Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hiking with the Ten Essentials, #3: Insulation

Hiking With The Ten Essentials: #3 Extra Clothes

98.6 degrees is an important measurement. Making sure you can maintain body temperature is vital and quick swings in that number can be dangerous if not fatal. Certain environments, such as mountains or deserts, can have dramatic temperature or precipitation shifts in very short time spans. Even when walking your planned hike, this can be a problem. If you find yourself lost and navigating a trek as the sun goes down or unexpected rain and snow are blowing, keeping your temperature up can be a matter of survival. You should always carry at least one extra layer of clothing and possibly more depending on time of year and local climate. Here is a quick overview of things to consider regarding insulation...

Types of Clothing
Jackets and vests are the most common items to bring. A hooded version of either can eliminate the need for a hat. Given that most of the body’s heat is lost through the head, something should be brought to cover the noggin, though. Gloves are important, too, to protect your extremities from frostbite or simply the loss of nimbleness. Extra socks and even underwear might be considered for certain conditions.

Types of Fabrics
At a minimum, you will want something that insulates even when wet. This is typically a synthetic material (like polyester, fleece, or nylon) or wool. Insulated “puffies” with synthetic or down fills can be excellent choices because of their very light weight and easy packability. Truly waterproof garments (not water resistant) with taped seams might be needed for scenarios when heavy rain or snow is possible, especially in colder temperatures. Cotton will do little to no good when wet, and might even be worse than no extra clothing because it holds moisture which can keep your body temperature lower than it otherwise would be.

As with all of the Ten Essentials, common sense should be your guide. Overstuffing a backpack full of unnecessary gear might make a simple hike more of a burden than is necessary. Not preparing for a quick change in temperature and precipitation, however, can cost your life. Be realistic about the local terrain and the climate during the time of year of your hike and prepare for the worst conditions accordingly.

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