As we move through the winter I am reminded of the simple tip to help keep you good in colder conditions. In short summary, it can be a very good idea to carry extra layers of hiking clothes while out on the trail. While it's definitely more applicable at colder times of year, it can come in very handy throughout the entire year. Speaking for myself, I've got wet and cold on many a summers day on the mountains I can tell you 🙂
While it is generally colder, depending where you are located on the planet of course, in winter as a matter of course, while you're out hiking you are also generally dealing with more varied and unpredictable variables that the weather and the environment can combine to throw at you that can have a major impact on the temperature.
For example, when hiking, at some point you are usually moving upwards to higher altitudes and it of course gets a colder as you go up (I believe it get's
approximately one degree Celsius /5.4 degrees Fahrenheit cooler for every one thousand meters you ascend). As you ascend on your hike, in can also be very likely to be moving in and out of protective shelter. For example, going above the tree line on a mountain will expose you to stronger and colder winds.
What I'm getting at here, is that the temperature can vary considerably simply by moving to different areas as you hike regardless of the time of year. Add to this some challenging weather conditions like wind, rain, sleet, snow, etc. and it can all add up to mean that you have quite a bit to contend with.
Wear Appropriate Gear
If you're new to hiking then this next piece of advice can't be emphasized enough and it applies all year round, any time of year and in any location you happen to go hiking in.
The first thing you must do to be sure you are able to handle the environment, temperatures changes, weather, etc. is to always ensure you wear the right hiking gear. It's a simple and possibly even obvious thing to state, but after all my years hiking it never ceases to amaze me how many folks I see out on the mountains with the wrong gear on. If something goes wrong for them, they can easily get into serious trouble much faster than someone wearing the right gear.
You Need Rain Gear
Depending on the climate and environment you will be hiking in, always ensure you have good rain gear. At a minimum, your rain gear should consist of a good rain jacket and rain pants. Suitable hiking boots or shoes are also a must. If you are hiking in harsher environments, say for example extreme cold, you will of course need to have more specialized gear for that type of environment. You will also need the appropriate base layers, fleece, etc. too.
An Extra Layer … or two
Now, the key driver in this post states that you should always carry extra layers of hiking clothes while out on the trail. The amount of gear you should carry does vary depending on certain factors. I should add, that it can certainly do no harm to carry a full set of replacement clothes every time you go out hiking, I personally do not do it every time I hit the trail.
I always carry an extra layer or two in terms of warmth. This will be usually one extra base layer and a fleece of some kind as well as an extra hat, gloves and possibly a neck gaiter and / or a balaclava. I do this more or less year round although I will leave the balaclava and neck gaiter at home on hot days. Obviously, you need to take the weather into account but even in warmer climates, when the night falls, the temperature can drop and so an extra layer or two is always sensible to have.
Tip: a simple rule to remember here is to carry an extra layer of warmth more than you think you will need. This may seem a bit much but trust me, it can be very hard to judge what temperatures you will be experiencing in advance. The weather can also turn on a sixpence at any time so an extra layer or two for warmth can come in very handy.
I nearly always carry my extra layer of rain gear. Living in Ireland, we get a lot of rain 🙂 so rain gear is important all year round. However, if I check the forecast, which you should do as a matter of course before you set out on a hike, and there is a blisteringly hot day on the cards with not a drop of rain in sight, I will leave the rain gear in my car, especially if I'm day hiking.
I sometimes take a full replacement of my hiking clothes (hiking pants, tee or shirt, boxers, socks, etc.) I normally only take this out when I am going for a few days camping. If I am going out on a longer day hike and I know I am going to go into really, really, crappy conditions I might also take a full replacement of my hiking clothes.
I always leave a full spare change of regular clothes in my car when day hiking.
If you have your main gear, the stuff you are wearing, right it's not too hard to carry an extra layer or two of hiking clothes in your pack while hiking. As mentioned, some can be optional but I rarely leave the house without some extra layers for warmth and my rain gear.
Layers Aren't Always Being Put On
It's worth noting that in some cases, you will find yourself taking a layer off, even in cold weather. This may seem counter intuitive but it can easily be the case. For example, when you're out of the wind and hiking up very steep terrain, you will likely start to heat up and sweat as you exert yourself more and more even in cold temperatures., especially if you're going at a decent pace.
However, when you stop or the level of exertion goes down as you reach more even ground, the layer of sweat on your skin can cool down very quickly and so you need to get your layers for warmth back on again as quickly as possible.
Basically, it's an ongoing regulation of your body temperature if you will. In terms of sweating, that's also why your base layers, tees, etc. should always have good ‘wicking‘ and some element of ‘breathing' capabilities. It lets the moisture from the inside, your sweat, get out.
While you can get away with just carrying a couple of extra items for warmth, carrying a full set of replacement gear can be a really good idea. A full replacement set of clothes can really become useful if you were to get very wet,. For example, say you were caught in torrential rain or if you were unlucky enough to fall into a river. Having a spare set of dry gear in that situation could even be life saving if you get into difficulty while out on the trail in cold conditions.
You need to always assess your hike in advance and then decide what extra gear you should take with you. Remember, it's better to have some extra than to be short.
It's also a very good idea to carry any extra gear in a dry bag as it will help keep it dry. It ain't much fun when you get soaked through and you go your pack and your spares are as wet as you are 🙁 You can also utilize bin liners /trash bags for this purpose too, can really help to keep stuff inside your pack dry.
A final comment to make on this is that many times you may not need your spare gear but someone in your hiking party might. If you have spare gear with you and someone is getting cold it's great to be able to help them out with an extra layer. I've often loaned someone a pair of gloves.
As alluded to above, people, especially when they start out hiking, can often misjudge the elements which is easily done. Even experienced hikers do it and to this day I still do it myself sometimes. The weather can turn as it chooses, so it's always better to be prepared.
I hope you found this short post useful. Please like, share and / or comment 🙂