Figure 1. Keep hydrated and eat well to provide your body with furnace-stoking fuel.
Turn up the heat — taking the shivers out of alpine nights
The thought of a week of cold-weather climbing in the High Sierra sounds great, but too many sleepless, teeth-chattering nights leave you weary. Relax. Following these simple techniques will have you sleeping like a baby on your next alpine adventure.Stoke the furnace. Focus on your hydration throughout the day; after you’ve guzzled a solid four to six liters along the trail, enjoy a round of hot drinks before your evening meal. Curtail your drinking about an hour before bed to minimize the need to pee during the night. Think of your sleeping bag as a human-sized thermos: If you are cold prior to zipping in, the bag will hold in that chill. Just before jumping in your bag, elevate your body temperature with a bit of exercise such as push-ups, crunches, or a few laps around your tent. If you do wake up cold, quick muscle contractions and more crunches will often get the blood flowing. You may also need to add more fuel to the fire, so keep some snacks — like gorp or a candy bar — close at hand (figure 1). Turn in, zip up, and crank the heat. Change out of wet clothing before bed and keep a pair of dry, nighttime-only socks in the bottom of your sleeping bag. Disregard the old wives’ tales stating that you should either sleep with every stitch of clothing on or nothing at all. Experiment to find a layering system that works for you, one that incorporates moisture-wicking fabrics suitable to your environment. Make sure you minimize and isolate the air space around your body. If there’s too much space or if the air is free to circulate in and out of your bag, your body will expend an enormous amount of energy to continually warm that air space. Fit your bag correctly before making a purchase, and, if necessary, consider filling extra space with insulating clothing (figure 2). If you have a newer bag with a neck gaiter, cinch it up snugly on colder nights. If not, an extra shirt or jacket bunched around your neck will create the same effect. Cinch the mummy drawstring around your face and avoid pulling your head inside your bag, as the moisture in your exhaled breath will dampen the insulation. Sleep with your head level to your body or slightly uphill, use stuff sacks with extra clothing to form a pillow, and — like Momma always said — wear a hat.Sweet relief. Don’t avoid hydrating in the evening out of fear that you’ll have to take a whizz during the night. Take one last good pee before turning in; if you wake up during the middle of the night with a bursting bladder, use a pee bottle or a female urinal and stay in your warm cocoon. Holding it in will not only keep you in agony, but will often make you cold, due to the extra energy required to keep your urine at a steady 98.6 degrees.
Figure 2. If you’re a tad short for your bag, line the empty spaces with extra clothes to avoid heat-sucking dead spots.