’t leave your flanks exposed. Even though legs aren’t as sensitive to cold, you can lose a lot of heat through them. You need protection below the belt—insulation, wind protection, and layers of loose clothing to trap warm air and allow good circulation. A pair of long underwear is a start, but it’s probably not enough on a really cold and windy day. I like thick military surplus wool pants (as a bonus, they can often be found in green). With insulated bibs, you're a walking fortress with warm legs and core. If you’re a bib-aphobe, wear a light pair of nylon rain pants over the top of your pants. Even that thin layer will be much better at helping keep you warm than unprotected jeans.
6. Don't fumble! For warm hands, mittens beat gloves, hands down. Wearing thin liner gloves inside your mittens wicks away sweat, adds insulation, and leaves you with protection if you have to do something requiring dexterity, like squirting mustard on your brat.
7. Draft some external heat. I like to know that I'm suited up to handle the worst, so I rarely use chemical hand warmers, but they can help. In fact, they can get downright hot, causing burns if left directly on bare skin. Linda uses them all the time to help combat her Reynaud’s Syndrome, a condition that leaves her with frozen hands otherwise, and she swears by them. Generally though, if you need hand warmers, be sure you analyze where the weakness is in your overall dress system before leaving civilization in the Winter.
8. Jump around! Don’t forget that moving around fires up your body and helps create body heat. If you feel yourself starting to cool off, it’s time to get active and own your warmth! A trip up and down Lambeau's steps will surely start to warm you up, and getting up and joining in the wall of sound will help the Pack as well as get your blood flowing.
9. Warm the bench like a pro. Bring something warm to sit on so you can protect your tail against conductive heat loss. This is a top tip! Sitting on cold bleacher seats is about the same as sitting on a block of ice. Insulate your rear with a thick blanket, closed-cell foam, newspapers, extra mittens—almost anything will help. At the Packers/Bears game at Lambeau Field this year, I gave my brother a squashed up cardboard concession drink holder to sit on, and he said it made an immediate difference. As mentioned above, the same goes for your feet—stand on a protective barrier.
10. Get some depth in your bench. While it's no Ice Bowl, even if you're sitting outside for a full game at 20F, it's almost impossible to overdress. Bring more than you think you'll need. A few tightly-woven blankets or, better yet, a rectangular sleeping bag that you can zip open, are always welcome and can help cover any gaps in your clothing system.
Remember, it's easier to stay warm than get warm. Also, it's a proven fact that it's always warmer when cheering for the Pack!