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Eastern Idaho has over 1800 miles of groomed trails, numerous off-load areas and quaint warming huts, as well as endless breathtaking open ridges, meadows, scenery, and wildlife. Learn More

Secrets to Staying Warm Outside

Posted On
Jan 07, 2016
Winter Recreation


by Jerry Painter

A few winters ago I cruised along the Hawley Gulch Trail near Kelly Mountain when a cold front suddenly moved in.

Winds picked up, snow flurries began and the temperature dropped 10 to 15 degrees. I still had at least direction to get back to my car. I reached into my backpack and beefed up my protection – warmer gloves, a hooded shell jacket and plastic grocery bags for the inside of my boots (stuff I wish I’d had on some recent cycling outings). Despite the nasty weather, I spent the rest of the outing comfortable.

The famed English mountaineer Chris Bonington is reputed to have said there is no such thing as poor weather, only inadequate clothing.

While that’s probably a stretch in some situations, he does make a point that you can deal with most situations with the proper clothing.

There are a few secrets to staying warm and safe when things get rough. The best defense is what you bring in your daypack (or backpack, if you’re spending the night outside).

Some of the things I pack on winter excursions include:


  • A down, puffy coat that compresses down to the size of a water bottle
  • Two sets of gloves, one thin one heavy
  • Two plastic grocery store bags (no holes, please) for my feet
  • One balaclava (these are like heaters for your head)
  • A thin shell jacket with hood
  • Fleece or wool pullover

I wear some times on every outing: Polypropylene underwear, wool/synthetic socks and shell pants with zip sides to allow venting if it gets too warm. I sometimes bring a Thermos with hot drinks and a few high-energy snacks, depending on how long I’ll be out. I also like to bring a couple of hands warmers for my camera. If batteries get too cold, the camera refuses to take that awesome shot of a nearby moose or your friend splatted face down in the snow. A hand warmer in a jacket’s zipper pocket usually does the trick.

If you’re game is ice climbing, plan on much beefier gear. Ice climbers do a lot of standing around in frosty temps and need warmer layers.

As you take more winter outings, you’ll dial in what works best for what you do.

Originally published in the Post Register December 3rd, 2015