Seasons Change: Fall Hiking & Backpacking

Fall Hiking in the Sierra NevadaFall. The days are still deceptively warm, but the night air carries a crispness that speaks of snow and ice to come. It’s the perfect season for hiking- that is if you follow a few tips that will enhance your enjoyment and safety.

Weather Woes:

A mild Autumn day hike can turn uncomfortably cold with the addition of a surprise storm. Air temperature drops about 3° to 4°F for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Heading for Tahquitz Peak? With around 3,300 feet in gain, the temperature may drop as much as 13 degrees from downtown Idyllwild (not accounting for wind chill.) That means a simple drizzle in downtown Idyllwild could turn to biting cold rain or even icy flurries as you climb.

How to keep safe and warm despite the changing weather?

Hiking tips: heating up the trail

Stay dry: While you’re updating your pack for the colder weather ahead, make sure to pack your rain gear and additional dry insulating baselayers to change into. Clothing wet from sweat or rain conducts heat 25 times faster than air and can lead to a surprisingly quick loss of body heat.

Switch to higher-fat snacks: Calorie-dense foods like chocolate, nuts and nut-butters, and cheese burn slowly, keeping you warmer longer. I love those serving size packets of Justin’s maple almond butter and coconut butter. You can find a variety of single serving packets at our local Harvest Market.

Bring enough water and/or a water filter: Many of the water sources in the high country have dried up and sources that were fresh flowing may have become stagnant over the summer. Staying hydrated allows your body to regulate it’s heat stores much more efficiently.

Overnight tips: Keys to staying cozy in camp

Be picky about where you pitch your tent: Your camp-site choice is critical to spending a comfortable night. Pitch your tent well above lower-lying areas like gullies, meadows, and creeks where cold, damp air settles. Nighttime temps can be as much as 25°F warmer just 250 feet above the inversion layer!

Take the chill out of the wind chill: make use of natural windbreaks by pitching your tent behind thicker stands of trees, bigger boulders, and on leeward sides of slopes.

Downsize: Bring a smaller shelter. A lower-volume tent requires less of your body heat to warm it.

Snack yourself warm: Eat a snack and brew hot drinks while you set up your camp. Snack again just before bedtime; digestion will help raise your body temp.

Fat is your friend: Add oil and spices to your fall meal plans. Coconut oil is a quick burning fat,butter is just plain delicious (and has gotten a much undeserved bad rap) and olive oil can add great flavor to any meal. Eating spices like ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon can increase blood flow to the skin and make you feel warmer.

Delicious Brook Trout in Butter and Garlic
Delicious Brook Trout, skin on, with plenty of Butter and Garlic!

Remember: Seasons change, and so should you.

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