Yesterday I wrote all about the health (and mental) advantages of getting outside for your winter's run (instead of toiling away on the treadmill — again). And then I took a run outside, got some winter sunshine, and watched the ducks and seagulls in the Long Island Sound as a stopped to stretch — and take the picture above. It felt extra-great to get sunshine on a cold winter's day.

One of the biggest reasons I hear most people resist getting outdoors when it's cold out is that they're afraid they'll be uncomfortable. The simplest way to avoid that is with the right gear. As an avid winter-lover and someone who aims to get outside more this year as part of my New Year's Intentions, here's what I've found works for me.

High quality base layers: I like Patagonia's boy short wicking underwear to keep the bum warm (for some reason that's always an area that gets cold when I'm playing outside). And Lululemon's Flow sports bras are worth the cost; they keep you comfortable and supported, while pulling moisture away from the body. SmartWool's tall socks come in some cute colors and prints, and I like to pull them up to my knees to keep hard-working calves a bit warmer.

Light, but hard-working mid-layers: On the coldest days, I will wear a pair of longjohns on the bottom and a matching shirt on top. I like Patagonia's Capilene leggings because you can choose from several levels of warmth, and also because it comes in womanly (but not cheesy) colors like the purple-maroon linked here. They are also made from recycled materials and can be recycled once you don't want them any more by taking them back to the store. For really cold days, a thicker shirt that zips up over the neck is ideal (that zip is key, because it's more than likely you will need to unzip when you get warm, and it always feels great to do so).

Vests: I swear by vests, which keep bulk down and wind out. For running and other activities, the right vest means you can get away with wearing a lot less. I switch between a thin, but windproof fleece running vest like this one, and a heavier, down-filled one for those days that I need that extra heat.

Pants: These can be tough. When it's not too chilly (say, above 30 degrees F), I usually just wear a good pair of longjohn underwear/leggings like those mentioned above. But when it gets colder, a good pair of windproof and water-resistant pants is key. These Asylum pants from Nau, made from post-consumer and post-industrial waste materials, have clean lines and a flattering cut, meaning you could wear them to the coffee shop after your skating session or run.

Gloves and hat: My hands always start off cold, and if they're not protected, even on mild days, I spend my whole run thinking about them. I also run with my iPhone and like to switch out songs that I feel like listening to at that moment, so I like to be able to access my fingers without having to take my gloves off (I love these that are both windproof and have open fingers). Make sure your hat is lightweight — I almost always end up taking mine off, and it's nice to have one that's small enough to stuff in the pocket.

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Great winter outdoor gear for running, iceskating, hiking and traveling
With the right layers, you can look great and have more fun outdoors this year.