Hiking in cold weather

Posted by: balzaccom

Hiking in cold weather - 12/22/15 11:41 AM

A follow-up to some of the conversations here about what to wear when you are hiking in cold weather:

So I have a problem. When I hike (or bike) I get really warm. In fact, when it's 30 degrees out, I have been known to hike in a single thin hiking shirt. Yeah, I was going uphill, and working hard, but I was not cold. And by stripping down to that single long-sleeved shirt, I kept myself from sweating up a storm. That's crucial in cold weather.

But here's the problem. THE MINUTE I stop hiking, I throw on every bit of clothing I have, and I still shiver uncontrollably, because my skin temperature is down around 50 degrees, and it cools off my body completely.

The other day I want for a bike ride with the air temp in the low 40's. I had a cycling jersey and a nice cycling jacket over it. Within minutes, I was sweating bullets. I zipped down the jacket to my navel (going for the Italian Stallion look!) and then zipped down the cycling jersey as well. So for two hours of the ride, I was moving through 40 degree air at 15-20 mph, and wasn't cold at all, nor was I wearing anything on my chest. I was sweating a bit on the back of my neck, where I had two layers of clothing.

I walked in the door of my house, which was 68 degrees, and starting shivering because my chest was about 45 degrees, and was immediately serving as a huge radiator for the rest of my body.

I doubt anyone has a solution for this....but I have to wonder if others don't suffer from something similar.
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: Hiking in cold weather - 12/23/15 01:57 PM

I understand the phenomenon you're talking about, but I suspect that you're a bit more towards the extreme end of it. I too "run hot". The more common problem with me in cold weather is just that I will inevitably have some perspiration on my skin and clothing when I stop and almost immediately put on (a) warmth layer(s). But for me, the core warmth persists longer, I'm still shedding heat for a good while after I stop.

The balance point I strive for is to try to cool down just enough that I still retain plenty of heat, but not so much that I'm sweating after I put on more clothing. I can never just stop, stay plenty warm, and have no perspiration, but trying to optimize between sweating and cooling is worth thinking about.

The only suggestion I can think of for you is to perhaps not "just stop", but plan your stops and slow down, cool down some as you approach your stop point, perhaps even to the point that you can add a light layer before you stop. But I can easily believe that this just wouldn't work, that perspiration would continue.

Another option is the vapor barrier approach --- perhaps a long-sleeved VB inner layer, add that shortly before you stop and then your warmth layer(s). Less comfortable to retain the moisture, but at least you shouldn't be shivering! This site has sold VB stuff for many years: http://warmlite.com/vapor-barrier-clothing/

Here's their treatise on the benefits of VB:
http://warmlite.com/vapor-barrier/

I am NOT pushing VB as some great universal solution. Most folks in most conditions won't prefer it (I don't), but it certainly has its uses in the right situations.
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Hiking in cold weather - 12/24/15 06:41 PM

Thanks, Brian. Not sure I'm sold on the idea of vapor barrier yet, but I will make a more serious effort at "tapering" down my exertions so that I can balance this out a bit more.

My wife, of course, is just the opposite. She can hike in full cold weather gear for hours without warming up, but when she stops, she stays the same temperature. So I am shedding clothes right and left as we hike, and the shivering when we stop. She starts out by laying up...and then stays warm even if we stop for half an hour!
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Hiking in cold weather - 12/24/15 11:29 PM

My temperature control is like your wife's. So I am not sure what I say will help much. Sweating is rarely a problem. So I do not have much to advise about sweating just after stopping.

Perhaps, you go to fast! Maybe do not get into a sweating pace in the first place. I am very much a "turtle"-- go slow and steady and stop very little. I think this approach works better in cold weather.

Are you using your head (literally). Controlling the warmth of my head and neck do a lot for my temperature control. The first thing I do when I stop is to put on a hat.

And have you tried various base layers? I cannot hike in many nylon shirts or fleece. They make me sweat. I find a very thin pure wool layer is the best. I would think many bike jerseys may be too wind-proof- maybe they do not breath well. I do not like bike jerseys. It may be lycra in them.
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Hiking in cold weather - 12/25/15 10:46 AM

Originally Posted By wandering_daisy
Perhaps, you go to fast! Maybe do not get into a sweating pace in the first place. I am very much a "turtle"-- go slow and steady and stop very little. I think this approach works better in cold weather.
...

And have you tried various base layers? I cannot hike in many nylon shirts or fleece. They make me sweat. I find a very thin pure wool layer is the best. I would think many bike jerseys may be too wind-proof- maybe they do not breath well. I do not like bike jerseys. It may be lycra in them.


Haven't tried a wool base layer. That's worth a shot. But I do sweat whenever I exercise. My wife loves the idea that I should hike slower....!
Posted by: bluefish

Re: Hiking in cold weather - 12/26/15 06:40 AM

Same scenario for me. Wife dry, me soaked. I try to stay fueled and hydrated, which helps the pre-hypothermia tremendously. I've had it so bad on training rides on the bike, I've lost my sense of balance. We're doing a pretty grueling trail in the Adirondacks today, and I plan on doing it in a t-shirt and headband. High should be about 30 on the way up. I have a fleece and a shell for a rest stop at the top, most likely wear the shell on the way down. I have zero intention of walking a slower pace, I prefer to hike ahead and look around and explore while waiting for my wife. Staying a bit on the cold side and fuel and fluid has been the key for me. I often carry a spare shirt. Changing out is an instant bit of warmth. I try to be more careful on multi-days, so I don't have to bring lots of spares.
Posted by: Jim M

Re: Hiking in cold weather - 03/18/16 10:38 PM

I have read Stephenson's philosophy on Vapor Barriers before, and had discussions with people in the Backpacking business on the subject. The latest version is longer but doesn't add much to the argument. The premise is unsubstantiated. He says, "if humidity next to your skin reaches 100% (meaning it can’t hold any more water vapor), evaporation stops, chilling stops, and “insensible sweat” stops."
That is probably not true. Anesthesiologists have studied this for years and actually can tell you exactly how much you sweat under all temp/humidity conditions. That evidence does not support Stephenson's claims. On the other hand, I find it most interesting that many arctic adventures say they could not get by without a Vapor Barrier; so there must be something to it. Interesting. I always immediately get condensation with a VB, even when sleeping in the relatively cold outdoors.
Posted by: JustWalking

Re: Hiking in cold weather - 03/19/16 01:37 AM

I'm like you, I sweat at the drop of a hat, so I can commiserate. A thin wool base layer can help, at least it works for me (I actually use a wool blend base layer from KUIU). And I agree with whoever recommended pacing your stop instead of stopping all at once, donning layers as you do - that could give your body a chance to regulate its temp. You could also, after donning your layers and stopping, do some jumping jacks. And definitely put a warm hat on as you slow to stop.
Posted by: JustWalking

Re: Hiking in cold weather - 03/19/16 01:40 AM

I'm a big fan of VBLs in cold weather when at rest (I never use them while on the move, pretty much just at camp). I like sleeping in VBL - keeps me warm and protects my quilt/bag. I've been using them with much success for a few years.

Andy Skurka has a very good piece on VBLs on his site: http://andrewskurka.com/2011/vapor-barrier-liners-theory-application/
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Hiking in cold weather - 03/19/16 11:14 AM

That's a great article. Thanks for the link.

As a cyclist, I am always expecting to sweat when I exercise--and even welcome it. In snow, that's not such a great point of view. I'll have to spend more time hiking in the snow to get myself used to modulating my rate of exertion to minimize perspiration.

Oh darn.