Monday, October 31, 2011
Helpful Hints For Winter Hiking
Stay Warm: No, this does not contradict the first "hint." Staying warm may sound obvious but I know how many times I was thinking, "Boy I'm getting cold," but kept going either hoping to warm up or just plain being lazy and not wanting to stop to put on more clothes. Trust me, it's much, much easier to stay warm than it is to get warm once you're cold. IF you're a bit too chilly either stop and take care of it or at the very least pick up the pace for a few minutes to see if that warms you up. If not, stop! As for the balance between this "hint" and the previous one, there's only one way for you to find the balance and that's for you to get out there and see how your body responds. I'm simply hoping to share a bit of personal experience to hopefully speed up your learning process a bit. It wont take long for you to realize that regulating your temperture is one of the biggest challenges and yet another of those things that can only be learned by doing.
Stay Dry: Another point that seems pretty obvious but I'm going to mention it anyway. That little bit of snow that falls on your shoulders as you duck under the tree, the dusting of snow on your mittens from grabbing that branch, all of it quickly melts and makes you very wet! It's very beneficial to make an effort to brush it off a.s.a.p before it melts. Simple? Yup! Worth it? Yup!
Another area that the "stay dry" rule applies to is perspiration. It's common to hear or read how important it is for you to adjust your clothing to make sure that you never, never allow yourself to become damp or yikes, worse yet, wet from sweating! All I can say is that many years of winter hiking has taught me that the concept is sound, the application impossible for many of us! If I put 15 or 20 pounds on my back, snowshoes on my feet and then climb a moderately steep trail I am going to sweat big time! It can be 10 degrees and I'm wearing only a T Shirt and I WILL be dripping sweat! Many other's are the same way. So, be as careful as you can and certainly don't have on that huge down parka as you plod up the hill but you may just have to be realistic about it. Some people are going to sweat, that's all there is to it! Strip down as far as you can and make sure that you do have a dry layer to put on incase of emergency but there's not too much else you can do. That's why it's not uncommon in the dead of winter to see people hiking in shorts! I've seen it more than a few times!
A pointer...I DID say to have something dry with you but don't make the mistake of being an hour into an 8 hour hike and being all sweaty and putting on your dry clothes. If you do that you no longer have the dry clothes! You just come to accept that when you stop for a break you're going to get cold faster than the person that is bone dry. What I do is to have a down jacket in my pack to pull out during breaks if needed but I try to not put on so much that I prevent my wet clothes from breathing and drying out. One thing that is very helpful is to anticipate the break coming and slow waaayyyy down for the last 10 or 15 minutes so that you stop perspiring and your clothes get a chance to dry a bit. Here's the big reason I love the newer synthetic fabrics. I can have a base layer that's more than damp and within 20 minutes of not sweating and the breeze blowing it's totally dry. I've tried many but so far the best that I've used is "Micronamics" by The North Face. Expensive? Yep, but it dries so much faster that I'll never use anything else. If you come across some other amazing secrets that help to keep you dry, please let me know!!
Practice: Trust me it's much better to find out in the warmth of your home that your shell doesn't fit over your insulating layer and many similiar lessons. Things like putting on your snowshoes with mittens on can be quite tricky until you've done it a few times. Sooo, practice at home!