Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lightweight Tip of the Week: Warm Clothing

I always find it hard to decide how much clothing to take on a hike. Over the years I've found I don't need many changes of clothes, and have gotten quite good at doing laundry on the trail. Where the indecision comes into play is for clothing to wear while in camp. I never get cold on the trail, as long as I keep moving. I typically hike in shorts and a tshirt, with a windproof/water-resistant shell for particularly cold mornings. Once I'm in camp, I cool down quite quickly if I'm not careful.

Rather than packing fleece pants, wool sweater, and gore-tex jacket as I used to do, I've found a few tricks to stay warm without having to carry any extra weight:
  • Change as soon as you get to camp. Remove wet, sweaty clothes, hang them up to air, and put on a light shirt exclusively for camp use.
  • Eat a warm meal as soon as possible. Even if it isn't dinner, have a cup of soup or something else quick.
  • Get in your sleeping bag. When we were in the Sierras, we often got to camp in the early afternoon. Rather than stand around shivering all evening (it got very cold after 5:00) we would just get into our sleeping bags and read, chat, or nap. Later, we might get up and make dinner, go for a walk, or visit other campers.
  • Wear everything. If you're still cold, put on a couple of shirts, your jacket, rain poncho, whatever you have that's dry. I have lightweight silk long underwear that add a surprising amount of warmth under my pants. Socks on your hands can serve as gloves, and a toque (wool hat) is on my essential gear list.
  • Don't sit on the ground. Cold ground or rocks will suck the warmth out of you. I use my z-lite mattress around camp, folded up to make a makeshift chair. Your pack would also suffice.
  • Keep busy. Go for a walk, take some photos, make dinner, hang your food.
  • Start a fire. Gathering wood and building a fire keeps you as warm as the fire itself. Invite some of your fellow campers to share your fire, you'll make new friends and conserve wood. Practice lighting a fire in the rain with wet wood, it's a skill that comes in very handy (as illustrated by Ian above.)

Since I've started doing all these things, I've been able to leave the extra clothing at home, saving a pound or so, but not risking getting sick or being uncomfortable. I've tried it in all conditions, from torrential rain to freezing mountain altitudes without a regret.

1 comment:

Sinha said...

Wow, these are really good tips. I was how would I minimize my load.
Thanks once again!