The entire team at HikingRRG loves hiking in Red River Gorge year round. From hot humid summer days to the bitter cold of winter, nothing stops us. The key is to be prepared for the environment and to have knowledge of your personal abilities. Here are a few of our tricks to staying warm while hiking the trails of Red River Gorge.
Ditch The Coat
Take that Christmas present from 2001 and throw it out the window at a high rate of speed. Just kidding, donate it to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. There seems to be a misconception that a big, heavy, cotton based coat will keep you warm. While it might be fine riding in your car, it sure isn’t a good choice for hiking. You will want to dress in several layers. I prefer a moisture wicking t-shirt, a fleece pullover and a light down jacket such as the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. My body temperature usually runs warm and this setup keeps me perfectly regulated. You could add another base layer to the mix, gloves and/or a beanie. It all depends on how your body reacts to colder temperatures.
Run For The Hills
Zombies are coming!! Well maybe not but if you start feeling a little cool pick up the pace a little. You’ll want to find that happy pace where you are exerting enough energy to generate heat but not enough that you become soaking wet from perspiration. Moisture wicking clothes as mentioned earlier will go a long way in keeping you dry. If you find yourself getting a little too warm, slow your roll. Stop to take a picture or two. Have a chat with your hiking partner or even better, a total stranger that’s on the trail.
Add some fuel to that fire within you. Your body needs more fuel in freezing temperatures to keep your internal furnace burning. Eat high-fat snacks like chocolate and nuts, because fat is a slow-burning fuel that keeps your body going for the long haul, which becomes even more important in the cold. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want about 25% more food than you would when backpacking or hiking in the summer. Myself, I pack in about 50% more during the winter because I’m extra cautious, or maybe just a little chubby.
Hold up there; don’t get a smile on your face just yet with images of bourbon floating around in your noggin. Sure, a bourbon laced hot toddy sounds like just the thing to keep you warm on a bitter day. While a warm beverage will indeed raise your core temperature and help you withstand a chill, don't spike it. Alcohol is absolutely the worst thing that somebody could consume as it drops the core body temperature.
You may not even feel thirsty when it’s very cold out, but you need to drink plenty of water when it’s cold.
Drinking water is actually just as important in the winter as in the summer. Eating and digesting food takes water, and since you’ll be eating more you’ll need to be drinking more to process it properly. This and your body uses water to control and regulate your body temperature. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll get cold. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you won’t be sweating. Bring along some hot cocoa for an added bonus.
What are we doing in this frozen tundra? Well, we are having fun, enjoying life and creating memories to last a lifetime! Hiking is a stress relief, not a burden. When you start to get a little chilly it’s easy to develop a “give up” attitude. Hiking motivation needs to be internal first. The first thing I do is put a smile on my face regardless of the weather, blisters, heavy pack, etc. SMILE! Be happy that you are living the dream. A merry attitude will carry you farther than a Chevy with a quarter tank of fuel.
I remember one hiking trip in particular that Sarah and I went on that tested both of us. What started out as a normal fair weather overnight hike, on Swift Camp Creek, ended up as a soaking wet disaster. If you haven’t noticed, we both made it out alive. The morning we woke up in our tent it was pouring the rain. No rain was scheduled in the forecast and we packed ZERO rain gear. We both expeditiously packed our tent/gear to hike the remaining 5 miles of our journey in the pouring rain. In all honesty, it wasn’t that bad. I can primarily say the reason for that was our attitude. We looked at each other, laughed, smiled and said, “What have we gotten ourselves into?” Looking back, I would totally do it again. Being in a cheerful mood really eases a normally uncomfortable situation. At the end of the hike my 50lbs of gear felt more like 150lbs and Sarah had a few blisters. We climbed in the truck exhausted but happy.