Hiking in the winter presents a lot of challenges, and it’s no question that one of the biggest challenges is staying warm. While some people handle it really well, others just can’t stand it. However, for the backpacker who is always up for something difficult, you’re going to have to find as many ways as possible to keep the heat in. Otherwise, your backpacking experience might not be everything you had hoped for:
Light a Fire
This might be a given, but fires have way more purposes than just cooking. If you’re able to light a fire despite the ice, snow, and wind (by the way, this is an essential skill if you plan on backpacking in this weather), let it warm up your bones. Hold you hands over it, your feet over it…any part of your body that might be getting numb from the cold. If you have enough supplies, feel free to take breaks whenever necessary to light and sit by a fire. Your body will thank you.
Pack Hot Packs
Hot packs are an amazing little invention that are seriously underrated. Getting a set of packs won’t cost you much, and they are great to whip out whenever you need them. Keep them in your jacket pocket, shove them inside your gloves, your socks, even your scarf! Consider making your own hot packs by filling your used socks with hot, uncooked rice, and you’re good to go!
Clothing is the most important thing when it comes to staying warm. However, if your first layer isn’t your main priority, you’re going to struggle to stay warm even if you have a strong outer layer. Whether you prefer long johns or leggings underneath your pants, as long as you have your base layer covered, you should be okay. Of course, add an appropriate outer layer that keeps you insulated. The more snug you are, the warmer you’re going to be.
When we feel cold, our first instinct is to stand stiff like a statue. While it might seem like that would help keep us warm, it’s actually doing quite the opposite. Hiking is obviously one of the best ways to get your body moving, to the point where you’ll forget you’re even cold. Though, if you’re already at your campsite for the night, try running in place, doing some stretches, or just simply hopping around.
When temperatures drop lower at night, trying to fall asleep can be difficult. Especially if you’re not distracted by hiking, it’s important that you have all the necessary winter gear to make sure your sleeping arrangements are safe and warm. Get a warm, insulated sleeping bag, and a sturdy tent. If you can manage, bring along an easy throw blanket to keep you extra toasty.
Create Body Heat
Though hopefully you’ll only have to resort to this in extreme conditions, there’s nothing wrong with cuddling up close to whoever you’re hiking with to get a little warmer. While you’re hiking, you can walk closer together, or take breaks to warm each other. Depending on your sleeping arrangements, sleeping close together to your tent mates will keep the heat in.
Make Hot Drinks
Bring along an insulated water bottle that you can fill with hot water. Just having a hot cup to hold will really warm up your body. Drinking some hot tea, hot cocoa, or coffee will certainly help warm up your bones as well. Hack: If you fill up empty bottles with hot water and put them under your sleeping bag or next to you, you’ll stay warm for longer!
Stay Away from Alcohol
Some hikers like to bring along some booze for the journey. Many people think that taking a shot of an alcoholic drink will warm you up, but it actually does quite the opposite. Alcohol lowers your core body temperature, so you’re doing your body a huge disservice if you have a drink while in the cold. Stick to hot non-alcoholic drinks and water.
Dig a Snow Shelter
Building a proper snow shelter requires quite a bit of experience, but as long as you have the right tools, it’s not too hard to figure out. Mountain climbers and avid winter hikers tend to rely on snow shelters to keep them warm. It functions as an igloo, which believe it or not, can keep you protected in temperatures that are higher than outside of it. It will also protect you from any snowfall or wind.
Hike in Moderation
No one said you had to conquer a major mountain peak just to get a taste of winter hiking. There’s plenty of easy trails out there that everyone can try, regardless of your level or your comfortability in the cold. Taking your time learning what it’s like hiking in these conditions will help you tremendously, and there’s nothing wrong with making a few pit stops in an indoor, heated place along the way, or going out on day trips and then coming back to somewhere warm for the night.
There’s more than one way to stay warm. Make sure you know all of them before going outside.