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12 Tips and Tricks to Stay Warm Outdoors in Winter

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Whether you're winter climbing, walking, or indulging in the ultimate masochism of a sub-zero camp, having all the right gear is only half the battle. From cuddling a hot bottle of juice all night, to changing your baselayer on a windy hillside, here are some handy hints for winter comfort, from the cold-blooded Fliss Freeborn.

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5
 Pedro50 31 Jan 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Lots of good advice. I'm a fan of PhD down booties rather than fluffy socks. Pricey but excellent. 

In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

An amusing and very useful read.

In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Post-covid tip: wear a mask. Acts to noticeably increase body temperature. Uncomfortably so, at times...

Car camping: use a layer of 3mm EPE underlay or JiffyWrap as a footprint. Makes the tent inner floor a lot warmer. I carry a smaller piece in my rucksack as a sitmat/casmat; it's a fetching pink antistatic grade...

 DerwentDiluted 31 Jan 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

A good bit of advice I was once given was, if you need to pee, pee. A lot of body heat goes to heat up urine that could be better used heating up the rest of you.

12
 girlymonkey 31 Jan 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

If car camping, I take extra duvets for under my sleeping mat and my proper pillow from my bed! Why slum it when you have plenty of space to carry it all?!

I often do the hot water bottle trick at bed time.

A quick jog around your campsite before bed makes a big difference too.

Make sure bed socks aren't tight.

I put my warm layers over my sleeping bag as an extra blanket type layer. 

In reply to girlymonkey:

> If car camping, I take...

...my 10cm thick Vango Comfort Grande. And a proper pillow...

 gethin_allen 31 Jan 2022
In reply to DerwentDiluted:

I'd agree with the point of going when you need to but not for the same reason. I don't think the extra warm liquid in the bladder is losing much heat but it is very difficult to get back to sleep properly when you wake up in the middle of the night needing the loo.

In reply to gethin_allen:

Having that warm pee inside you increases your thermal mass, which will reduce the rate at which you cool...

Pee into a secure bottle, and use as a hot water bottle. Bladder comfort and retained heat...

2
 olddirtydoggy 31 Jan 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Last week I made the mistake of taking a cheap, flock airbed onto a capsite as I thought it would be more comfortable than a Thermarest. I discovered on night one that there's a reason they call them 'Therm'arest..... My winter bag was rendered useless as the cold went straight from the floor to my body. Night two I slept in the drying room, best nights sleep I've ever had. Can't imagine a drying room is much fun with wet kit in it though.

 veteye 01 Feb 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

When I was on Denali, I found out by experience that I actually had to keep my bag of contact lens (hard ones) containers and fluids, in between my legs. It was the only way, higher up on the mountain, to keep things from being of sludge like consistency or worse.

I find that I only put clothing on inside my bag in true colder conditions, as I tend to sleep better with less on, and it's a lot easier to turn over, with only your skin to rotate. (I still, nevertheless, use clothing when it is that cold).  As suggested above I use other clothes on the outside of the bag as insulation too.

 Chris Craggs Global Crag Moderator  UKC Supporter 01 Feb 2022
In reply to DerwentDiluted:

> A good bit of advice I was once given was, if you need to pee, pee. A lot of body heat goes to heat up urine that could be better used heating up the rest of you.

I can’t see that making a difference, the pee is already at body temperature, by pi55ing it out you are actually losing heat. A trick I was taught many years ago was, if it is very cold, pi55ing on your hands really warms them up. Stops you biting your nails too,

Chris 😀

 Sealwife 01 Feb 2022
In reply to olddirtydoggy:

Pop a cheap closed cell foam camp mat onto the floor of your tent, under the air bed to insulate it.  Also protects air bed from any spiky thing going unnoticed under the tent

 DerwentDiluted 01 Feb 2022
In reply to Chris Craggs:

To pee or not to pee, that is the question. Wether tis better in the night to suffer the tingles and arrows of outrageous bladder distortion, or to shake arms against pee troubles, and, by pissing, end them?

 I might have been misinformed, they way it was explained to me was that it focussed thermal output from the liver on warming up or maintaing the temperature of non-jettisonable body mass, making more heat available for the more useful bits.

Post edited at 08:33
In reply to DerwentDiluted:

I find that having a pee relaxes everything in my pelvic area, which seems to help circulation in my legs and feet. Not sure if that's just me, or it's purely psychological...

 Marek 01 Feb 2022
In reply to DerwentDiluted:

>  I might have been misinformed...

I'd stick with that.

2
 Fliss Freeborn 01 Feb 2022
In reply to captain paranoia:

That's a bloody great idea. Nice one.

 Fliss Freeborn 01 Feb 2022
In reply to Chris Craggs:

It warms them up for a bit initially, but water conducts heat away from your body faster than air by a long way, so it's a bit of a false friend in the same way as breathing into your hands to heat them up. Also questionable practice in general but each to their own.

 Marek 01 Feb 2022
In reply to Fliss Freeborn:

Totally unscientific, but a personal impression...

I sometimes think that there's some 'hysteresis' in extremity circulation. If my hands are numb with cold (usually on the bike), doing something which warms them up for a short time - e.g., shoving them somewhere warm for a minute - somehow prompts the blood to start flowing and after that they stay warm. Chris's suggestion may have the same effect (if it's real).

 gethin_allen 01 Feb 2022
In reply to DerwentDiluted:

If it were a mass of liquid outside the body that you were heating up then yes it would take some energy to warm but as it it internal and not losing heat to anywhere significant while only very minimally increasing your surface area by swelling your abdomen by a tiny amount then there's not going to be any change. Also, if you consider a 70 kg man and a maybe 300-400 g wee you're talking about ~0.5% of your body weight.

 climbingpixie 01 Feb 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Possibly implied but I'd add to the first point - change your sweaty bra! I've been taking a spare baselayer to change into after sweaty walk ins for ages but last summer it finally occurred to me that this was of limited value going over a wet sports bra, which both chills you and wets your top again.

 Marek 01 Feb 2022
In reply to climbingpixie:

> Possibly implied but I'd add to the first point - change your sweaty bra! I've been taking a spare baselayer to change into after sweaty walk ins for ages but last summer it finally occurred to me that this was of limited value going over a wet sports bra, which both chills you and wets your top again.

Presumably - and this may be relevant to a wider population - changing the rest of one's underwear (whatever the preferred terminology may be) is also advised? At the first belay stance? I shudder to think!

 Fredt 01 Feb 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Last summer I was doing a glacier plod, starting in the dark. I soon regretted my choice of boots having opted for the thinner Hanwags rather than my Scarpa Nepals. I was above 4000 metres and my feet stated getting very cold, and I was worried to the point of wondering whether to bale. 

However, I could see that I would soon be stepping into the sunshine so I carried on, but feet were getting painfully cold, and I have always assumed this would be due to the crampons carrying the heat onto the ice. I was approaching the sun, and soon it was shining on my upper body, but my feet were still in the freezing shade. Surprisingly my feet started to warm, and though still in the shade 30 minutes later, (I was traversing below a horizontal ridge) they were no longer cold.) 

My only (possibly wrong) conclusions were that my body being warmer improved the circulation, or maybe the blood vessels in my feet opened up when my body got warmer. Or was it psychological? Any explanations would be useful.

 Sean Kelly 01 Feb 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Try to boil as little water as possible in the actual tent as all the condensation freezes onto the roof of the tent. Fine if it stays frozen but once you get the cooker going it's raining inside!

Goretex liner for the sleeping bag with a closed cell foam mat between this and the ground.

Don't think that an extra pair of sox keeps the feet warm inside winter boots. Restricted circulation leads to cold feet.

The idea for changing thermals is spot on. Can easily be done inside a emergency shelter in the worst of weather.

 scoth 01 Feb 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Some good tips in terms of kit and clothing. But what about food? I find that as important to any layer I put on, especially at night. A pie just before bed is my choice. The article does mention the wee puddings, but not sure I'd want to drink the water after having plastic pots boiling in it for a few minutes. 

In reply to DerwentDiluted:

> A good bit of advice I was once given was, if you need to pee, pee. A lot of body heat goes to heat up urine that could be better used heating up the rest of you.

Don’t know about that, but the NHS have been known to use warmed fluid circulated through the bladder to help revive severely hypothermic patients. There must be some transfer of heat from the bladder I guess then to other parts of the body, (most like guess would be to the blood vessels?), so retaining some urine in the bladder must help to retain some body heat whilst sleeping would be a reasonable assumption?

In reply to scoth:

> The article does mention the wee puddings.

Come on, I can deal with peeing on my hands to warm them up, but that's pushing it a bit far, even for me.

 veteye 01 Feb 2022
In reply to Fredt:

The business of your feet being in the shade, whilst you are mostly in the sun, parallels the situation with those of us with Reynaud's phenomenon (RP), in that peripheral circulation shuts down in good part (and pathology goes on in the peripheral capillaries) in the hands and feet. RP sufferers combat this not just by increasing insulation to hands and feet, arms etc, but more comprehensively fend it off, by having several more layers keep the trunk in a warmer state. Then the circulation can readily supply warmer blood to those peripheral areas, and keep the vascular beds open. Result: The hands and feet keep warm for longer.

In reply to Fredt:

> Any explanations would be useful.

The body reacts to falling core temperature by shutting down circulation to the extremities.

"Got cold feet? Wear a hat." Classic mountaineer's maxim.

Wearing a hat helps reduce core temperature loss.

I remember my sister sitting on a chair lift, complaining her feet were cold. She got a bit narky when i told her to put her nicely insulated hood up. It worked, of course.

 dovebiker 02 Feb 2022

I've spent a few days doing unsupported, multi-day fat-bike events in the arctic winter where temperatures never got above -10C. 

Agree on the changing base layers, but also the importance of trying to keep your base layer dry - if you feel your starting to perspire, either reduce exercise intensity or lose a layer. Putting a jacket on when you stop is far easier than stripping off. Synthetics are also far superior - I'd rather be stinky and warm than cold and clammy in expensive merino.

On multi-day events, keeping your footwear warm and dry in extreme cold is essential. A pair a fuel hand warmers e.g. Whitby/Zippo last for hours. Putting them in your boots overnight means they'll be warm and dry in the morning. I ran out of fuel on the fifth night - it was -27C and my boot froze almost instantaneously when I took them off. Fortunately I had a metal coffee can that I filled with hot water and stuffed down inside the boots to soften them enough to put them on.

 deepsoup 02 Feb 2022
In reply to Climbing Pieman:

> Don’t know about that, but the NHS have been known to use warmed fluid circulated through the bladder to help revive severely hypothermic patients.

Crikey.

> ..so retaining some urine in the bladder must help to retain some body heat whilst sleeping would be a reasonable assumption?

Only a negligible theoretical amount, because it adds a bit of thermal mass.  Compared to the mass of the rest of the fluid and stuff inside your body it's absolutely bugger all.  And if you made a habit of "retaining some urine in the bladder" for a lifetime the benefits would probably be outweighed by one single time you needed to drag yourself out of your sleeping bag in the middle of the night for a wee.

Post edited at 10:32
 dread-i 02 Feb 2022
In reply to Sean Kelly:

>Try to boil as little water as possible in the actual tent as all the condensation freezes onto the roof of the tent. Fine if it stays frozen but once you get the cooker going it's raining inside!

A cautionary tale, that happened to a, erm, friend.

You might have a tent with a vestibule at the side. You might think that rather than getting up for a wee, you could unzip the inner tent, unzip your bag and wee on the grass under the outer flysheet. If you do, the steam will rise and then freeze on the flysheet. It takes some time and a good a few airings for the tent to regain freshness.

 OwenM 02 Feb 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

If it's really cold put your boots in  plastic bag under your knees. The old style plastic boots were good for this as you only needed to keep the inners from freezing. If even colder put them in the same place but inside your bag, along with your water bottle and gas.

Take several pairs of liner gloves and a big pair of mittens. 

 Jenny C 02 Feb 2022
In reply to climbingpixie:

> Possibly implied but I'd add to the first point - change your sweaty bra! I've been taking a spare baselayer to change into after sweaty walk ins for ages but last summer it finally occurred to me that this was of limited value going over a wet sports bra, which both chills you and wets your top again.

Depending on what support you need, think about swapping out the sports bra for a lacy number as lace really isn't at all absorbent.

(Edited for typo)

Post edited at 12:09
 65 02 Feb 2022
In reply to veteye:

A friend of mine suffered from this. He has to take a lot of care skiing and winter climbing.

My 5centimes worth: two boiled eggs, pop them into your pockets as hand warmers for gearing up, then eat the eggs.

 kathrync 02 Feb 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

My terrible habit in winter is pulling the hood of my sleeping bag over my face. I do this all year round, and tend to sleep with the duvet over my face at home as well. Most of the time this is fine, but in winter all the moisture in my breath condenses in the sleeping bag, and it gets wet surprisingly quickly.

I've started pulling a buff or something over my face before I sleep now in an effort to trick myself into refraining from retreating into my sleeping bag after I fall asleep. Success is limited - suggestions welcome!

 Sealwife 02 Feb 2022
In reply to climbingpixie:

I’d never really considered the effect of a damp, cold sports bra until a couple of recent experiences doing Parkrun in the lashing rain, when on arriving home, Id discovered that the rest of my breathable, quick drying sportswear had in fact dried out, but my bra was still soaking wet and freezing cold and causing a comedy wet bra shaped imprint on my base layer.

Glad I didn’t go to the cafe for a coffee afterwards 

In reply to Marek:

> I sometimes think that there's some 'hysteresis' in extremity circulation.

That certainly seems to be the case for Raynauds (which I have). Once your hands/feet go white, your core temperature can rise so that you are sweating, before circulation returns. Most of the time, I don't get hot aches as a result. One the rare occasion I have had hot aches, it's because I've got cold 'normally'. One particularly memorable occasion was walking up Sgorr nam Fiannaidh on a bitterly cold and windy day, stopping briefly at the top to have a bite to eat and take a couple of photos, and then realising I was very cold, and running along the ridge, to try to warm up, to the top of the Clachaig Gully, where I collapsed into a gurning heap, fortunately, in the sun and out of the wind, until the hot aches passed. And then came down via Cnap Glas, glowing nicely.

I'm crap at noticing I am cold (or I have a high tolerance to core temperature range). WFH during lockdown, I have sat at my computer for long spells, in my not very warm house, and got quite cold. I have had more chilblains than usual as a result, even quite late into the year. I have wondered if this is something to do with cycling every day to school/work, lightly dressed, and relying on the effort to balance the heat loss. Provided I am working hard enough, my skin temperature can drop quite low, whilst still having a sweaty back. I cycled to an ECG once, and the nurse applying the electrode patches was a bit concerned about how cold my chest was...

The point of this rambling is that I think there is quite a large variation in body reaction to cold...

 deepsoup 02 Feb 2022
In reply to kathrync:

> Success is limited - suggestions welcome!

Snorkel?

 HardenClimber 02 Feb 2022
In reply to dovebiker:

The fuel hand / boot warmers with charcoal / petrol .....how much carbon monoxide do they produce. Just a little paranoia about sealed tents / snow holes.

 kathrync 02 Feb 2022
In reply to deepsoup:

> Snorkel?

Ha! I like it!

In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

> Change your baselayer if you're stopping after hard exercise 

I have one word for you: Brynje.

Because the majority of it is air, it holds little moisture and dries in minutes. It's also incredibly warm, and it negates any need for freezing your bits off while you strip down to change your bottom-most layer. The single best bit of clothing I've ever discovered for UK winter.

 deepsoup 02 Feb 2022
In reply to tehmarks:

> I have one word for you: Brynje.

The other Rab.

Post edited at 18:49

 dovebiker 02 Feb 2022
In reply to HardenClimber:

> The fuel hand / boot warmers with charcoal / petrol .....how much carbon monoxide do they produce. Just a little paranoia about sealed tents / snow holes.

I have only used them in open shelters, the type common across Finland but the level of ‘burn’ is very low, there’s no perceptible flame - using a stove inside a tent or snow hole would create a far higher level of CO emission. Clearly, over time there could be an accumulation, so ensuring that any confined space is adequately ventilated would be a prudent measure.

 TechnoJim 02 Feb 2022
In reply to kathrync:

Silk balaclava. Not used in anger yet but it's my next try. I can't nod off unless my face is covered.

 climbingpixie 02 Feb 2022
In reply to Jenny C:

Are you sure you're not my boyfriend trying to make our climbing trips more entertaining?

I'll have a think about that next time I'm bra shopping. I don't need much support if all I'm doing is walking and climbing but I despise underwiring or anything uncomfortable so that might be the limiting factor. But maybe there's some kind of suitable bralette type thing out there.

In reply to TechnoJim:

I've used one for the same purpose, as well as to keep the bag clean when not using a liner.

I use a thin running 'cap', too, which comes down over the eyes. Acts as an eye shade, too.

 climbingpixie 02 Feb 2022
In reply to Sealwife:

Ha! Yes, been there, done that. My boyfriend bought me a dryrobe a couple of xmases ago though and it's an absolute godsend for this sort of thing. I was happy to change out of my shorts/top in a busy car park (e.g. after orienteering or MTB) but I'd often avoid changing my bra because it's difficult to do without flashing. Now I just chuck the dryrobe over my wet kit while I sort my bike out then zip it up and get changed underneath it

In reply to climbingpixie:

> Are you sure you're not my boyfriend trying to make our climbing trips more entertaining?

A thought similar to that crossed my mind, but I wasn't sure it was a suitable thought to have. Or to express, more accurately...

 Sealwife 02 Feb 2022
In reply to climbingpixie:

I have a dryrobe for after swimming or kayaking but had never thought about taking it to Parkrun with me, but having looked at this weekend’s forecast, I might fling it in the car!  

In reply to deepsoup:

> The other Rab.

If it's good enough for submariners it's good enough for me.


 climbingpixie 02 Feb 2022
In reply to Sealwife:

Do it! It makes miserable weather so much more bearable. I think mine was inspired by a particularly grim experience sorting the bikes out then getting changed on a sleeting winter day, one of those where it seems to take hours to warm up again afterwards. It's absolutely perfect for that sort of thing, takes a lot of the sting out of bad weather running/riding.

In reply to Ridge:

Ah, the costumes in UFO...

In reply to captain paranoia:

> Ah, the costumes in UFO...

The arrival of the real 1980's came as a great disappointment to me.

 Jenny C 03 Feb 2022
In reply to climbingpixie:

> Are you sure you're not my boyfriend trying to make our climbing trips more entertaining?

Yes it's me (honest!).

I've heard quite a few open water swimmers suggest just using underwear for quick summer dips when you're out walking. Lycra swimwear takes ages to dry, but "normal" underwear isn't really that absorbent. 

Doesn't need to be a sexy number, you can, actually get quite modest ones that show no more than your would in a bikini. Definatly less sweaty than a sports bra, although you do undoubtedly sacrifice support.

In reply to tehmarks:

I had never heard of Brynje so thought id have a look as I do suffer from getting quite sweaty on approaches in the winter.. 
https://www.nordiclife.co.uk/collections/brynje

Looks like some serious kit... with some serious prices!

 deepsoup 03 Feb 2022
In reply to Spready:

> Looks like some serious kit... with some serious prices!

I was taking the piss slightly above, so should perhaps say..  It is really good stuff. 

I often wear a long-sleeved shirt as a base layer under my drysuit for winter sea kayaking (so adjusting layers and ventilation 'on the fly' is not an option and getting a bit sweaty when working hard is inevitable).  Really helps to keep the clamminess at bay.

Post edited at 12:22
In reply to Spready:

Similar kit quite popular in bicycle land eg:

https://www.wiggle.co.uk/dhb-lightweight-mesh-short-sleeve-baselayer
 

some quite cheap versions

 dread-i 03 Feb 2022
In reply to Spready:

> I had never heard of Brynje so thought id have a look as I do suffer from getting quite sweaty on approaches in the winter..

One of the advantages, is if you vent a mid layer, the cold air hits your skin and cools and refreshes you nicely. With a 'wicking' base layer, venting makes the sweaty material cold. Then you have cold, wet, clammy stuff against your skin.

In reply to Spready:

The aclima stuff is good and sometimes cheap on alpinetrek.  It will change your life (although it is doubtless the most hideous item of clothing out there and will make you look like somthing out of an s&m dungeon at Glenmore lodge)

Post edited at 17:01
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Great read and lots of good info, makes the small article I just wrote look s""t..


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