6 Tips for Staying Warm While Backpacking

The winter months can be intimidating when it comes to hiking and backpacking. While many of us head out to the slopes or trudge along on snowshoes, a few diehards take to the trails despite wind, rain, and snow. Although staying warm may seem like a breeze, it has become an art and with so many synthetic fabrics and fancy doodads, how do you know what will work? This week we’ll take a look at some pretty fundamental methods to keep warm while you’re out in your own winter wonderland.

Nalgene Bottle Warmer
This tip is so simple yet so incredible. When you’ve finished will your nasty bean/rice/pasta water fill up your Nalgene with whatever is left. Wrap it in a fleece and tuck it in your sleeping bag or (if you’re not staying the night) under your outer layer. Let the warming begin.

Tasmanian Toe Tap
This complicated toe-tapping dance move may require a lot of practice. And while it is fun and impressive when you have it mastered, it’s the idea behind the Tasmanian Toe Tap that is crucial to generating heat. Long water/lunch breaks often mean the cold starts seeping in. After a big meal, your blood collects in your stomach to help you digest, leaving your extremities susceptible to extreme cold. So whether you’re tapping your toes, playing the penguin game, or coming up with your own silly dance, moving around will get your blood flowing making you warmer!

Cuddle Buddy
Whether you’re in love or just have a good friend, don’t be afraid to cuddle up next to whoever you’re hiking with. If you’re staying over night, try zipping your sleeping bags together. While that may seem like a very intimate gesture you haven’t heard the best cuddle-buddy-warming exercise. If your hands or feet are particularly cold, and your friend is the “I’d let you cut me free if I was hanging in a crevasse” kind of friend, you can exchange putting your bare feet on each others’ bellies. Core body temperature is an excellent way to spread the love.

Layer Like You Mean It
If you’re hiking with your thermal layer, your mid layer, your fleece layer, and your waterproof layer you’re going to be miserable! Although it seems counter intuitive, the essential factor in staying warm while trekking is knowing when to take it off…take it all off! If you’re hauling ass you are creating oodles of body heat which, when confined beneath gortex and fleece, will turn into perspiration. When you stop for a water or gorp break you’re going to get cold, fast! While you’re moving around keep the layers light and preferably wicking, that way when you stop, layering up will feel good and you won’t be drenched and susceptible to hypothermia.

Hot Beverages (Avoid Booze!)
While a Hot Toddy may sound like the perfect hiking beverage, alcohol, despite it’s psychological effects, actually reduces your body temperature. So save your favorite alcoholic beverage for your post-hike ritual and pack your thermos with chicken soup, tea, or hot chocolate instead!

Cotton is Rotten

If you are hiking in a warm dry climate, cotton is your friend. However, if you’re somewhere cold and wet cotton is the worst wardrobe choice you could make. Cotton soaks up moisture like a sponge thus turning you into a walking Popsicle. Synthetic fabrics, although sometimes smelly, will keep you relatively dry and even when wet will provide effective insulation.

By Caroline Kellough

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