Exposure is the biggest threat to all backpacking trips. Wind, rain, and snow can quickly sap your body heat, leaving you shivering throughout the whole trip. Losing body heat on a backpacking trip is miserable, not to mention dangerous. So how can you stay warm on the trail?
Layering your clothes is the best way to stay warm while backpacking. Cover your hands and feet and keep moving to improve your circulation. Set up your camp in a sheltered area and change into a pair of dry clothes at the end of the day. Use a good sleeping bag and a reflective blanket at night.
Backpacking involves time spending on the trail, at a campsite, and in a tent. You’ll need to stay warm throughout all of these activities, and different circumstances call for different solutions. I’ll tell you everything you need to know to stay warm and well on your next backpacking trip!
Staying Warm On The Trail
The majority of your backpacking trip will take place on a trail or hiking path. That’s how you get to your destination after all! It’s usually a bit easier to stay warm while you’re hiking because you can keep your blood flowing and your muscles moving.
But when the wind picks up or it starts to rain, you might find yourself shivering in no time. Luckily, there are a few ways you can preserve body heat.
1. Layer, Layer, Layer!
It’s no secret that layers are the best way to keep warm. It’s always a good idea to bring a jacket for any outdoor activity, but this old tip is essential to staying warm on a backpacking trail. Layers are your best friend, so make sure you bring plenty of options.
You can add anything extra that you might want, but you should always bring a light base shirt, a warmer long-sleeve shirt, a thermal layer (such as an insulated jacket), and a waterproof jacket. Bring sturdy socks, a warm hat, and a couple sets of gloves as well.
2. Add And Remove Layers Before It’s Too Late
Speaking of layers, there are ways to maximize the protection they provide. You can make your warm clothing twice as effective if you add and remove it at the proper times.
If you keep a warm layer on for too long, you’ll sweat through it and make it damp for later. If you wait too long to put on a jacket, you’ve already lost a lot of heat and it will take longer to get it back. Listen to your body and pay attention to your temperature. Don’t wait to add or remove layers because you’ll only be hurting yourself.
3. Prepare For Rain
Rain is one of the biggest enemies known to backpacking. There usually isn’t any solid shelter on a backpacking trail, so you need to make sure you have the correct gear to deal with wet weather. A good raincoat or poncho is essential!
Wet shoes and socks are no fun either, and they could cause chafing and blisters. Bring hiking shoes that are waterproof (or at least water-resistant) and several pairs of dry socks.
4. Avoid Long Breaks
It’s human nature to rest when we’re tired. This is an essential part of backpacking and everyone needs to take a break from time to time. However, it’s easy to become chilled if you lose momentum. Breaks can slow your blood flow and allow sweat to cool.
I’m not suggesting that you cut out breaks entirely! That’s a good way to get exhausted and burned out. However, you should take smarter breaks that will help you preserve your body heat. Aim for 10-15 minute breaks, and try to stretch and move around a bit while you’re stopped. Lunch breaks should only be about 30 minutes. If you stop for longer than this, you can become stiff and cold, which makes it hard to get moving again.
5. Protect Your Extremities
It’s fairly easy to keep your core warm, but your hands, feet, ears, and nose can quickly become numb in cold weather. Numb limbs can make it harder to concentrate and balance, so it’s important to warm every part of your body. You can use gloves or mittens to protect your hands, and hats to protect your ears. Warm, sturdy socks are lifesavers for chilly feet.
However, one of the best ways to stay warm is to increase your blood flow and improve circulation. Try stamping your feet when you walk and take breaks. Swinging your arms and clenching/unclenching your fists can help as well. Heated clothing and chemical warmers are also helpful.
Staying Warm At The Campsite
When it’s time to set up camp for the night, it’s easy for a chill to set in. You’ll want to do everything you can to set up camp in a sheltered area because wind will make it hard for you to warm up or start a fire.
As soon as you can, change into a set of warm, dry clothes. No matter how hard you try, your hiking clothes probably have a bit of sweat and moisture in them, which will quickly sap your body heat once you slow down. It also feels so good to change into dry shoes and socks!
As you work on setting up your camp, try to keep yourself moving. Doing some light exercises and stretches during camp chores is a fantastic way to keep warm.
Finally, eat a filling and warm meal. Food that’s rich in carbohydrates and fats can warm you up in no time. Hot food and drinks are the perfect way to replenish some heat, and you deserve a good meal after a full day on the trail.
Staying Warm At Night
I always get cold on camping trips when bedtime rolls around. Once the sun goes down, there’s no way to stay warm outdoors unless you have a fire. So, it’s time to retreat to the tent and bundle up for the night! Although it seems like all you need is a sleeping bag, there are lots of ways you can have a warmer night’s sleep on the trail.
First of all, dress in warm, dry clothes. If you didn’t change when you set up camp, do it before bed. Don’t wear anything that’s too tight though, because this can restrict your blood flow. Hats and socks are a good idea as well.
You should also use a sleeping bag that’s suitable for the climate. Some are breathable and lightweight, while others are built for maximum warmth. Make sure you bring a suitable model before you start off on your trip. Reflective blankets can also be used to preserve heat. These are lightweight, but they can add several degrees of warmth.
Sleeping pads also help at night. They separate you from the ground and can provide a protective cushion. You can even use 2 of them for added warmth and protection! Finally, you can always warm up by cuddling with your hiking buddies. Nothing beats the cold like shared body heat, so don’t be afraid to bundle up next to each other.
Backpacking is a wonderful hobby, but every traveler can relate to the bone-chilling cold that the outdoors can bring. Staying warm will help you have a better overall experience and keep you healthy for the next time you want to head out on the trail. Just layer your clothing well, keep moving, and be sure to bundle up at night!
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