20. Staying Dry and Warm

In this video we talk about staying dry and warm in the mountain environment. Specifically, we will address layering and eating food.

Layering Clothes:

As in most outdoor sports, layering for activity is essential. With alpinism, one moves from periods of high exertion (where you expend huge amounts of energy), to periods of minimal movement. Layering examples include you, leading a pitch of difficult rock or ice while wearing thin layers, as your partner belays you in the shade, wearing a thick parka.  

Base layers often consist of wool or synthetic fibers. These base layers should be thin and wick moisture, as well as have properties that keep them from smelling too bad after several days of wear.

Insulation layers should be light and compressible. Synthetic puffy jackets have taken over the role that thick fleece jackets once dominated. Alpine insulating layers are best used with a hood that also fits over your helmet to maximize heat retention.  

– Alpine Shell layers will depend on the climate you spend time in.

If you are in the northwest or a winter environment, or at high altitude in the Alaska range, then a hard shell jacket may be the way to go to ensure staying dry.  

That stated, many alpine climbing missions make use of high pressure systems and dry mountain conditions so a softshell layer may be the best option.

In cold environments, a lightweight and packable down parka is nice to throw over all your layers for belays or early mornings and evenings when you are less active.

For the lower half of your body, pants with zipper vents can be nice for hiking or skiing/skinning uphill; however, the extra bulk and weight may not be worth it for summer alpine climbing pants.

For winter ice climbing, your may consider a “onesie.” Though this is not the most fashion-forward look, it does a powerful job of keeping your core warm for those extra cold days.

Ingesting Food:

Adequate hydration and food intake is the other major way to keep your metabolism up, and help your body stay warm. Proper hydration and food intake should begin days prior to your alpine adventure.

Adequate hydration and high calorie diets will keep your metabolic rate high and your core warm. Don’t skimp on the fats! On Alaska range trips, butter and bacon can be your best friend, and keep you warm… cheese also works well!

For alpine snacks, consider gels and shot blocks over bars, as bars tend to freeze in cold environments.  

Alcohol, though helping you feel warm for a few minutes, can expedite hypothermia by acting as a vasodilator which initially makes you feel warmer, but cools your core body temperature.

We hope you found this video helpful. Feel free to comment below with questions or thoughts!


Please remember, climbing is inherently dangerous. Climb at your own risk.