How to Avoid Hypothermia on Yellowstone Hiking Trips, Part Two

First and foremost, do not skimp on clothing! Follow the Big Wild Clothing/Personal Gear List that we send to all of our clients. Yes, you do need to bring the long underwear and the ski hat that’s on the list! Even in July! And don’t forget the insulated jacket, the fleece pullover or wool shirt plus gloves and a breathable two-piece rain suit. We are not kidding! Just about any experienced mountain traveler in Yellowstone or in any of the surrounding mountain ranges has learned to carry all of these high country essentials on multi-day backpack trips. In the previous post I noted just a couple examples of “winter” weather during the calendar summer. As previously stated, be prepared! Remember the “Five P’s”: Proper planning prevents piss poor performance! And proper planning begins with proper clothing that will keep you warm and dry in any weather.

OK, you’ve followed our instructions. You are well prepared with every clothing item that we’ve listed. But the mild sunny August morning has quickly devolved into a cold rainstorm with howling winds blowing horizontal sheets of rain in 45-degree temperatures. And we are part way up the mountain on the way to the next camp with another thousand feet of elevation to gain. Obviously, if you didn’t stop at the outset of the storm to layer up with synthetic or wool long-johns to wick moisture away from your skin, a fleece or wool layer, and rain-gear, you’d have a problem. But on this guided Yellowstone backpack trip, your guide saw the weather coming, stopped the hike, and made sure that folks dressed for the storm– before it hit! Part of that preparation, by the way, was his instructions for folks to throw their cotton T-shirts into their backpacks, and keep them there until the return of warm, dry weather. Remember, wet cotton saps warmth from your body and wet down is worthless. Thus the saying: “Down is deadly and cotton kills”. A bit of hyperbole, perhaps, since both materials are great so long as they remain dry. But spend a night shivering in wet down or hiking up a trail in cold wet cotton and you’ll know what we mean!

In the final installment of this series we’ll discuss in a bit more detail, how to utilize your mountain layering system to keep you safe in all weather conditions. Stay tuned.

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