Tips for keeping your body warm
Feeling nervous about going on a hike? Wondering how to keep yourself warm? What if you get cold during the trip? How to survive a night outdoors? We have been hiking and mountaineering for half of our lives, experiencing cold days, evenings, and nights. I, personally, easily get cold and have had to find different ways to keep warm on trips. When your body is cold, it consumes a lot of energy and recovery is significantly weakened. Outdoor activities and hikes become much more enjoyable when you have the right equipment and a bunch of tools in your backpack to fight the cold!
Get your equipment in order
First, we recommend that your equipment is functional and of good quality. If you compromise too much on the warmth of your sleeping bag or the functionality of your clothes, you will definitely feel the weather changes more during your trip. Hiking requires a lot of different tools and clothes, but remember that you don’t always have to buy your own – look for rental shops or borrow from a friend. Some sports equipment stores even rent equipment. When buying your own equipment, we recommend that you do it thoughtfully as good products last a long time.
The best clothing materials to combat cold and weather changes are definitely merino wool clothes. They keep you warm even when they are damp and dry quickly. You can find merino wool clothes for all needs in stores today, from underwear to base layers and accessories. It’s also a good idea to have woolen socks and a spare pair that you can change into at the end of the day.
For breaks, it’s good to have a down jacket (such as a lightweight down jacket, or a thicker one for colder weather) that you can quickly put on to keep warm. The worst “enemy” during breaks is sweat – your skin sweats when you move, and if you stop for too long and the cold has a chance to settle into your body, you will feel cold. On a cool day, we recommend putting on at least a down jacket over all your other clothes during even a short break, to ensure that your body doesn’t get cold.
If you feel that your feet get cold easily, there are also down skirts, shorts, and pants available on the market. We recommend trying them out because cold often strikes women’s buttocks and thighs in particular. Getting these areas warm is a whole other trick!
It’s always a good idea to have wind and rainproof clothing with you, especially if the hike lasts longer or if you’re going to an area where weather changes are quick and unpredictable. No other clothing item protects you from wind and rain as well as shell clothes. Damp cold is also the worst because cold air penetrates your bones and core.
Cold often strikes from the feet and head, so make sure you have appropriate shoes on and protect your head with a hat. It’s not indifferent what shoes you choose for the hike. For example, the fabric material of running shoes does not keep the cold away, and shoes meant for summer are not suitable for colder temperatures. Please also note that for a hike, it’s recommended to choose thicker hiking socks, so choose shoes that have enough space.
Remember to dress in layers
The warmest way to dress is in layers! For the base layer, we recommend a merino wool base layer, for the mid-layer, a wool sweater or fleece, and for the outer layer, a shell layer depending on the weather. In the evening, you can also put on extra socks if your toes easily get cold.
In addition, it is important to consider the overall warmth of your body: cold air won’t get inside your clothes if you wrap a scarf around your neck (such as a Buff neck gaiter, which can also be used as a hat and headband). Keep your head and feet warm!
Regularly maintain your clothes
We recommend that you regularly maintain your clothes so that they function as they should. Clean down insulation works better than dirty insulation, and shell layers keep you dry when you remember to wash and clean them properly. Wash and maintain your clothes with materials designed for them at least once a year! Also remember to wash your sleeping bag – if you don’t have the opportunity to maintain it yourself, take the bag (and clothes) to a laundry.
Always change into dry clothes
When you arrive at your campsite in the evening, we recommend changing into dry clothes as quickly as possible. As we mentioned earlier, sweat affects the body’s warmth significantly, so when we set up camp, we like to jump into the water, even if it’s cold. This removes the sweat from the body, and then it’s good to change into new dry clothes with clean skin. If there is no swimming spot available, it is still a good idea to change into dry and warm clothes quickly – this way the body doesn’t have time to cool down and stays warm longer.
Keep warm at night
A good night’s sleep is the most important measure of comfort on trips. If you suffer from lack of sleep, your body won’t recover and the next day will feel rough in both mind and body. It is worth investing in a warm sleeping bag and remembering that it’s easier to cool the body at night (for example, by sleeping with the zipper open) than to warm it up. Always check the comfort rating of the sleeping bag according to gender and note if you are more prone to feeling cold than the average person. We often use three-season sleeping bags even in summer (not on the hottest days, though), but it’s easier to go on a trip if you know you won’t be cold at night. If necessary, the sleeping bag also works as an additional heat source during breaks.
To add extra warmth inside the sleeping bag, it is worth getting a liner, which raises the insulation of the sleeping bag a few degrees warmer! If you find it too warm at night, you can open the sleeping bag or sleep completely with just the liner.
Remember that the cold strikes from the ground, so make sure you have a sufficiently insulating sleeping pad. Inflatable summer pads won’t suffice in the fall. We often use two sleeping pads when we don’t have to carry our gear for a long distance (an Exped synthetic pad and a foam pad underneath). The advantages of using two sleeping pads are added insulation and using the foam pad as a seat cushion (carefree and durable). Sometimes I notice myself sliding off the top pad (for example, if I sleep in a tent on uneven terrain) and finding myself on the foam pad anyway, so my body isn’t against the ground.
Additional tips for keeping your body warm at night
Before going to bed, it’s a good idea to warm up your body by exercising: go for a brisk walk, jump, rotate your arms, dance, or do any other fun movement that you can think of to get your body warm. The warmth of your sleeping bag is based on your body’s warmth, so a warm body will warm the bag more effectively and quickly!
A comfortable extra warmth for the night is to boil water in a bottle that can withstand hot water and allow heat to pass through (not a thermos bottle). We usually boil water in a Nalgene bottle as needed in the evening and then put it in the sleeping bag to warm it up. The best place to put the warm bottle is where the major blood vessels run, such as on the hips (groin area of the legs). Sometimes, a comfortable spot can be at the foot of the sleeping bag if you feel you can’t get your toes warm.
When you slip into your sleeping bag, remember to dress warmly if necessary (layering works here too). Tighten the sleeping bag’s neck and head well so that heat doesn’t escape. Add a scarf around your neck and a hat on your head for additional insulation, and don’t forget your wool socks!
Various products are also available in stores to keep your fingers and toes warm. Many people suffer from poor peripheral circulation, and these products can be a lifesaver on a trip. For those with cold fingers, we recommend wearing mittens or lobster-style gloves where your fingers can warm each other. You can wear thin liner gloves under your mittens if necessary. Getting your toes and fingers warm can sometimes be very challenging.
You can also layer up if necessary at night. Nobody says you can’t use outdoor clothing inside your sleeping bag at night: we’ve even had to use down clothes on occasion.
Campfire for the evening
Even if you don’t need a campfire for cooking, it’s an incredibly good way to keep your body warm in the evening. Remember that you can also dry clothes and shoes by the fire if necessary – but don’t underestimate the heat of the fire and don’t place clothes too close to it! Especially fleeces and other synthetic fabrics can catch fire quickly and even melt (yes, it has happened to us a couple of times!). Wool is less likely to ignite, but you’ll certainly get a hole in your woolen garment if you bring it too close to the fire.
Sometimes it may be necessary to keep the heat up all night – in this case, it’s a good idea to arrange a “watch shift” with friends so that everyone…
Remember to eat well!
The body needs energy as fuel in order to keep warm and function properly. Therefore, remember to eat and drink enough and energy-rich foods! Warm drinks and food are also pleasant and warming from the inside.
Remember to protect yourself from the weather
In addition to clothing, there are other ways to protect yourself from the weather. Do not sit in a windy place or make a windbreak for yourself. Shelters provide a nice protection in the evenings, and in the winter, you can build a shelter around yourself from the snow. Wind in particular has a significant effect on the cold. Wet and humid weather are also the worst weather conditions that cause coldness. Remember to keep yourself and your equipment as dry as possible! If necessary, hang your clothes to dry (but be careful of nighttime moisture, so your clothes don’t end up being wetter in the morning than they were when you hung them up).
Teach your body to tolerate the cold
The body can be trained to tolerate the cold by swimming in cold water. Cold showers also work well if a swimming spot is not available. Regular cold water swimming significantly strengthens the ability to tolerate the cold. Cold water swimming increases and enhances the brown fat in our body and the body’s heat insulation capacity increases. Cold water swimming has many other health benefits that are worth exploring! 🙂 Remember to also familiarize yourself with the safety aspects of cold water swimming before starting the hobby.
Summary of tips on how to keep warm while hiking
- Remember to move – the body warms up when moving. Warm up your body also before going to sleep in your sleeping bag.
- Layering is the warmest way to dress
- Remember appropriate shoes and a hat (the cold easily escapes from the head and feet)
- Protect yourself from wind and rain: keep your breaks sheltered and use shell clothing (also works over down clothing)
- Additional insulation if needed: down skirt, shorts or pants
- Change into dry clothes as soon as you get to camp
- Take a dip in the water and remove sweat from your skin
- Put on a down jacket during breaks to prevent the body from cooling down (note sweat)
- A sufficiently warm sleeping bag with a liner inside
- Tighten all the strings of the sleeping bag so that the warmth does not escape
- A sufficiently insulated sleeping pad (if needed, even two) – the cold rises from the ground!
- Put hot water in your drinking bottle and take it with you into your sleeping bag
- Eat well, energy-rich warm food and drink: the body needs energy to stay warm
- Regularly maintain equipment and clothing (down and shell clothing work better and last longer when maintained regularly)
- Practice cold tolerance: go swimming in cold water regularly.
Remember to have fun when hiking and take longer trips only after your skills and gear are up-to-date. Also check out our other articles for more information and tips on hiking!