Summiting the highest peaks of Nepal is not for the faint of heart or the ill prepared. For many years, Sherpas have found ways to smartly manage body temperature and adapt remarkably to their surroundings to fight frigid temperatures. Read more to find out our top recommendations to prepare for inclement weather and keep warm on mountain treks.
1. Layer adequately
To regulate your core temperature and adapt to changing conditions, a proper layering system is key. The layering system should be designed to do two important things: keep you dry and prevent you from cooling down too fast.
Clothing closest to the body should be able to wick away moisture caused from sweat. Staying dry is crucial in the cold, and a relatively thin wool or polyester layer with wicking technology is essential for creating evaporation that happens away from the skin.
The purpose of the next layer, or mid layer, is to insulate and trap warm air. Typically, a down filled, wool or polyester fleece jacket does the trick for this. Depending on temperatures and needed mobility, more than one mid layer may be worn.
The outermost layer should be designed with weather in mind. A waterproof and windproof breathable hardshell is key to protection from outside moisture and decreased temperatures caused by windchill. This specific type of jacket will keep in the warm air collected by the insulation layer, and it will allow only inside moisture to escape.
In addition to simply having the proper layering system, utilization is equally important. Layers should be shed as moisture begins to collect more rapidly, or as core body temperature fluctuates. Mobility should be considered as well, as a combination that’s too bulky can limit movement and the ability to generate much needed body heat.
2. Pace yourself
While at high elevations in cold temperatures, core body temperature regulation should be a constant assessment. A quick drop in body heat can result in hypothermia. If a rest period or slowed pace has left you feeling cold, the quickest and most effective way to warm up is through movement. Jumping jacks or even running in place are useful tricks for increasing circulation and energizing muscles.
A good pace for your trek will effectively manage movement. Establishing a rate that is neither too strenuous nor too leisurely will ensure that perspiration is kept at bay. Overreaching can cause moisture to collect and overheating to occur. But a slow pace will not allow for enough body heat. As a rule of thumb, try to trek at a rate that keeps fingers and toes warm, but doesn’t cause you to pant heavily.
3. Eat and drink sufficiently
Certain foods can help energize and warm up the body. To stay fueled, pack snacks that are high in fat for slow burning energy, like nuts, cheese or chocolate. Carry enough to eat often, or whenever you feel fatigued or chilly.
Even if you aren’t perspiring too much, dehydration is a risk that should always be calculated. Drinking plenty of water is an obvious necessity. If you prefer cold water, to keep it from freezing, carry it in a wide mouthed water bottle covered in an insulated sleeve. Additionally, drinking hot water or other warm beverage from a thermos is another great option. It will hydrate you and just as importantly, it will warm your insides and provide needed psychological comfort in sub zero temperatures.
4. Camp (and sleep) smart
Nighttime temperatures in snowy mountains will drop considerably when compared to daytime conditions. When preparing to camp overnight, the proper gear can keep you feeling warm and protected even in sub-zero climates.
Begin with the right tent. Not only will a smaller tent be lighter and easier to carry, but it sits closer to your body as you sleep, keeping rising heat closer to your core. The addition of a rain fly will help insulate and retain that heat.
Bring a quality down sleeping bag, and wear your base layers along with a wool hat and thick socks to sleep. Protect yourself from the ground by laying down a sleeping pad with a high R value (the value that measures how well a pad will insulate you from the ground). The addition of a thick wool blanket laid on the tent floor will ensure further insulation as well. To warm up your sleeping area before bed, boil some water and allow it to cool slightly, then place it in a sealed container which can be used to heat up a sleeping bag prior to crawling in.
Interested in stocking up on cold weather essentials? Take a look at our Sherpa tested top picks for winter warmth.
Lanza, Michael. “12 Pro Tips for Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter.” The Big Outside. https://thebigoutside.com/12-pro-tips-for-staying-warm-outdoors-in-winter/. Accessed 30 December 2017.
“Keeping Warm in Cold Mountain Weather.” Summit Post. http://www.summitpost.org/keeping-warm-in-cold-mountain-weather/833548. Accessed 30 December 2017.
Collins, Dave. “7 Best Sleeping Pads of 2017.” Clever Hiker. http://www.cleverhiker.com/best-sleeping-pads/. Accessed 30 December 2017.