Beating a Dangerous Chill in the Wilderness

Mar 20, 2018Kawdy News

A wilderness hunt in British Columbia or elsewhere can throw the gauntlet of conditions at adventurous hunters. Recovering from heat is difficult in dry areas but cold water and shade are abundant in B.C. and overheating is rarely an issue. Slow down, grab a cold drink and sit in the shade for an easy cool down. Warming up however is difficult after your body is chilled and raising your core temperature requires some knowhow. Consider these strategies to warm-up on a remote backcountry hunt.

Raise Your Heartrate

Physical activity will raise your heartrate and warm up your core temperature. Hike up a hill or do a few jumping jacks to get the blood flowing. The chill will often set in as you cool down from activity. Slow periods of glassing are especially dangerous. Strip off layers as you heat up and quickly add layers when the activity stops. You are more likely to stay warm without taking on a chill if you layer up immediately.  

Get Dry

Moisture is the enemy in cold conditions. Add a steady breeze and your body temperature can drop quickly. If you are soaked through with sweat and water, change clothes. A few minutes of skin contact with the cold is worth the change as dry clothes can warm you up while wet clothes will only draw away more heat. If you are hiking hard, wear a long sleeve undershirt to absorb sweat and pull off that layer when you stop.

Focus on the core 

Your core is critical and ultimately determines how your blood flows. When your core temperature is dangerously low, blood flow is concentrated to protect your vital organs. Warm up your chest area with instant heat hand warmers. This tells your body that you are safe and blood will flow to your outer extremities. If your chest is warm, everything else will follow quickly. Take this lesson to your layering system as well. Always keep a good down vest or other insulating core piece.

Warm drinks and calories

Carry a lightweight backpacking stove for quick, hot calories. Hot chocolate is a treat on the mountain and it helps take off the chill. Freeze dried meals also make a difference and preparation requires nothing more than hot water. Warming up from the inside out is one of the fastest ways to recover from a chill.

Take shelter

Find a wind break and get under shelter when necessary. I like to carry an ultralight sleeping bag when I alternate between hard hiking and sedentary glassing periods during the late hunting seasons. Unzipped, the sleeping bag functions as a blanket and really makes a difference. A 30 degree bag that packs down small is perfect for sitting in cold on a cold mountaintop.

Written by Zach Lazzari

Zach Lazzari is a fly fishing guide and freelance writer. When he’s not fishing, Zach is chasing big game, upland birds and waterfowl in the Rocky Mountains and Northwest.