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Staying Warm


Staying warm in any environment is a skill you can learn, and is useful not only for ultralight backpacking in comfort, but also to protect you in an emergency. Start by camping in the right places. Tops of hills are windy and cold, while cold air also fills the valleys at night. Find level ground somewhere in between, out of the wind, even if it means hiking a little out of your way. A light backpack makes this easier to do, in any case.

Warm Backpacking

In an emergency you can sleep between a fire and a rock wall that will reflect the heat back at you. Use this technique only for emergencies, though. There are enough beautiful rocks that are covered in soot.

Wear your clothes to bed when you are backpacking, and you can travel with a lighter sleeping bag. If you shake out and fluff up the clothes, they will insulate better. Some will tell you not to sleep in your clothes, but I have tried it both ways many times, and it has always been warmer with the clothes on.

Wear a hat to bed. This is probably equal to another pound of insulation in your sleeping bag. You really lose a lot of heat through your head when it isn't covered.

Stay Dry! Stay up late until your clothes have dried, or change into dry clothes if you have them. Try hard not to crawl into that bag in wet clothes. By the way, if it is hot during the day, wear your wet t-shirts to dry them out quickly.

Adjust your clothing as you hike, removing and adding clothes as necessary so you stay warm without sweating. Sweat can cause you to lose heat rapidly when you stop.

Breath into your sleeping bag if you are really cold. However, you should only do this if you are in a dry climate, or it is your last night out. You will get a little damp, but you will dry quickly from hiking in the morning.

Heat water and fill a water bottle to take to bed with you. This is probably easier than heating up rocks and placing them around you.

Make a mattress of pine needles, leaves or dry grass to sleep on. Scatter the leaves in the morning, so they won't smother the plants underneath. I have slept warmly in a pile of dry grass that I collected from a frozen swamp, and I had no sleeping bag.

Conserve your energy. It is difficult for your body to keep itself warm if you have used up your energy reserves. It also helps if you are not too tired to do what you need to protect yourself, such as gathering firewood or hiking out to the car to escape the blizzard. Finally, we make better decisions when we aren't tired.

Staying warm is about paying attention as much as it is about good gear. Good gear helps, of course, and I suggest you try the sponsors here for that.

For more tips on staying warm, go to:
The Wilderness Survival Guide.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Secrets of Staying Warm