Heat loss on the trail.

It’s the season of backcountry snowshoeing , cross country skiing , ice fishing and winter camping. Also no bugs!

We thoroughly enjoy this time of year and you can to if you follow some basic rules and prepare yourself physically and mentally. Over the next few days we’ll be bringing you a blitz of winter camping articles.

Today’s topic is heat loss. There are four ways the human body loses heat. Radiation, evaporation, convection , conduction. Big words which can spell disaster on a trip if not prepared for and dealt with.

Radiation: Is heat loss directly through the skin requiring no direct contact with a surface. As the outside air cools around you , you begin to radiate heat from exposed areas. IE: a head without a hat.

How to prevent it? Insulate! Make sure you are covered head to toe. Adjust clothing layers accordingly to regulate.

Convection: Losing heat to moving water or air. IE: a wind storm would cause massive heat loss through convection. Even something as simple as walking down to the lake will cause slight loss of heat due to the air moving against your body. Also being dunked into a freezing lake would cause heat loss (really? Who’d of thought 🙂 )

How to prevent it: Refrain from traveling during windy conditions. Not only is this bad for heat loss but also for navigating. Hunker down and wait the storm out. Ice travel is always potentially dangerous. Cross at our own risk. Test ice thickness. Never lake travel alone. Always travel with an ice axe/pick. If you do end up in the water you need to be mentally prepared to get yourself out and dried off quickly.

Conduction: Heat lose through direct contact. IE: Leaning against a rock. Sitting on the ice. The cold ground will suck heat directly from your body.

How to prevent it: Place an insulating pad/item in between you and the colder object. Thermarest pads, ice fishing hot seats. Sit on your pack while taking a break on the trail instead of directly on the ground/snow.

Evaporation: Heat loss by sweating/breathing. Vaporizing water from the skin is normally our number one source of heat loss.

How to prevent it: Layer appropriately. A lot of people bundle up when they start their trip. Forgetting to take into consideration that they will be lugging a pulk/sled behind them all loaded down with gear. After a few minutes you’ll start to sweat. This is when you should shed a few layers. The worst thing that you can do is drench your clothes in sweat. When night starts to fall and you stop pulling your sled. You will be chilled to the bone. So don’t overdue it. Keep a steady pace and adjust clothing as needed.

Your actions and how you dress will effect how you regulate temperature. Dress accordingly and don’t over exert yourself. These two simple things will have you well on your way to a warm and dry day/evening.

Tomorrow we’ll be talking more about layering. What we think are some great choices for clothing on the winter trail. Thanks for reading along. Happy trails folks.


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