Miserable. It is the word that sums up the best how you can feel when you are soaked to the bones, shivering, depressed, upset, disappointed and ready to call your mum to tell her to get you home when you are supposed to have fun and enjoy the outdoors. Was it after biking under the rain for 3 hours? Or when the winds of Patagonia were blowing so much that you thought the tent will fly away? Was it after spending the all day with wet feet after following a path that disappeared under the flood? Everybody who has spent a bit of time outside has one of these war stories.
Never let the weather bring you down again with these simple rules on how to stay warm outside whatever the seasons throw at you.
Rule number 1: Keep dry
It is much easier to keep warm when dry, so staying dry as much as possible should be your number one priority when the weather is not on your side.
- A good rain jacket is an investment you will appreciate day after day. I recommend a packable one so that you will always carry it with you with worrying about the bulk. A cheap plastic poncho can do the trick if your activity is not too intense -slow walking / sight seeing.
- Never pack wet. This is valid for your jacket, your tent and your shoes… As much as possible, let dry before packing or dry as soon as possible. Putting newspaper in shoes helps getting the moist out.
- Don’t just use the backpack rain cover. Under continuous rain, humidity will eventually pass through and then surprise surprise you will discover a humid sleeping bag/ change of clothes by the time you need it the most. Using dry bags for your items inside the backpack will limit the risks. Don’t have these? Doubling up your back with a big bin bag is cheap, convenient and effective.
- Don’t over dress when moving (see point number 3). Wear just the right amount of clothes to avoid dripping with sweat which will cool you down and let your layers humid. A bit too warm? Don’t be lazy, stop a few seconds to remove this extra hoody.
Rule number 2: Isolate and layer up
Several layers keep warm air better than a single, thicker one. It also offers more flexibility when conditions are changing.
- Think about the onions technique. Warm next to skin material (wool base layer), technical material, a soft shell and a rain jacket. It works for everything: silk gloves under waterproof gloves, hat+ hood, 2 pairs of socks, even in the sleeping bag where a linen can help you add up to 2C off warm.
- Bring a hat and pack gloves. Covering extremities makes a huge difference! A simple buff and thin silk gloves can help cutting off bitting wind. Covering extremities makes a huge difference!
- Camping? Don’t forget your mattress. Much more essential to cut the cold and humidity from the floor than for actual comfort!
Rule number 3: Keep moving!
Even if you are soaked wet to the bones (it can happen even if following point number 1), in temperate conditions you will always keep reasonably warm as long as you keep moving.
- Limit the stops to the minimum. Wearing the proper clothes, it usually takes 5-10min to get warm.
- Cold? Push the pace up.
- If you have to stop for more than 5 minutes, add a layer before getting cold.
Rule number 4: Drink and eat warm
After a miserable day outside, a warm meal is good for the body and the soul. Your mood is improved, your belly (and your hands!) warmed.
- Plan for a hot meal in a pub or a cabin. You will be amazed by the magic powers it can have on a couple of cyclists who spent the morning under continuous rain. Going trekking? It is totally worth carrying a small stove, even if it just to make noodles or soup!
- Invest in a good thermos. On day hikes, the thermos of coffee or tea provides a nice treat after a sandwich break. When camping, it will double up as a nice hot water bottle to warm up your sleeping bag. Ensure the bottle is properly closed and remove before falling asleep!
Now you are ready to head off to colder climates: check this post about visiting Stockholm in winter.
For more details on equipment and what to pack, check out what’s inside my backpack.