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Backpacker Magazine – October 2009

Stay Comfortable in Any Weather: Cold

Staying warm is easier than getting warm: Plan ahead.

by: Molly Loomis

Pick Your Conditions

On the Trail | In Camp | Key Gear | Where to Camp


Face shield Balaclavas are often overkill when you're on the move. Alex Van Steen, a 21-year veteran of Rainier Mountaineering, Inc., advises a neck gaiter that you can pull up over your nose as needed; cut a dime-size hole over your mouth to keep your breath from fogging goggles.

Gloves On Rainier, Van Steen takes thin liners for dexterity, ski gloves for moderate warmth, and waterproof mittens for the worst weather. In extreme cold, never take the liners off.

Boots Whether or not you're using insulated boots, make sure the fit allows wiggle in the forefoot when you're wearing winter-weight socks. A tight fit can restrict circulation, causing dangerously cold toes.

Zipper pulls Extend zipper tabs–pants fly zipper included–by attaching three-inch lengths of cord. Now you can keep your thick gloves on while adjusting gear and layers.

Hot-water bottles Fill two, put them in socks (to avoid burning your skin), and nestle them at your feet and between your thighs, where the latter can warm the blood in your femoral artery.

Sleeping bag Too big and it's chilly, but make sure it has extra space (about six inches at the foot) for clothes.

Hooded parka A mountain must, it's way warmer than a hoodless parka and hat.

My Secret: Shelli Ogilvy
Your body needs extra calories in cold temps. When guiding in Antarctica and Alaska, Mountain Travel Sobek's Ogilvy fuels up by putting peanut butter in ramen noodles and a hunk of butter in hot chocolate. She also adds heat to her diet with chili sauce and cayenne capsules: "Spicy foods just make me feel warmer," she says.

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Feb 19, 2010

To keep your energy bars from freezing. You can put them in the pockets closest to your center body mass because that area produces the most heat. And if one does end up frozen, just stick it in your shirt against your skin. Or in the waistband of your pants to thaw it out.

Scotty 2 hottie
Feb 13, 2010

Use a lightweight fleece bag to boost your sleeping bag about 10 also put a bed of pine needles under your tent as a insulator.

Dan S.
Feb 10, 2010

To warm up energy bars, you can simply put them in your pocket or if you have one, the cargo pocket of your pants.

Instead of using chemical warmers to thaw out boots, simply put the boots in a garbage bag (you should have several...they're very handy!) and put them in your sleeping bag while you're sleeping. The same concept is good for stove fuel and water bladders as well. It's also a good idea for drying out used socks.

Dave Lorenzen
Feb 05, 2010

I just like to snuggle up to my man Marko

Dave Lorenzen
Feb 05, 2010

Butt sex with your "partner" helps also.

Ken Jones
Nov 15, 2009

Put a chemical hand warmer in your camera case when it gets cold. Keeps your batteries working and much better than stowing the camera close to the body and having it condensate.

Ken Jones
Nov 15, 2009

Put a chemical hand warmer in your camera case when it gets cold. Keeps your batteries working and much better than stowing the camera close to the body and having it condensate.

Oct 27, 2009

Put your boots in a stuff sack in the bottom of your sleeping bag. They will be toasty when wake up.

Oct 24, 2009

Carb up and stay warm all night..Before bed have some fatty food--mine is pepperonie and cheese on a Triscuit--just don't tell your heart doc about it.

Oct 23, 2009

For siting tents: in rain I avoid sleeping under trees as the drips can get very big and wet you if you get up during the night.

In snow: pitching your tent lee to a cornice but still close is a good idea as the cornice indicates an area of still air. This only works as long as the cornice formed in the same air direction as is currently or forecast to blow in.

We camped at a site like this on a long ridgeline and found the next day it was the most sheltered site on the whole ridgeline.

Oct 22, 2009

Bears should not be a problem in winter since they hibernate.

Oct 22, 2009

Bears are usually hibernating in the winter and dont usually venture into cold alpine altitudes. stick the candy in your bag, youll be safe and warm

Linda Morrison
Oct 22, 2009

Please be careful when you advise people to take candy bars into their tents to snack on during the night. In bear country you must hang all food items. The same advice goes for cooking and eating inside your tent. Bears have an amazing sense of smell.

Oct 22, 2009

Wear vapor barrier clothing to bed or use a vapor barrier sleeping bag liner.


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