Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Temperature Swings on the Trail

At high altitude, where the air is thinner and doesn’t hold as much moisture and molecules to moderate the temperature, the thermal swings can be extreme. On the trail to Everest base camp, the higher we climbed, the greater the were the daily temperature changes. It’s wasn’t uncommon to wake up to a freezing temperature, greet the sunrise, and have its warmth take us into the mid-60s Fahrenheit by early afternoon. In the afternoon, as the sun began to go down, and whenever the clouds or mist rolled in, the reverse occured. Since we never burned camp fires for ecological reasons, once the sun went down, our activities were a few conversations, a cup of hot tea, and off to bed.

The practical aspect of this is to learn how to layer clothing. When you are encountering as much as a 50-degree temperature variation, you are wise to carry sufficient items of clothing to dress and undress on the trail. Most of us used synthetic undergarments, because cotton soaks through and doesn’t evaporate moisture well. This was followed by a long-sleeved garment, then perhaps a down vest. The outer layers was be a windproof shell, rain jacket, or down-filled jacket. We all carried gloves, a rain hood, backpack cover, waterproof pants, and a wool or synthetic hat. With all that, we had room to spare. If you are a creative packer, you can carry what you need in a daypack.

photo by Brian Auerbach

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Tags: Backpacking , Climbing High , Hot & Cold

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.