Staying warm and happy on winter hikes

My first trip to Sequoia during the winter time was memorable with great adventures, but it's also memorable due not taking proper precautions for a winter backpacking trip. I was using a new sleeping bag that I thought would be "good enough". If hugging your body during the night so tightly that you wake up with bruised ribs is considered "good enough" then I guess it was a good sleeping bag! The real tragedy was when I went to use my iPod and the battery was dead! 

There isn't much more miserable than being cold on those winter hikes. It also can be miserable when your favorite electronics die out on the trail. Here are 4 basic tips to help you avoid having a miserable time on those winter treks.

1. Layers These are key to keeping your body warm, don't get cold and then put on layers hoping to warm up. Instead, layer up and if you need to, layer down as you hike to keep your body at a comfortable temperature. Don't wear cotton. Invest in a synthetic material that is moisture wicking. Cotton will likely remain wet due to sweat or other elements and will just further exacerbate the feeling of cold. If your under layer is wet, remove it and rely on the other layers. You will only remain cold if your clothing is wet. Don't forget those gloves and beanies!

2. Nutrition. The reason why your body shivers when you are cold is that it is trying to create warmth through movement. Shivering will slow down and not be as productive if you haven't been keeping yourself nourished. You need to actually eat more during your winter hikes than summer hikes to ensure your body has the energy to shiver if need be. Being hydrated also helps keep the system warm. Just because you aren't sweating doesn't mean you don't need water!

3. Warm the core. Hot beverages like coffee or hot chocolate not only taste great, but also help keep your core warm. When your core is warm, your blood circulates to your limbs, thus keeping your legs, feet, arms, and hands warmer. This sorta goes back to those layers, layering up your core combined with a warm beverage can do miracles for your body. 

4. Keep your electronics close to your body. Batteries do not do well in the cold. The elements suck the life out of the battery much more quickly than when temperatures are warmer. If you are doing any winter camping or backpacking, putting your device in your sleeping bag will help prolong that battery life for your phones. After all, you wont have any proof that you actually camped out in the snow if you don't have any pics! 

Get reconnected to nature even if it's cold. Don't allow the winter to slow your hiking game. Most people see the winter as the end of the backpacking and hiking season, but with proper measures and precautions, you can see it as the beginning. 

-Chris Duarte