One of my favorite times to camp is the end of October, when the beautiful fall leaves begin to surrender to the bitter cold of winter. There’s nothing like hiking through the mountains blanketed in snow and autumn colors. It’s breathtaking. It’s also really, really cold. While late fall camping typically gives you warmer days, at night the temperature can drop rapidly.
This is why it’s so important to wear layers and pack extra gloves, socks and hats. When you’re camping in the great outdoors, the weather can change just like that. One minute you’re telling stories around an open campfire, the next minute you’re inside your tent seeking shelter from a fierce blizzard. Keeping your hands warm and dry is important, not only to enjoy your camping experience, but to survive.
Hundreds of people die every year from hypothermia and frostbite. Being prepared and wearing the right gear is one way to insure you won’t become a statistic. It can be difficult to keep your hands warm while camping, especially if you’re hanging around camp for a few days. If you’re active, it’s easier to stay warm. In another blog, I focused on how to keep your feet warm while camping. Let’s take a look now on how to keep your hands warm too! For more information please also see our article entitled “How To Dress For Winter Survival“.
The best way to keep your hands warm, is to keep them dry! Once your hands, or your body for that matter get cold, you lose body heat faster than a winning horse at the Kentucky Derby. Yep, that fast. Any outdoor expert will tell you, staying dry is the key to staying alive. When your hands get wet, your core temperature starts to drop, and your fingers start to feel a little frigid. The best way to stay dry is to wear gloves that protect your hands from the weather.
We’ll take a look at the best gloves to stay dry in just a bit. For the record, you should avoid cotton like a grizzly bear. Seriously. People die every year from hypothermia because they are wearing the wrong clothes out in the cold. Cotton absorbs water/sweat like a kitchen sponge. By nature, cotton has pockets of air that fill up with water when wet. Unlike other material, that wicks away moisture, cotton holds onto and steals your all your body heat. Stay away from cotton and you’ll have a better chance at keeping your hands warm!
When choosing gloves, opt for a pair made of waterproof and windproof material. See also our article entitled “What Are The Best Brands For Ski Gloves“. If the gloves indicate they are coated with a waterproof material, then they are most likely windproof too. Keeping your hands out of the wind, is just as important as keeping them protected from the cold. Wind can steal your body heat too! Most gloves come standard with waterproof material, but double check with the retailer or manufacturer before buying to make sure.
The warmer the gloves the better chance you have at keeping your hands nice and toasty. So, what makes a glove warm? The filling of the glove is what gives it warmth. When shopping for glove, you’ll notice down filled and synthetic filled gloves. In my opinion, down gloves pack a punch when it comes to keeping your hands warm while camping. Down is basically goose feathers, which have been naturally an incredible insulator. The higher the weight of down glove, the warmer the glove.
The only downside to down, is that when it gets wet, you lose all at that insulation power. Plus, it can take a long time to dry out. So, I always recommend packing a pair of down gloves for when you’re at camp need an extra layer to warm up your hands. However, if you go on a day hike from your campsite, you may want to put on a pair of synthetic gloves. Synthetic insulation is awesome for skiing, hiking, mountain climbing and other outdoor activities.
While synthetic isn’t as warm as down, it holds up better under wet conditions. So, that means if you’re camping and it starts to rain, a pair of synthetic insulated gloves will keep your hands warmer than down. Synthetic is also less expensive than down. If you’re budget allows for it, take a pair of synthetic insulated and down gloves or mittens- that way your hands will be warm regardless of the weather!
Wool glove liners are your golden ticket to warm hands. Glove liners are thin gloves designed to keep a nice layer of warm air close to your body. Let’s go back to biology 101 for a minute. When your outside in cold temperatures, your body tends to focus on keeping your core and vital organs as warm as possible. That means our hands are second in line for all that warm blood.
I mean, you’re hands still get warm blood, it’s just not the number one priority. This is why wearing layers on your hands is so important. Glove liners keep your body heat close to your hands! When looking for glove liners, make sure they are made out of merino wool or a blend of synthetic material.
Merino wool will wick away moisture and keep your hands insulated all at the same time. Synthetic liners, which are typically made of polyester, nylon and lycra also work well for taking sweat away from the body. Try on the glove liners before you bring them on your camping trip. You don’t want the liner to be too snug or too big. If the liner is too small, it will actually cut off circulation to your fingers and hands.
Let’s avoid that! Too big of liners and that nice warm layer of air will disappear! I like to pack a couple pairs of glove liners when winter camping, so I always have a nice, dry pair ready to go. While liners are designed to be worn over an outer glove, I like to wear them by themselves when I’m cooking around the campsite or when I’m sleeping!
Cover Your Wrists!
If your hand starts to feel frigid, cover your wrists right away. People often forget to pay special attention to their wrists when outside in the cold. There are major arteries in your wrist and they’re close to the skin. Those arteries release a lot of body heat. The best way to keep your wrists covered is to invest in a base layer with thumb holes. The thumb holes on your shirt will keep your wrists covered at all times.
I recently read an article about a pair of modern day explorers who spent weeks in Antarctica. Those explorers said they were the coldest when they’re wrists were exposed to the harsh sub-zero temperatures. But, as soon as they covered their wrists with gloves, hand warmers or shirts with wrists guards, they immediately warmed up-head to toe! If you don’t have a shirt or coat with thumb holes at the wrists, cinch your gloves and pull the sleeves of your coat over your wrists. This will reduce some of that heat from escaping!
One of the best ways to keep your hands warm while camping is to stay hydrated. Water helps regulate our blood flow. By drinking water, you can give your body the boost it needs to circulate warm blood to your hands, fingers and the rest of your body. I know it can be difficult to drink cold water while outside, camping in the cold- but make the effort. It doesn’t just have to be water either- bring tea, cocoa and other water-based drinks to sip on. If you’re planning on doing a lot of camping in the cold, you may want to think about investing in a camping stove.
While you can cook and heat up water over a fire, a portable camping stove makes it a little easier to whip up a meal or hot drink. A water purifier is also a good investment. A water purifier, makes water from creeks, lakes and streams safe for drinking. That way you’ll never have an excuse not to drink water! If start to notice your hands are feeling a little chilled, drink water and wait! This is a simple way to increase your circulation and warm up your body.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is also a great way to increase your circulation while camping. Eating foods rich in vitamin K is a natural way to keep your hands warm. This is something you can do well before your camping trip too! Spinach, kale, broccoli and dairy products are a great way to incorporate vitamin k into your diet. I certainly don’t expect you to whip up a salad while six miles away from the nearest store, but you certainly could make a few diet changes while at home.
I just read an article that indicates our body contains 60,000 miles of blood vessels, veins and arteries. WOW! That’s amazing, isn’t it? Keeping those blood vessels healthy is critical to staying warm and staying healthy! If you’re going to be camping for weeks at a time, a vitamin k supplement may do the trick too. As always, check with a trusted medical provider before starting any new supplements or dietary changes!
If you’re really cold in your tent and can’t seem to warm up, try eating a candy bar, nuts or anything else high in fat. Some outdoor experts believe a quick burst of fat will help your body generate heat! This might be a great idea if you wake up in the middle of the night and your hands feel like ice bergs. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to eat a Snickers bar at three am?
When it comes to hand warmers, you have a couple different options: disposable and rechargeable. Disposable hand warmers are awesome because they’re inexpensive, fit nicely in your hands and glove and they work really well. Disposable hand warmers usually last a few hours, giving you just enough heat to warm up chilly hands. If you sleep with glove liners on, you can slip a couple hand warmers under each liner and sleep the night away in a state of warm bliss.
If you’re looking for a hand warmer that will last longer and has adjustable temperature settings, rechargeable hand warmers might be the right choice for you. Rechargeable hand warmers are more expensive than the disposable kind, but they last a really long time. Some of the hand warmers will last up to six hours. This is ideal if you’re waiting out bad weather inside your tent and need to stay warm!
If you’re camping and your hands start to feel chilly, take a hike, do thirty jumping jacks and maybe a back flip or two. Okay, just kidding about the back flip! But, do get your body moving. Exercise generates body heat and you’re going to need more of that heat if you’re starting to feel cold. However, there’s a flip side to this advice, pun intended. If you’re not wearing the right layers you risk getting too hot and sweaty and that too can make you cold. If you get too hot, you may be tempted to take layers off.
Don’t do it- you’ll lose all your heat. It’s easier to stay warm than it is to get warm. Like the layers of gloves, you want to layer your entire body with weather appropriate gear. Base layer should be designed to wick away moisture (merino wool), the middle layer is designed to insulate your body (down coat) and the outer layer should protect you from wind, snow and rain! By keeping your entire body warm, your hands have a better chance of staying warm too.
There’s nothing like camping in the great outdoors! It’s so peaceful! Keeping your hands warm will prevent you from cutting your trip short or suffering from hypothermia or frostbite. If you’ve tried all of the above recommendations and your hands are still cold, it’s time to call it a day and get inside! I hope it never gets that! For other way to keep your hands warm, check out my other blog posts! Happy camping!