When your body gets cold, it shuts off warm blood to the extremities in an effort to keep the heart and vital organs warm. This is an evolved trait that helps maintain basic life functions in the state of emergency. The upside to this is that if you ever get lost in the woods you’re only going to lose a hand, not a liver, the downside is that if you’re purposely in the cold it can be a challenge to keep your fingers functioning. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help.
Stop the Leaking
The blood in your hands sits close to the surface of the skin. When exposed without protection, heat expels rapidly and the hands cool off very quickly. One of the most important things you can do is prevent the loss of heat in the first place. An easy way to go about this is to use a lightweight, power stretch liner glove. Powerstretch gloves sit directly against the skin and move and flex with 4way stretch. They’re also slim enough that you can wear them under a bulky glove or mitten. The benefit here is when you remove your bulky glove to access your phone, zippers, wallet, goggles, etc., you don’t directly expose your skin to the elements.
Insulate Your Core
So, as stated before, your body shunts off blood flow to the extremities when the core starts to get cold. Easy solution? Stop the core from getting cold. If your organs stay warm the body will actually increase the flow of warm blood to the hands and feet in an effort to cool the body down. Problem solved. Keeping your core warm is easy, fuel it with food (snacks, sandwiches, etc.) and keep it insulated (clothes and layers). The best option I’ve found is a good down vest. You can avoid the bulky, “marshmallow” feeling whiles still adding a ton of warmth to the core.
Hand Warmers and Heated Gloves
The obvious solution when nothing else works. Heated Gloves are great for ski resort or family travelers who have access to power sources at night. They’re easy to use and generate plenty of warmth for a day of skiing. Hand warmers would be the multi-day backcountry solution. Lightweight and disposable these are a quick and easy alternative.
Insulate your Blood
This is a great way to keep warm with minimal layers or bulk and makes a great option during high-motion activity like skinning, snowshoeing or running. The key here is to insulate any area of the body where the blood flows close to the skin. This includes head, face, neck, wrist, waist, and ankles. They’re also the “joints” between your clothes where the wind is most likely to creep through your layers (bottom of the sleeve, neck / head hole, bottom of the pants, waist). Make sure you’re wearing a hat or helmet, a good neck gaiter, layers that are tucked in in layers, tall socks, and sleeves with thumbholes. Keep that blood warm as it travels around the body and you’ll find yourself at a more consistent temperature.