It’s hard to stay happy when you’re too cold, too hot or too wet. Choosing the right outdoor clothing can keep you comfortable and protect against potential dangers such as hypothermia. Outdoor fun is, after all, meant to be fun.
The essentials of staying warm:
Water conducts heat better than air. The more water held in your clothing, the faster your body heat will be transferred away. As moisture evaporates it also produces cooling, so wet clothing has two sneaky ways to steal your body warmth.
Block the wind
Wind increases convective heat loss by carrying your heat away on currents of cool air. Your best wind-proofing strategy is to wear a tightly woven shell garment that deflects wind but allows some moisture transport.
Have a layer to trap heat
Spaces between the fibres of your clothing trap a layer of warm, still air next to your skin. The amount of air you can trap depends on the number of layers you’re wearing, their thickness, and loft. Layering your clothing is probably the single best way to manage heat loss in the outdoors. It allows you to regulate your body temperature to match physical activity, wind, temperature, and moisture. Learn more about how to choose base layers.
Women are more susceptible to cold than men. Blood vessels near the surface of women’s skin constrict sooner, and to a higher degree, than men’s do at the same temperature. As a result, women feel cold quicker, particularly in their extremities. Although women have a higher percentage of heat-conserving fatty tissue, they have less muscle mass and do not create as much body heat when exercising. If you tend to feel cold, it’s particularly important that you eat and drink regularly and carry extra layers with you.
Tips for staying warm
- Eat regularly and keep well-hydrated.
- When you’re moving, remove a layer of clothing before you start to sweat. When you stop, add a layer before you start to cool off.
- Wear mittens when possible. Mitts are warmer than gloves because your fingers can share their heat.
- Use thin liner gloves under heavier gloves or mitts. You can take off your outer gloves to when you need dexterity without having to touch cold surfaces with exposed skin.
- Wear a wool or fleece hat, and add a scarf too.
- Ensure your boots, gloves, and socks are not too tight. Good blood circulation is essential to keeping hands and feet warm.
- If your fingers feel like blocks of ice, swing your arms in wide circles as fast as possible. After a few minutes enough blood is pushed into your fingertips to warm them.
Tips for sleeping warm
- Buy a sleeping bag rated for temperatures a few degrees colder than you expect to encounter.
- Before you get into your sleeping bag, exercise for a few minutes until you start to feel warm. When you climb into your bag, the extra heat will be trapped so it takes less time to warm up the space inside.
- Empty your bladder before going to bed, so your body doesn’t have to expend energy keeping the extra liquid warm.
- Wear your hat to bed.
- Use your spare gear, jacket, ropes, pack, to add extra insulation under your sleeping bag.
- Still cold? Use warm water in your water bottle to get cozy.