Carolina Mountain Sports
123 West Broad St
Statesville, NC
(704) 871-1444
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■ Winter Weather Wisdom

Winter can be fun and challenging.  Camping and backpacking,  can increase challenges  and dangers.    In the backcountry,  you can’t get in a warm car,  or scoot home for a hot shower and  dry clothes.   On a winter outing, there may be no supplemental source of heat or endless amounts of warm clothes.  On a camping trip, your clothing and the way you wear it and adjust it must work for you day and night, day after day.   Here are time-tested  tips for staying warm and dry.  If you prepare and pack accordingly, you can stay safe and comfortable in cold, windy, wet and snowy conditions.   If you don’t, you may create a miserable and unsafe situation for you and others. And remember, weather in the mountains can be very different and colder than in your neighborhood.  Be prepared

STAY DRY:   Avoid excessive sweating and getting clothing and insulation damp.  Wear rain gear when needed. Even Gore-tex raingear needs maintenance and re-treatment of the outer fabric layer, to perform properly. 

PACK AND WEAR LAYERS:   Add and take off layers as the conditions change and to adjust for different temps and activity levels to minimize sweating.  Layers are warmer than a single, heavy coat and offer more versatility.

PACK LIGHT BUT RIGHT:  clothing should be lightweight, versatile, compressible, and have multiple uses…

HANDS & FEET COLD FIRST:  Your body reduces the flow of warm blood to hands and feet first to keep vital organs warm.   Put on extra layers on your upper body and your head, even though that area may not feel cold…before feet begin to chill.

COVER THE HEAD AND NECK:  Head and neck loose lots of heat.   Wear a hat and protect the neck from heat loss.  

COTTON  KILLS:   Cotton holds moisture, is slow to dry and when damp conducts heat from the body.  Synthetics and wool are the fabrics of choice for hiking and camping.

FUEL YOUR FURNACE:  Food provides fuel for your body to generate heat.   Eat right and snack often during winter outings.

DRINK  A LOT:  Fluids are critical in winter.  You may not be hot and sweaty but your body dehydrates rapidly in cold weather.  Drink a lot so your metabolism works properly.

Winter Weather Wisdom…

CLEAN, DRY CLOTHES:  You can’t carry much so keep some  clean, dry clothing for evening and night wear.   Put the damp and dirty stuff on again the next morning for the day’s activities… Have a pair of  wool or fleece socks, and extra long underwear,  that you ONLY wear inside your sleeping bag. 

THE INSULATION BELOW:  It’s critical to insulate underneath your sleeping bag with a thick, waterproof foam sleeping pad.   In really cold weather, add another foam pad.  

BIG BOOTS:  Boots should be big enough to allow for at least a good liner sock and a pair of thick, wool socks…and still have room to wiggle your toes.   When buying boots for cold  (and growth)  fit them  wearing two pairs of heavy socks.  Cramming extra socks in your boots only restricts the flow of blood and your feet still get cold.  Treat the leather to maintain it’s water repellency, even with Gore-tex boots.   Rubber, insulated boots or “pacs” are great for cold, wet winter conditions and do fine for moderate hiking.

            Put boots in a plastic bag and inside your sleeping bag to keep them from freezing. 

MITTENS AND MORE:   Mittens are much warmer than any glove.   In a pinch, put a pair of  wool socks on your hands.   Consider a pair of thin, synthetic liner gloves for dexterity, an inexpensive pair of wool mitts, and a shell mitt for wind and water protection.  Yes, it’s layers on the hands too. 

WINDWEAR:  Lightweight nylon jogging pants and jackets make great wind barriers.   Combined with long underwear and fleece or wool sweaters, they make part of great layering system.   But, it does not eliminate the need for good raingear…unless your windwear is a waterproof and breathable fabric made with Gore-tex or other moisture barrier/breathable membrane. 

AIR IT OUT:  On multi-day trips, the sleeping bag should be aired out and dried in the sun each day.   During the night, your body and skin give off as much as a pint and a half of moisture.  If a sleeping bag is not aired out, your insulation gets more and more damp….and dampness conducts heat away from your body.

ZIP IT:  If you don’t zip up jackets and sleeping bags, and cinch down drawstrings and velcro,  you let warm air escape.  Conserve the heat that your body is generating and Zip it shut!

INSULATE THE TOTAL PACKAGE:   The world’s best coat won’t keep you warm if you don’t insulate the whole body.  A warm coat is great but you must help it do its job with socks, long underwear on your legs, and insulation on neck, head and hands.  


CHECKLIST FOR WINTER WEAR

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several pairs of Wool Socks

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polypro or polyester (better) Long Underwear

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synthetic or wool shirt/pullover

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vest

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wind pants and jacket

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raingear

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liner gloves

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mittens or gloves

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neck gaiter

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wool or fleece hat or balaclava

CHECKLIST FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

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quality 20 degree  rated (or colder) “mummy” bag

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fleece liner bag or blanket

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1-2” thick foam pad (waterproof)

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extra ¾ length foam pad for single digit temps

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clean, dry, wool socks

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clean, dry, long underwear

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wool or fleece hat

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drape a sweater or jacket around neck for a draft collar inside your bag

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eat a good meal with fluids

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eat candy right before turning in

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earplugs for tent mate’s loud snoring or teeth chattering

 
Updated: March 12, 2014
 
 
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