View Full Version : "Icy hot"...sweating in the cold.

David S.
12-05-2004, 20:39
Hi guys. Just got back from backpacking in the Citico Creek wilderness over the weekend...what a beautiful area. Since it was a bit chilly out...27 degrees at night and 40 or so in the day, I found it an interesting "training" hike for learning to regulate my body temperature and sweat while I hike. I noticed on some particularly strenuous sections that as I began to sweat, I would begin to experience what I can only describe as an icy hot feeling.... kind of like a combination of being very warm deep under the skin but very cold on the skin surface. I can't say that's its a sensation that I particularly enjoy, but my other alternative is to keep the jacket on and sweat even worse and get in to camp soaked in sweat...a feeling I don't really care for either. (of course, if I have to experience a little discomfort to be outside then its worth it I suppose) I realize that not everyone sweats as profusely as I but I would love to hear your comments and techniques for regulating sweat and body temp. Here is what I tried and the results seemed somewhat promising.

Temp. 35 degrees. Running shorts but nothing else covering the legs. (my logic is that I don't mind cold legs as much as cold arms and torso.)
Golite wicking T-shirt on upper body covered with a mid weight fleece.
Head and ears covered with a hat. Hat has a puffy little ball on the top...don't know what that's for but it sure looks important.

This setup seemed to keep me pretty comfortable. My logic was that my legs would act as radiators so my covered upper body would begin to sweat later rather than earlier. Seemed to work pretty well until the climbing became strenuous...then it was the dreaded icy hot feeling as sweat began to wet my cloths and evaporate. Mainly my back and chest. Of course I'm guessing that evaporating sweat is a good thing as long as my core temperature stays normal....but boy does it feel cold! Is this icy hot feeling dangerous? Do you know what I'm talking about when I say "icy hot"?

In hind sight, I probably could have removed the hat to cool me even further on the climbs but never thought about it....warm ears and head are certainly nice but I am sure they would make great heat dissipaters also.

I guess I am trying to strike a balance between not being to cold and not being to hot on the climbs...and hopefully, striking the most sweat free combination possible. I realize that this may not be physiologically possible for my body to achieve but would love to hear the input of all you veterans of the outdoors. Thanks...sorry so long.

12-05-2004, 20:50
when U start to heat duringa climb in cold weather, just slow down a little and your body will not be generating as much heat..

also your idea to adjust your hat (ears are big heat regulators),,,,

I wear a long sleeve poly t-shirt, I can push the sleeves up or down to help regulate temp. also I wear gloves even when my arms are exposed,

In cold temps avoiding sweating is beneficial, In cold temps I also like to slow down and cool off before reaching camp/shelter/that way I don't go from being 'too' warm and sweaty to being too cold and damp.

Pencil Pusher
12-05-2004, 21:51
I agree, slow down a little. Maybe try putting polypro bottoms on and just wearing your tshirt with hat and gloves. What really dials things in is the hat and gloves, assuming you're in the ball park with the clothes.

As well, you can feel when this condition you don't like approaches, so try and ventilate your torso when you feel this coming on. Whether that means your setup minus the polypro top with maybe a jacket with a million pit zips, ventilation is key. The gloves and hat really make a difference and are easily taken on and off. Good luck sweaty dude. I thought this thread was on Icy Hot. For the times I was Mr Tin Man, that stuff worked great.

The Will
12-05-2004, 22:15
I'm in agreement with Pencil and SMS, hat and gloves are big difference makers. I too, like to wear long sleeves so as to push up/pull down the sleeves when necessary. While hiking, I can stay very comfortable into the upper 30's to mid 40's wearing only a long sleeve shirt, shorts, hat and gloves.

The hat might have been a good thing to ditch on the strenuous uphills...there's lots of superficial blood vessels in the head and neck area that can unload heat in a hurry. However, you say you didn't think of taking your hat off which may be an indication that it was best for your comfort to leave it on (a hat is usually the first thing I take off when I'm overheating, my head will be burning up).

I find legs to be fairly tolerant of temperture. Because of all the work they are engaged in, I usually keep them bare into the mid-30's. However, a light weight pair of nylon pants are comfortable even into low 50's.

Did you have adequate venting on the fleece you were wearing? Full front zip? Pit-zips? These are ready remedies to the problems you were mentioning.

steve hiker
12-06-2004, 01:16
Try wearing your raingear only while hiking. I did this last January in the Smokies when the temp was in the mid-20s, and kept warm while hiking but didn't sweat. My raingear was Marmot Precip top and bottom, if that makes a difference. If I did sweat, there was no fabric to soak it up and cause problems, and it must have evaported quickly.

When you get to the shelter, that's the time to put on the polypro and polarguard pants, etc.

12-06-2004, 08:31
First of all Citico/Slickrock is my favorite area to hike.
Second, I usually layer depending on the temperature and what I'm doing...if I get overheated I just take off a layer...
I've found that removing my hat usually cools me down pretty quick.

Spirit Walker
12-06-2004, 10:26
Cover your legs - you are losing a lot of heat quickly from that exposed skin. Your internal furnace has to work hard to send warmth to the muscles there. Not a good idea. Polypro or even light supplex will do for cover. Remember, windchill works on exposed skin. It's better to have an even temperature so your body can concentrate on the parts of the body that really need extra warmth.

If you are overheating - for head covering you might consider either a light polypro hat or balaclava (but keep the wool for when you are stopped for the day or if it gets really cold) or just an ear band. I can get bad headaches and earaches if I am hiking with no protection for my ears, but a full hat can be too hot. Same with gloves. Carry warm gloves for when you need them, but for hiking a pair of light polypro liner gloves will keep the windchill off, but not make you sweat as much. For long underwear - the kind with the zip neck can be good as you can open the neck or zip it up depending on temperature. If it's really cold I will also wear either a vest or a 100 weight fleece shirt that can be unzipped when climbing and zipped when going down hill. I almost never wear a jacket when hiking, except the first mile out of camp in the morning or if it's raining.

12-06-2004, 10:40

Those temperatures in mountains require changing clothing fairly often. First, your layers need to be incremental enough and what I mean by that is you need several layers of light enough insulation that you can find a layer that you are warm enough with but not so warm that you overheat and sweat profusely with. Sometimes you have to take gloves, hat and jackets on-and-off depending on whether you are ascending, desending, in the sun, in the shade, in the wind, in the rain, etc. Work out a system and try to pack it efficiently so that you can put gloves in pockets and the on-and-off jacket, etc, where you can get to them as easily as possible. Your insulation needs are going to vary and you just need to adjust as required.


12-06-2004, 12:53
I would have done the following, but of course this is just me and I might not sweat as much as you:

Light pants instead of shorts. A wicking layer and either a fleece or windstopping layer. Hat. Gloves.

Remove hat and gloves as it gets warmer or activity builds up.

Open or remove the fleece/windstop as soon as or before sweating starts. If there's no sweat accumulating in the fabric there's no icy hot, is that correct?

Of course every body is different so your mileage may vary.

The Cheat