Being the guy that likes to hike when it is 94 degrees and 80% humidity, I was hesitant when my friend asked me to go hiking on the 18th of November. The forecast was for a normally bizarre Missouri / Arkansas day. The temperature at 6:00 AM was 71 degrees, by noon it was to drop into the lower 40’s with a 20-40 mile an hour north wind.
Our trek on the Centerpoint Trail near Ponca AR began at a comfortable 65 degrees. By the time we stopped at the Henderson Cabin two hours later the temperature had dropped almost 25 degrees with a wind-chill in the upper 20’s.
While I still consider myself a warm weather hiker, I did enjoy the hike, but only because I was prepared. Here are a few things I learned on this hike.
The most important word in preparing for a cold(er) weather hike is: Layers!
For this hike I wore three upper body layers. A tee-shirt, long sleeve thermal undershirt (long johns) and a flannel shirt or lightweight jacket. While I was moving the first two layers were sufficient to keep me comfortable, but at rest stops the 3rd layer came out.
With the windy conditions, I wore a pair of jeans instead of my light weight hiking pants. They were heavier, but they did the job of keeping the wind off my legs.
I brought along two hats. My traditional bush hat with chinstrap which I popped on and off as I walked, and a warmer knit ski cap for rest stops.
One other item to consider is a lightweight rain poncho to keep the wind off while hiking or to wrap up in like a blanket on colder stops. If you are perspiring, a slight breeze hitting a crack in your clothing will send a chill to your bones.
The key to staying comfortable is constant adjustment. As the temperature dropped, I was able to adjust to the changing conditions and stay (mostly) comfortable though the day.
Don’t skimp – be sure to take plenty of water.
It’s not hot, but you are still burning fluids, especially if the hike is strenuous. It may not be as dramatic as dehydration in the summer, but you can quickly deplete your fluids.
Extra water will also produce coffee! I was chided for not bringing supplies to make coffee on our hike, a mistake I shall not repeat. My best coffee memory on the trail was when a friend produced a French press and a pound of Starbucks from his pack!
In the cold(er) weather your body will naturally burn more energy. Not only is it dealing with the physical stress of the hike, it is constantly warming and cooling itself as conditions and exertion levels change.
Be sure to toss a couple of protein or energy bars in your pack. On this hike the way out was uphill for an hour and a half. A quick protein bar before we started up helped with energy levels and muscles as we ascended.
One unexpected bonus was with no leaves on the trees, we were able to see sites we would have missed in Spring or Summer. We discovered a spring house (possibly the remains of a still), an abandoned cabin, and several great vistas across the valley that we would have missed in the Summer.
Post a thought about your cold weather experiences. See you on the trial – NEXT SUMMER!