It can be tough to stay warm at night in the backcountry, especially during the fall months. When daylight leaves and the cool night arrives, many outdoor enthusiasts are left shivering and fending for warmth to stay comfortable in their outdoor environment. Here are ten tips worth sharing that will help keep you warm on your next cool-weather adventure:
1. Don’t Overdress for the Temperature
Proper clothing layers are crucial for a comfortable backcountry experience. When sweat is unable to evaporate, it can soak clothing and has the potential to cause more chills, and even lead to hypothermia. Be sure to layer clothing evenly and keep extremities warm, rather than bundling your core with sweatshirts and a puffy parka.
2. Wear the Right Clothing
Travel mostly with wool and synthetic fabrics. It is wise to avoid cotton fabrics as much as possible. Also applicable to point #1 above: use breathable layers that won’t hold sweat and trap in moisture. Polypropylene fabrics and fleece are great examples of warm, breathable layers. Before leaving on for a trip, also be sure to pack a good hat and pair of gloves that you can keep dry and use once the evening arrives.
3. Eat Hearty and Healthy
Eating a good dinner and snack before bed will heat up your internal “furnace” and boost your metabolism. Going to bed with a full stomach will ensure that your body has the calories that it needs to keep you warm throughout the night. Eating good proteins and fat will allow for a slow release of energy and warmth for the cool hours of night. The proteins and fat should be balanced with carbohydrate intake, which makes up the majority of the backcountry diet. Healthy food choices ensure your body’s ability to maintain efficiency and adjust to cool temperatures.
4. Stay/Get Hydrated
Possibly the most important backcountry health principle regards proper hydration in all circumstances, especially in cool weather! The problem with this is that we tend to be less thirsty and less likely to drink water when we are cold. However, as backcountry enthusiasts, we need to fight this fake contentment with the realization that our body needs additional water to digest the nutrient-dense foods that will keep us warm at night! Drink warm beverages regularly, such as hot chocolate, tea, and soups, to gain maximum warming power.
5. Prioritize Proper Sleep
Your body requires refreshment through sleep in order to perform properly during the days in the backcountry. Using a proper sleeping system will ensure that you stay warm and healthy during the cool-weather seasons. This step consists of preparing and planning for how you will stay warm when it’s time for bed in the backcountry. The following five steps relate directly to staying warm when it comes to sleeping.
6. Use a Sleeping Pad
Having a pad underneath of you prevents warmth from being lost through transfer between you and the cold ground that you are sleeping on. Using a pad will effectively put an insulating layer between you and the earth, which conserves your body heat at night.
7. Cuddle With Hot Water
Boil water before going to bed and put it in a leak-proof bottle that you can snuggle with for warmth. Once hot water is in the bottle and sealed, place it in your sleeping bag at bedtime. Move it around to warm various body parts throughout the night to keep comfortable and cozy.
8. Add a Sleeping Bag Liner
Good bag liners can add more than 10 degrees to your sleep system and ensure that you have another adjustable layer to keep you warm while sleeping. Choose a bag liner that is fit to your bag and meets the needs of your trip temperature. Remember, it’s best to have a sleep system that is too warm, because you can always modify it to make it cooler.
9. Don’t Overdress Before Bed
Most backcountry sleeping bags are made to reflect your body heat and to mirror your heat back to you during the night. If you wear too many bulky layers, your bag’s insulation and design cannot function properly. On cold nights, wear just enough layers to take up the extra, empty space within your bag (puffy layers like fleece or wool).
10. Secure the Opening
Try to close off all venting except for a relatively small breathing hole. Make a nice, snug seal around your face prior to closing your eyes for the night. Before sleeping, tighten your sleeping bag around your chest and head to ensure that you conserve heat during the colder hours of the night. Wearing a hat while sleeping will also help keep you warm since your breathing hole will probably let cool air in near your head when you move during the night.
Your Turn: What do you find works best for staying warm in the backcountry?