How to stay warm on winter hikes
Start with the right headgear
We lose a lot of heat through the top of our head—although not 90% as is sometimes claimed. Keep your face and head protected against the elements with a heavy-duty balaclava such as the Outdoor Research Tundra Aerogel Balaclava, which features a layer of fabric using NASA-approved technology to preserve heat even in the most extreme cold.
Protect your eyes
When you’re going to be outdoors for long periods in cold weather, it makes sense to protect your eyes with specially designed goggles—regular designs will be insufficient. The first thing they’ll need is an anti-fog coating to ensure they don’t steam up and impair vision. Dual-pane lenses, with a gap in between, also help prevent misting. If you’re trekking in snowy areas, or where there is very bright reflected light, select goggles with UV protection.
Keep the rain off
Weather conditions in remote areas can be unpredictable. Getting soaked in a downpour will not only leave you freezing, it could even be dangerous. That’s why a waterproof rain jacket is a sound investment. Choose a quality brand that is not only waterproof but provides heat insulation as well.
Keep your torso warm
When there’s no need to wear a full rain jacket, a hiking vest is a lightweight and less bulky alternative which will keep your core warm and your muscles relaxed. Or wear it underneath a jacket in more extreme conditions.
Protect your hands
Whatever activity you’re undertaking, you won’t perform at your best if your hands are freezing and numb. However, thick gloves or mittens can be cumbersome. A good solution is to invest in a pair of lightweight or fleecy lining gloves, and add waterproof layers as and when required. Another, very neat alternative would be to invest in a pair of heated gloves to ensure your fingers never feel the cold.
Whatever the area you’re going to be traversing, you’ll need to select the right pants. Stretch fabrics will be most practical when you’re climbing or crossing challenging terrain. But to keep you cozy while you trek or hunt, it’s best opt for waterproof pants with a fleece lining. If you’re going to experience high temperatures in the daytime, which drop to freezing at night, consider a pair that convert to shorts – and be ready to pull on some thermal leggings as the sun goes down.
Insulate your toes
I can lose a lot of body heat through the feet, and they’re often the first part of the body to feel cold and numb. Keep in mind that you’ll want to pack knee-high socks, rather than ankle socks, for an extra layer of heat. Avoid cotton, which can hold on to moisture, and go for a technical alternative: perhaps a wool interior, for comfort and warmth and a neoprene exterior which is waterproof and will also insulate your feet. If you don’t like the feel of full neoprene socks, toe-warmers will help to keep your extremities from becoming numb with cold.
Protect your feet
Whether you’re hiking, climbing, or camping, your boots will obviously play a major role in keeping your feet from becoming cold due to the ground temperature. Ensure they’re lightweight, and waterproof, with good sole traction. They also need to have a warm lining and be breathable, so that any moisture from your feet can evaporate quickly.
Add a blanket
When the time comes to stop moving, there’s a real danger that the cold will set in. Wrap yourself in the right blanket for your weather conditions and you’ll be able to enjoy the outdoors for even longer.
The last thing you want on a long trip is to spend your nights sleepless and shivering, so the right sleeping bag is essential. When you first get inside, it can take a while before the interior is warmed up by your body heat and you can feel comfortable. A cosy alternative to a traditional sleeping bag is the full-body sleeping bag, which is best described as a kind of giant padded onesie. This won’t only heat up more quickly, you’ll be a lot more comfortable because it allows for more freedom of movement. Sleep well and stay warm!
Featured image: Matt Heaton/Unsplash