Beating a Dangerous Chill in the Wilderness

Mar 20, 2023Kawdy News

A wilderness hunt in British Columbia or elsewhere can throw the gauntlet of conditions at adventurous hunters. Remember that it’s always easier to stay warm, than it is to get warm after you’re chilled, so preventative measures to avoid a chill are worth paying attention to. Warming up can be 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.

Mountain Caribou Hunt in British Columbia

Raise Your Heart Rate

Physical activity will raise your heart rate 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 in order to avoid sweating. And then quickly add layers when the activity stops. You are more likely to stay warm without taking on a chill if you layer down and layer up at the right times.  

Get Dry

Moisture is the enemy in cold conditions. Add a steady breeze causes convective heat loss even when you’re dry. Add moisture to that scenario, and you also have evaporative heat loss, which can cause your body temperature to drop rapidly. If you are soaked through with sweat or 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 down quilt or 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 quilt or bag that packs down small is perfect for sitting in cold on a cold mountaintop while glassing.

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.