Here are some of my best tips for how to stay warm white water rafting in WV and at the campsite: (brought to you from years of experience getting soaking wet and sleeping on the ground for fun.)
ON THE RIVER:
- Wear shoes that give you ample room to move your toes. If there’s any significant pressure on any part of your feet, it’ll restrict blood flow and freeze your feet up much faster than if you have wiggle room. Even booties a size too big will keep you warm as your feet will quickly heat up the water sloshing around in there – whereas one size too small is sure to keep your toes numb in cold water.
- At lunch, keep your PFD and helmet on. This keeps you a bit warmer with the added benefit of providing some protection from the elements. Keep in mind, this method keeps you from accessing the full capacity of your stomach – which seems like a disappointing tradeoff when you’re the only one in the raft who isn’t completely stuffed from one of ACE Adventure Resort’s scrumptious, grilled lunches.
- Moving your big muscles will keep you warmer and return feeling to your extremities much faster than wiggling your toes or shaking your hands. Try this: With your arms hanging down, lock your elbows and flex the backs of your hands up towards your forearms and shrug your shoulders a lot to get circulation into your fingers. Do some squats to engage your largest muscles and get blood flowing around your entire body. If you do both at the same time, be sure to thread some leaves into your helmet and tell people you’re a bird of paradise. If you get weird looks from others in your crew, just remember that they are probably still cold and not nearly as hip as you.
- Get completely out of your wet clothes. Some people keep their damp swim trunks and sports bras on after white water rafting in WV, assuming that the articles will dry out since all their outer clothes are dry. This is flawed logic, as your wet undergarments serve as an icepack right above your femoral arteries and chill your core.
- Put on a hat. A winter hat is best but even a baseball cap will help. Hats are the thermos of the clothing world and will retain more heat than you’d ever expect. Scarves are good backup. Both of these are indispensable when you’re ready to turn in for the night.
- Boil up a pot of water and pour it into one of your water bottles. Insulate it with a sock to keep it from burning your skin, and snuggle up to it like a teddy bear. Extra bonus: You don’t have to go far if you need a drink of water in the middle of the night!
- If you only brought one pair of an essential clothing item and it’s currently soaked, wring it out and hang it over a heat source for as long as possible. If all you’ve got is a fire, you’ll run the risk of making the garment hickory-smoked and covered in little bitty burn holes while drying it. Remember, you’ll get more street cred as an outdoors-person if you smell like fire and your clothing has some battle scars!) When you go to bed, take the (hopefully) semi-dry item and put it inside your sleeping bag with you, preferably at the base of the bag so you can avoid rolling over on something icky and wet in the middle of the night. Your body heat will slowly dry the gear out over the course of the night, with the added bonus of it being warm when you have to put it on in the morning.
- In a sleeping bag, sometimes you stay warmer if you have fewer layers on. Have you ever noticed that mittens keep your hands warmer than gloves? That’s the same basic concept – your fingers are helping to warm one another instead of sitting in their individual isolated compartments. Experiment with this before you put on every item of clothing you brought.
- Make sure there’s adequate insulation between you and the floor. In lieu of a mattress, even a thin yoga mat or a layer of your clothing is better than nothing. If you’re a mobile sleeper like me, take some actions to keep yourself from rolling off your sleeping mat in the middle of the night, because you’re sure to wake up cold. If this means wedging yourself between the cooler and the tent wall to keep from rolling off during the night, go for it.
So there it is: How to stay warm while white water rafting. Let us know if you have an additional pointers.