10 Tips To Stay Warm During Extreme Winters
Venturing into some of the most extreme cold environments in the world has been very exiting! I’ve never got close to the temperatures I have endured the past winters back in South Africa and traveling through other cold countries. I love summers and never been a winter person… Why was that??
1. Why People Hate Winters
I kept asking myself that question and as I adventured through Kazakhstan, Siberia & Mongolia, and one day it clicked. I hated BEING cold and its not the cold itself. So, staying warm was the challenge and when it was -35°C (-31°F) standing outside… and as I conquered the cold, I began to fell in love with the winter!
Believe it or not, but being warm was a problem most of the time and not being too cold. Your body generates tons of heat while you are active and most times its hard not to sweat. When you sweat it form a ice layer between you and your clothing and this is the point when you cool down very fast. There’s been times when I worked too hard and everything would freeze solid in a matter of three minutes.
2. Layers Layers Layers!!
I had some practiced with layers back in Europe, but things came to another level this winter. I cant say how many times I would stop during the day taking off layer or putting them back on. At first it feels like a burden, but it quickly became part of the winter expedition.
People would stop, look at me and think I’m just crazy… not because I’m outside in -30°C (-22°F) weather, but because of what I’m wearing. At times I had only a base layer on, because of the heat my body was generating. They would touch my clothes, shake their head and at times offer me some of theirs.
The secret with layers is that you need to take things off before you sweat or even get a hot flash through your body. Being cold for five or ten minutes is much better than to sweat and battle staying warm from that point.
3. Keep Them Close
My fleece top, wind breaker or down jacket would always be close and easy accessible. You don’t want to struggle putting something away or putting it on. So I would always use bungee cords to strap the layers onto the back of my duffle bag. I would always have the exact same routines in taking things off or putting them back on…
** TIP: Always take jackets off with the sleeves ready to put back on in a few second (meaning not upside down!!) You don’t want to struggle with putting on a layer for a minute or two! Stop, grab a jacket, put it on, zip up and jump back on the bike. This whole process, from the moment you stop until back on the wheels are turning again must only take between 15 and 20 seconds!
4. Have Enough Layers
My perfect layers on a day-to-basis:
– First Ascent Base Layer
– Fleece Top (Not wind-proof)
Extra Layers: Always have extra pair of base layers, long johns, fleece and Buffs close.
Gloves: I started the winter with four pairs of gloves… to test what works best. I ended with two pairs which gave me the widest range of winter temperatures. A thin pair and a pair of mitts. I would start the day with mitts, change to thinner gloves and whenever it gets cold would put the mitts back on. Some days I changed between them five to ten times, all depending on the temperatures and wind.
** TIP: Always wear a FLEECE beanie and ALWAYS a Buff or two! Buffs will keep your neck warm, as well to help underneath your beanie on extreme cold days
5. Permanent Second Skin
In the winter you have to get use to stay in some clothes… and with this I mean between three weeks and two months. Believe me, it gets cold and changing clothes in a -30°C (-22°F) tent is not fun!
Permanent Winter Second Skin Layers:
– Base Layer Top
– Long John Base Layer
6. The Essential Down Jacket
If you have this, you won’t be cold… leave it at home and you will freeze throughout your trip!
My First Ascent Down was always close and would put it on whenever I take a five minute tea break, ten minute snack breaks or setting up camp. There is not many times that you would feel cold when wearing a proper down jacket… and the big perk is that its light and pack up very small!
** TIP: Spend money on a proper Down Jacket! You’ll never regret it.
7. Body Fuel – Food & Drinks
To eat and drink is probably the most important thing during any winter expedition. I found it hard most of the times (especially in the morning) to stuff things down my throat. You don’t get that thirsty feeling in the winter as you do in the summer, so drinking throughout the day is more of a chore and habit that anything else.
Nights – When the sun goes down I get hungry! So,I would eat as much as I can and make sure I make a proper dinner. While preparing and eating, I would rehydrate by drinking between 2L and 4L (about one gallon) of water and tea.
** TIP: If you don’t eat and drink you will be much colder than when you are filled up!! Your body needs a substantial amount of calories and water to keep going, even if it is not giving you the constant signs like in summer. I found that in winter when your body tell gives you signs of hunger of thirst, its almost to late. This point you will feel like you have nothing within you to keep pushing physically.
**TIP 2: What food… Pasta’s, meat, chocolate, garlic, olive oil, butter… anything that have tons of calories
8. Your Home – Tent
Have a proper FOUR season tent!!!
9. Listen to your body
The most important thing in the winter is to ALWAYS listen to al the signs your body throws at you. If you feel warm, take something off… If you are cold, put something on! And saying this, it is the same with food. Take the necessary calories and make sure to stay hydrated.
** Fun Fact – You burn between three and five times more calories in the winter than an average man (or woman) in normal day-to-day lives
10. Go Back For More!!
After the winter you would probably have learned so much, staying warm and surviving, you will probably have created a new passion… so make yourself ready to go out and do the next winter!
** NEXT BLOG: Winter Clothes Review (First Ascent Clothing, Buffs, Shoes and Gloves)
Cheers for now…