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 our San Jacinto mountain trails.
Here are a few tips that will enhance your enjoyment and safety:
A mild autumn day hike can turn uncomfortably cold with the addition of a surprise storm. Air temperature drops about 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
If you’re heading for Tahquitz Peak, you’ll encounter an elevation change of about 3,300 feet. 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.
While we can’t control the weather and temperatures, we can take actions to keep safe and warm despite the weather changes.
Several actions will help protect you while you’re on the trail and moving.
First, stay dry. While you’re preparing your pack for the colder weather ahead, make sure to pack your rain gear. Also, including additional dry insulating baselayers to change into if rains can be vital. Clothing wet from sweat or rain conducts heat 25 times faster than air which can result in a surprisingly quick loss of body heat.
Second, 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 or a water filter. For extra precaution, bring both. Many of the water sources in the high country have dried up. Sources that were fresh flowing may have become stagnant over the summer. Staying hydrated allows your body to regulate its heat stores much more efficiently.
Here are a few keys to staying cozy in camp after the day’s hike. This is easy, but often overlooked. 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 temperatures can be as much as 25 degrees warmer just 250 feet above the inversion layer.
Secondly, you can take the chill out of the wind chill. Use of natural windbreaks. For example, pitch your tent behind thicker stands of trees, bigger boulders, and on leeward sides of slopes. Bring a smaller shelter. This is easy to overlook, but makes a difference. A lower-volume tent requires less of your body heat to warm it.
Pamper yourself with snacks to keep 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, and olive oil can add delicious flavor to any meal. Eating spices like ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon can increase blood flow to the skin and make you feel warmer.