This time of year is great for hiking, but can also be difficult to determine what to wear which could be dangerous. Hypothermia kills approximately 1500 people per year and while most of these deaths are not related to hiking there still is a threat to health if you are careless with attire. There are some simple steps to take when planning the clothes to wear to keep dry and warm. The way the weather changes here in Northern Nevada and other areas as well this time of year you have to be prepared.
Hypothermia is a condition when your body temperature drops and cannot be warmed back up. The symptoms of hypothermia are shivering, confusion, slowed speech, slowed breathing and clumsiness. There are several risk factors that increase the chance of hypothermia, three that could be common in hikers are age, dehydration, and where you live. Being aware of these factors can help limit the possibility of falling victim to this condition. Knowing that it gets cold in the morning or evening where you live means that you have to be cautious when hiking during those times. Make sure you hydrate at all times while hiking. Lastly, pay attention to your body especially if you are older and look for early signs of hypothermia. The most important thing to remember is hypothermia progresses quickly to stages that you may not recognize so acting quickly before or immediately when shivering is paramount.
Dressing in layers is the best defense against hypothermia and protecting your overall health. Advancements in clothing have made it relatively simple to get dressed for the hike. Being in the military, I have noticed the change in clothes from bulky field jackets in the past to layered systems used today. The outer jackets are nothing more than a flimsy shell but when paired with the under layers they provide a protective system. The first layer close to the body should be moisture wicking and light material that helps keep the body warm. The next layer is where the warmth comes in; this layer regulates the amount of warmth necessary for the situation. The outer layer is used to protect against the elements; rain, snow or wind. Understanding the type of day forecasted for your hike is important to determine how much layering is necessary but layering is the key. You can always remove layers but once you are wet or cold it is much harder to recover.
Protect yourself from the elements, get out, and enjoy a hike!