Keys to Staying Dry

Knowing How to Stay Warm While Bikepacking is more about knowing oneself, than it is about the weather or conditions you’ll face. Knowing how your body reacts, moisture management, the ability to keep moving and the right gear, are the main factors in staying warm. Keep reading to learn more about these and How to Stay Warm While Bikepacking.Here’s a list of just some of the points I’ll hit:

  • Be prepared
  • Right gear for you
  • On Trail Tips
  • Mental Toughness

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Let’s be real, everyone get’s cold at some point. The main difference is we all experience cold, it’s effects and deal with it differently. Personally I can deal with being cold or wet, but combine the two and I start to suffer.Just like with my article on “How to Stay Dry While Bikepacking“, staying warm isn’t completely just about which gear you have. Everything from the gear, to your bodies metabolism, to your mental state, to what actions you take when it gets cold are factors in staying warm.I talk about the proper gear and knowing yourself below so I’m going to skip that here. There are many ways to limit heat loss or fight the cold. Below is a list:

  • Layering and keeping the wind out is key.
  • Regulate your body temperature. Avoid extremes, too cold or too hot…sweating (wet clothes won’t keep you warm) and too cold…harder to recover from.
  • Hand/Toe warmers are your friends.
  • Limit your time in camp, ride longer and keep moving to produce warmth.
  • Avoid sleeping in low areas or at high altitudes.
  • Find sheltered camps out of the wind if possible.
  • Eating before you go to bed will help with internal heat.

Of course it’s not always possible but it’s better to stay warmer. The colder you get the harder it becomes to get warm again. It also requires a lot of energy, (calories, something that are usually in short supply). Above I mentioned avoiding certain areas and finding shelter campsites. Another trick if you have the flexibility is to plan your day to tackle an area that might be lacking sun or holds colder temperatures until the warmest time of the day. Like mountain climbers who get up earlier to walk on frozen snow, try to do the opposite while on the bike. Wait until temperatures warm up.Lastly, watch the weather. Take note and plan accordingly. Know when to push over a pass or whether to set up camp could make the difference between staying warm or freezing your butt off.

Pro-Tip

Staying in your tent isn’t an option, so the sooner you get out and going the more miles you’ll put in.

Preparedness

As I have stated in my guides for bikepacking the triple crown, I’m a big fan of doing your homework. Doing a bit of research before you step out the door can have a big impact on the outcome of your ride/race.Know where you’re going, the route, the weather and other factors that could influence your trip and comfort level.Part of your research should be learning about yourself. How does different weather affect you? Are you a warm sleeper or cold? Do your hands or feet get cold easily? How is your decision making when you’re cold and tired? All of these are valid questions and knowing the answer to them will greatly help your trip be a success and affect how you approach it and what you bring with you.

Gear on Bike

Shoe Covers

-Make sure their not super tight.  Fighting to get shoe covers on/off with cold wet hands is like trying to wrestle an angry cat into a carrier.

Wool Socks

-Cold wet feet are the worst. Wool socks will wick more water than others and still retain the ability to provide heat. They also stink less after days or weeks on the bike.

Knee/Leg/Arm Warmers

-The versatility of knee/leg/arm warmers makes them one of my favorite pieces of gear. They are a simply way to help regulate your body temperature to either stay warm or cool down.

Base Layers

-Mornings and night riding can get pretty cold. A good wool base layer is key in wicking moisture away from your body and adding warmth to your kit

Tights

-If you’re not a fan of knee or leg warmers, a pair of tights should be in your kit. Keeping your legs warm is key for any cyclist. Your legs are your engine.

Wind Shell/Vest

-A wind shell/vest is optional, as you could always wear your rain jacket in place of a shell. If space/weight isn’t a concern a shell will breath better and make regulating your body temperature easier.

Cap & Buff

-Besides your hands and feet, most heat lose if from your head. A cycling cap or a buff is a great way to limit the loss. Personally, I think a buff is a must have for any bikepacker.

Cold Weather Gloves

-Carrying a second, heavier pair of cold weather gloves might seem excessive but trust me on this. Mornings are much more bearable when you have gloves other than summer cycling gloves.

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Shoe Covers

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Wool Socks

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Knee/Leg/Arm Warmers

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Base Layers

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Tights

Buy Cycling Shells at Backcountry.com

Wind Shells/Vest

Buy Cycling Hats at Backcountry.com

Cap/Buffs

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Cold Weather Gloves

Gear in Camp

Beanie

-Most of one’s heat loss is through one’s head. A good beanie or thick buff is key to staying warm while not on the bike or on.

Down Jacket

-A down jacket will not only keep you warm while in camp it can be worn for extra warmth while sleeping.

Top Base Layer

-A good base layer to sleep in feels great after a long day on the bike and it will keep you warm too.

Bottom Base Layers

-Warm legs are happy legs. Wrap those puppies in a nice base layer and sleep like a champ.

Sleeping Bag

-A good down sleeping bag is probably the number one item that will keep you the warmest on a cold night.

Sleeping Pad

-Not all pads are good at retaining heat. Get the right one or freeze.

Backcountry.com Beanies - How to stay warm when bikepacking

Beanie

Backcountry.com - Down Jackets - How to stay warm when bikepacking

Down Jackets

Backcountry.com - Top Base Layers - How to stay warm when bikepacking

Top Base Layers

Backcountry.com - Bottom Base Layers - How to stay warm when bikepacking

Bottom Baselayers

Backcountry.com - Down Sleeping Bags - How to stay warm when bikepacking

Down Sleeping Bags

Backcountry.com - Sleeping Pads - How to stay warm when bikepacking

Sleeping Pads

Other Toasty Items to Consider

Another helpful item are Poggies. They do a great job of blocking wind that otherwise would leave your hands numb and possibly frost bitten.

Face Masks are great for extremely cold days and add extra coverage on your face and ears, protecting you from wind burn and frost bite.

Keeping Your Gear Dry

Another thing you want to think about is how to keep your clothing/gear dry when you’re not using it. Some bikepacking bags are waterproof but others are not. Even if they are, consider investing in some SealLine dry bags to ensure you have a nice toasty and dry puffy to put on at the end of the a long day. If you’re not dry, you’re not warm. I talk about How to Stay Dry When Bikepacking here.

Pro-Tip

Don’t forget your rain gear can be used as a defense against the cold as well. Take a look at my post “How to Stay Dry While Bikepacking” for ideas on how you can put your rain gear to double use.  

Mental Preparation

The Mental Game:

  • Be Comfortable with your gear
  • Know your limits
  • Remember, everything is temporary!

Having the right gear alone isn’t enough to keep you warm. You really have to know your gear and how it works for you. Know when and which pieces to wear for different situations is key in any adventure. A dialed kit is clutch. So test what works best for you. Once you’re comfortable with your kit, your confidence will make you mentally stronger. Know your limits and what you can and can’t handle. Mental toughness isn’t just about who can endure the worst conditions. The person who knows their limits is most likely mentally stronger and will also make better decisions when things go South.Being cold is both a state of mind and a physical state. Carry the right gear, know how and when to use it, and combine that with mental toughness. If you can do this you’ll realize like me that everything is temporary and eventually you’ll be warm again. Nothing last forever!Know your gear, make smart decisions and be comfortable with your gear. You’ll be amazed at what you can endure if you do.

Pro-Tip

Know your weaknesses (both physical and mental) and work on them.  Having the right attitude can make all the difference. 

Summary

To summarize on How to Stay Dry While Bikepacking, what you do before you leave, how you mentally approach your on trail experience, having quality and breathable gear your comfortable with, and making sound decision are the keys to staying dry.You can’t fully avoid getting wet but you can follow these simple steps to help make the experience less grueling and that should keep the pedals turning. Good luck and happy trails!

MORE RESOURCES

Read these next or checkout the main resource page.

Gear lists from the AZT, TD and CTR; Pros & Cons; Things I’d do different; and Tips.

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