by Diane Spicer
How can you prevent cold hands from ruining a winter hike?
Or impeding your ability to grasp your hiking poles on a cold, rainy trail in spring or fall conditions?
Use these best hiking tips to keep your hands warm, that's how!
Let's use every possible way to prevent cold hands, starting with how you prepare for your hike.
If you're a beginner hiker, you might not know how important it is to do a few simple things to guarantee warm hands throughout your hike as you're pulling together your gear and hiking food.
The day before your hike, set up a system to make sure you are ingesting plenty of water.
You want lots of fluids circulating in your blood vessels, distributing your warmth.
Borrow my system:
And let's be clear: that's just water, as in that clear stuff coming out of the tap.
If cold or room temperature water sounds unpleasant to you, then drink warm, flavorful herbal teas.
Here's a good choice to sip as you're double checking your maps and scrounging through your sock drawer for your hiking socks:
The morning of your hike, brew up this tea and bring some along in a double walled insulated bottle, like this one.
If you're wildly interested in more choices for the best tea for hikers, I've got you covered right here.
Ditto for hiking hydration strategies.
Don't be that "shoulda" hiker who proclaims loudly that she should have brought gloves, should have worn better socks, should have -whatever-.
Hiking deserves a thoughtful planning process, even if it's "only" a short day hike in familiar terrain.
Treat yourself with the respect you deserve by including the right layers in your hiking clothing.
I know you've already thought about gloves, but did you think about bringing a back up pair to prevent cold hands?
By carrying a second pair (I call it my insurance pair), you've got yourself quite literally covered.
Midweight fleece gloves, protected by waterproof covers in really bad weather, are the way to go.
To read more about serious glove choices, go here.
And read my possum wool glove review, too.
There's another, less obvious advantage to wearing gloves.
You can take them off to regulate your body temperature.
It's smart to avoid sweaty hands, which cool down quickly if you stop moving.
Hands are the obvious focus of preventing cold hands on a hike, but let's also cover up large areas where heat loss works against you.
Your choice of hats should go way beyond fashion when you venture into cold, wet and windy conditions.
A decent winter hat stays put, covers your ears, and fends off moisture while avoiding the "boiled head" syndrome.
This hat ticks all the boxes!
When conditions improve, you can switch to a headband to protect your ears while giving you more head and neck mobility.
A fleece neck gaiter is a priceless piece of hiking clothing when the wind kicks up and your hat just isn't enough to keep your head warm.
Warm hands while hiking isn't just about your hands.
It's about keeping your blood freely circulating from your core into your extremities.
To keep it on its appointed rounds:
To assist your heart in keeping your hot blood pumping, stay hydrated.
Please resist the urge (sorry) to skip drinking frequently, in a futile attempt to avoid peeing in cold conditions.
Tip: Be strategic about urinating in icy cold weather by using a "stand up and pee" device like this one.
It's easy to get distracted by the scenery, your pounding heart as you chip away at gaining elevation, and your craving for a big mug of hot chocolate.
Make it a regular habit to check in with your body, particularly your hands.
As soon as you feel - or rather, don't feel - that your hands are warm enough, take action. Waiting only digs a deep hole that you might not get out of easily.
Try these tips:
If your fingers are losing sensation quickly, locate a sheltered position out of the wind or direct precipitation.
To absolutely ensure that your hands will stay warm during your cold weather hike, take matters into your own, um, hands with hand warmers you can activate when needed.
Sometimes chronically cold hands indicate a medical problem, such as Raynaud's disease.
Warning signs include digits that turn white, fingers and toes which are persistently cold at times regardless of external temperature, and peripheral neuropathy (tingles, lack of sensation).
Start warm, stay warm, and enjoy the chance to warm up to the idea of cold weather hiking.
If your first few brisk hikes go well, and you prevent cold fingers by using these tips, I predict you will fall in love with cold weather hiking.
You're going to need a few more tips and tricks, though.
Here they are!
Prevent Cold Hands On A Hike
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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer.
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