Tag Archives: hypothermia

Tips for Staying Warm and Dry During Winter Adventures

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you should stop adventuring, but it does mean that you have to prepare more. Staying warm and dry when you’re out on a long winter bike ride, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or exploring the wintery landscape in another way is essential. You definitely won’t have a good time with numb fingers and toes, and a negative experience will make you less likely to get outside during winter in the future. Plus, hypothermia and frostbite are not laughing matters and should be avoided at all costs.

Woman shivering.

Brr! Bundle up—winter is officially here. [Image: http://www.mirror.co.uk/]

Dress Appropriately

Winter calls for certain gear that you obviously don’t need in other seasons, and while it may seem excessive at times, it’s all necessary. From top to bottom, there are a few essential items to make sure you have in stock.

Couple snowshoeing.

The couple that dresses warm together, probably goes on to do lots of fun outdoor adventuring together. [Image: http://www.active.com/]

  • Socks, socks, and more socks. And not just thin cotton socks, but at least one pair of heavy-duty wool socks to keep your tootsies snug. You’ll also probably want a pair of thinner wool socks to put on underneath the thicker ones. Layers are essential for keeping your extremities toasty warm.
  • Large, breathable, waterproof boots. To account for the thicker socks and extra layers, you’ll need a pair of boots that are larger than your normal shoe size. You’ll also want a pair that can breathe and that are waterproof because wet, sweaty feet lead to wet boots, which will eventually freeze and lead to your feet getting colder quicker.
  • Kneewarmers or tights/long johns underneath snow pants. Your legs will probably be one of the warmest parts of your body as you’ll typically be exerting yourself by using your legs. Tights, long johns, and kneewarmers are all helpful in providing a bit of extra warmth, though. And these, of course, go underneath any heavier snow pants or thicker pants you may be wearing—unless you’re trying to create a new fashion trend, that is.
  • Jackets for days. There’s a general “rule of three” when it comes to layering. An insulated jacket is essential, and depending on the temperatures and how long you’ll be outside for, an extra jacket as well as a breathable, non-cotton shirt might also be necessary.
  • Fingers are like toes and should be treated similarly. What we mean by this is that fingers, like toes, are extremities and often get cold first as your body concentrates heat on your torso for your vital organs. Therefore it’s appropriate to layer and invest in some extra linings. There is also a lot of talk that mittens are more effective than gloves, but that’s usually up to your personal preference—if you absolutely hate mittens for some reason, then it’s probably not worth the investment. Hand (and foot!) warmers are also helpful and are available in bulk on many sites.
  • Protect that beautiful head of yours. A hat and scarf combo are great for winter exploring and help to keep your ears, neck, and face comfortable. There are other items—like a buff, balaclava, or earmuffs—that you might also want to look into, but as long as you’re covered then you’re good to go. It’s also important to remember that if you start becoming warm, the scarf and hat should be the first items to be removed.

Know the Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite

Cold Spongebob.

Trust me, this is not the life you want. [Image: http://media.tumblr.com/]

There are more than a few ways to know if you’re suffering from hypothermia or frostbite as well as plenty of ways to treat both. With frostbiteyou’ll start out feeling a cold, prickly feeling in your body parts and they’ll turn red (as mentioned before, extremities are the first areas that typically become afflicted with frostbite). From there, the body part will grow increasingly numb and will turn white, and may even turn blue or purple. You’ll know you’re in trouble if your body starts feeling warm and you experience stinging or burning. At this point you may also experience blisters a day or so after warming back up. If your frostbite advances even further, all layers of your skin will be affected by the freezing temperatures. You might lose functionality in your joints and will become completely numb in the frostbitten areas, which will eventually turn black in the days following the exposure.

On the other hand, hypothermia is a whole other monster to deal with. A few signs of hypothermia are shivering, dizziness, confusion, trouble speaking, lack of coordination, weak pulse, and shallow breathing. Although it’s usually difficult to notice hypothermia as the symptoms are gradual, the more it sets in, the more apparent the symptoms become. However, the shivering will cease in extreme cases. Wearing breathable, non-cotton clothes during your winter adventures is very important as cotton absorbs sweat and can freeze, making you more vulnerable to hypothermia.

Stay Hydrated

Woman drinking water.

Drink up! The water’s great! [Image: http://thoughtfulwomen.org/]

It’s easy to overlook drinking water when your teeth are chattering and your muscles twitching with the cold, but it’s incredibly important to stay hydrated during wintertime exercise. When your body is cold, your mind ends up preoccupied, and you simply don’t feel thirsty as often, even when you’re on the brink of dehydration. Water also helps you generate heat easier and quicker, which is especially important when you’re covered in tons of layers. It’s important to drink water often (and not a swig of whiskey, as some movies may have you believe).

Hopefully with these tips you’re feeling a bit more inspired to head outside and explore, despite winter’s chill. And nothing can make that easier than our handy Pocket Ranger® mobile apps, which are available for download in the iTunes and Google Play Stores!

How to Fight Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite and hypothermia are nothing to shrug at. Temperatures can vary and drop dramatically, especially in high altitude catching hikers off guard. Hikers can face sudden snowstorms, freezing rain or even avalanches, as was reported last year, when close to 40 trekkers lost their lives in Nepal’s Annapurna region. A large portion of these hikers and sherpas left stranded in the mountains survived by being treated for frostbite and hypothermia. Early precaution for a winter hike, like checking the forecasts, paying attention to early weather warning systems, wearing adequate clothing, and carrying enough food and water are essential, but natural elements are not always predictable. Below are some ways you can fight and treat frostbite and hypothermia. And don’t forget to help a friend on the trail!

Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/289848925990700324/

Image: www.pinterest.com


As opposed to hyperthermia (heat stroke), hypothermia is a result of being exposed to cold temperature, so that your body dips below 95°F. When the body can not longer heat itself, the core temperature drops quickly, using up stored energy and causing abnormal body functions. A low body temperature can affect the brain, movements and thoughts, which makes it worse for the victim, since they may not be able to respond quickly. Hypothermia is possible even above 40°F if the person is chilled by rain, sweat or submersed in cold water. Mild hypothermia includes shivering, exhaustion, mental confusion, numb hands and/or feet. In cases of severe hypothermia, symptoms include difficulty speaking, amnesia, hard puffy blue skin, difficulty walking, and irrational behavior: paradoxical undressing (surge in blood tricks the person to think they’re overheated) and terminal burrowing (victim hides and dies in a small space) in the final stages.

Image: www.i.imgur.com/h3xkyJP.jpg

Image: www.i.imgur.com/h3xkyJP.jpg

How to prevent:

  • Drink plenty of water and eat plenty of food, as you’ll need calories from water and carbs from food to maintain body heat.
  • Dress in layers, and do not leave any major areas uncovered in order to prevent heat loss.
  • Most important: do not drink alcohol or smoke before going on a hike. Alcohol blocks your body’s natural defenses against the cold, constricting blood vessels, lowering blood flow to the skin, thereby lowering your body’s core temperature.
  • Avoid extreme cold temperatures and high winds.
  • Avoid wearing wet clothes. Clothes can get wet from sweat, which can freeze if you stop.

How to Treat:

  • Take the victim indoors or some place warm.
  • Once in a warm area, remove any wet clothing and dry the person.
  • Wrap the affected person with blankets, towels, coats, making sure to warm their torso and head first then proceed to hands and feet.
  • Body heat can also help, so hug the person to give them warmth.
  • Shivering is also recommended since it warms the body.
  • Give the person warm drinks (not alcohol) or high energy foods, such as chocolate. Only do this if they can swallow normally.
  • Be sure to warm the person gradually, and not all once like immersing them in warm water, which   causes heart arrhythmia.
  • Though a person with severe hypothermia may be motionless and without breath, do not assume the person is dead. Try to resuscitate them with CPR. Continue CPR until the victim is warmed, responds or medical aid is available.

Tip: When using hot water bottles or chemical hot packs, wrap them in cloth, so as not to apply directly on the skin.

Image: www.slowtwitch.com

Image: www.slowtwitch.com


Though your body may be nice and warm, uncovered areas of skin are affected by cold, icy and windy conditions. People usually exhibit frostbite or frostnip on their ears, fingers, toes, and nose. Frostbite occurs when the skin and tissue freeze due to exposure to cold temperatures. Blood vessels close and the skin starts to constrict at 32°F. This eventually leads to freezing and death of those skin tissues. Frostnip (considered a first degree condition) affects only the surface of the skin with itching, pain, and often white, red or yellow patches, and some numbness. Frostnip will not cause permanent damage. If exposure to freezing temperatures continues, the skin begins to harden, but without deep tissue being affected, and you’ll get blisters that last 1 to 2 days. Sometimes these blisters become hard and blacken. The more severe cases of frostbite last for 3 or 4 days. This includes the freezing of muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves. When frostbitten, the skin becomes hard, waxy, and the area becomes useless and completely numb. In severe cases, the damage is permanent. Extreme frostbite may result in amputation if the area becomes infected with gangrene. To prevent frostbite, you can follow some of the same prevention tips for hypothermia.

Image: www.orphanedanything.tumblr.com

Image: www.orphanedanything.tumblr.com

How to Treat:

  • Take victim to a warm, dry location, preferably indoors.
  • Give victim pain relief medicine before rewarming cold areas safely and calmly without excessive movement, which may worsen the skin tissue.
  • Wrap frostbitten areas to prevent movement. Use blankets to wrap the person.
  • Warming through use of body heat and room temperature can help the victim’s body warm itself.
  • For severe cases, going to the hospital may be the only option to rewarm quickly without burning.
  • Rewarming is usually done by immersing injured tissue in a water bath at a temperature of 104°F to 108°F.
Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/478296422896799544/

Image: www.pinterest.com

Great you’ve made it to a warm place! Make sure to prepare for winter by checking our winter camping tips. And don’t forgot to download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to find a cool winter wonderland escape!