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June 2015 Issue
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Stay warm in the bitter cold

photo; Activesteve
Whitney Thurlow from Aspiring Guides shares some of his top tips for keeping your body temperature up in sub-zero conditions

The secret to winter hiking is to be prepared for a wide variety of conditions. Days can begin well below freezing before turning into what you might expect on a hot summer’s day. Wet conditions aggravate the situation, being wet when it’s five degrees is an entirely more serious condition than being wet at 15-20 degrees.

Use your head and hands to regulate temperature. Your head and hands are where the blood is closest to the skin where it can be either cooled or heated the fastest. When you know your temperature will be rising, such as when you start up a big hill, take off your gloves and hat before you get hot. Likewise, if the clouds are rolling in and the temperature is dropping, have your gloves and hat ready to put on without stopping.

Don’t depend on a down jacket to keep you warm. While a light down jacket can come in handy, unless it has hydrophobic-treated fill, once it gets wet it will be useless.

Layer your clothing. Many layers of synthetic clothing give you the flexibility to deal with whatever comes along. Two mid-weight tops are better than one thick one.

Plan on getting wet to your skin. If conditions get bad enough, even the best wet-weather gear will not keep you dry. Being wet and warm can mean the difference between a successful trip and an epic.

Take an umbrella. I’m a big fan of umbrellas; they’re an easy way to keep your head warm in the rain and cool in the sun. Even more importantly, that brolly just might get you to take out your camera and get that dramatic bad-weather photo you might otherwise have missed.

– Whitney Thurlow is chief guide and a director of Aspiring Guides, Wanaka