10 Tips for Staying Warm While Winter Backpacking

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Somewhere in Tennessee during my thru-hike, I experienced what could possibly be the coldest night I’ve ever had in my entire life. I had been lured into a false sense of security in the previous weeks of bright sunshine and warm afternoons. Then all of a sudden one night, the temperature dropped and snow fell from the sky.

I hiked during the next day, and somehow missed the mountain-top shelter I was looking for in the late afternoon. I hiked all the way down the mountain, and reached a road crossing just as the sun was disappearing. It was a treeless area, but I had no choice but to set up my tent. All night long, the wind was howling and battering against my tent, while I curled up into a shivering ball. The next morning, I had to dig my tent out of five inches of snow before continuing up the trail.

So, what can you do to stay warm on those freezing cold days and nights?

10 Tips to Stay Warm in Cold Weather

1) Hike in your Wet Clothes

If the weather is cold/ rainy/ snowing/ or anything but sunny, always hike in your wet clothes. When you get to camp, the first thing you will want to do is change into your dry clothes. Go right ahead. But when it’s time to hike the next day, put your wet clothes back on. If you set out into dreary weather in your dry clothes, you will soon have two sets of wet clothes, and you will risk getting hypothermia.

2) Dry Damp Clothes Overnight

Before bed, put your damp clothes in the sleeping bag with you. Ring them out first if they’re too wet. Your body heat will help dry the clothes. They probably won’t dry completely, but at least they won’t be cold when you put them on in the morning.

3) In a Pinch, Use Socks as Gloves

If you didn’t bring gloves and it’s really cold outside, you can just put socks on your hands. Stick your thumbs in the heel of the sock, so you can still grasp your trekking poles.

4) Pack as Added Insulation

On really cold nights, you can use your pack for additional warmth. Just remove everything from inside of your pack, crawl into your sleeping bag, then slide your legs into the pack and pull it up around your knees. It adds a surprising amount of warmth.

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