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Blitz your winter worries

Image of the July 2021 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
July 2021 Issue

Got the winter blues? Don’t panic, these eight tips and winter hacks will stave off the cold and keep you tripping on the track.

1. Hydration: While hydration systems provide easy access to water on the hoof, in very cold environments the bite valve can freeze. A large-opening drink bottle, such as a Nalgene bottle, is the answer. The wide mouth is also useful for scooping snow for melting and because they tolerate heat well, these bottles can be used as hot water bottles in your sleeping bag.

2. Frozen boots: Wet boots are best avoided in winter, but that’s not always possible. In frosty environments, wet boots can freeze overnight making them an unappealing prospect in the morning. If they’re wet anyway, why not give yourself a tactical advantage and pour hot water through them and your socks (but wring out the water) before setting off. It’ll stop your toes from complaining – at least until the first wet crossing. 

3. Layers: Layering is everything in winter. Always leave changing your layers until the last second before donning your pack. It’ll help keep the warmth sealed in until the last moment.  

4. River crossings: River crossings can sap your energy and warmth. It can be better to have a snack break before a river crossing; you’re ingesting calories that’ll help generate body heat and there will be less standing around after the crossing, meaning you’re immediately moving which also helps generate heat. 

5. Hot drinks: Hot drinks are everything – not just the warmth of the liquid but also the calories you’re taking in. Hot soups help with salt replacement (a treat at the end of a long day) and hot chocolate and sugary coffee are golden oldies. Consider incorporating a quick boil-up into your mid-morning break.

6. Headgear: Wear a beanie – they’re warm and cover your ears. A peaked cap prevents the sun from annoying your eyes but can leave ears exposed to chilly winds. A beanie that’s long and stretchy enough to fit over the peaked cap makes a good combo.

7. Change of clothes: Sweaty layers? Leave them on at the hut if there’s no heat source to dry them (only if you won’t get chilled by doing so). Your body heat will eventually dry them out. Alternatively, push your clothes to the bottom of your sleeping bag for the night. Unless they’re sopping wet (in which case, don’t try this one) they’ll be dry by the morning. 

8. Keep hands warm: Always pack more than one pair of gloves. It’s easy to lose a glove, but it’s also useful to have several versions to match conditions. Take a pair of light polypro liners for in the hut/camp/cave or when you’re on the move. Pack a midweight version for colder, windier or more stagnant moments. You might also like to look at ‘bivvy gloves’ – generally lightweight and filled with synthetic fibres – for keeping digits warm while sitting around at camp.