Note: Neither the author, nor the WMS, has a connection to any of manufacturers linked in this article and no compensation has been provided for use or recommendation of these products. The brands mentioned are the ones the author has found most useful after many days in the field. Many comparable products exist. Your mileage may vary.
This article will explore strategies for freezing and non-freezing cold injury prevention (frostbite, hypothermia, and related concerns) in montane environments (mountaineering, rock climbing, ice climbing, backcountry skiing, etc.) outside of water immersion. I do not presume to offer particularly novel or innovative techniques to the large literature on the subject, which includes a number of methods for layering, field rewarming, etc. However, I hope that thousands of days in the mountains as a guide, climber, skier, and search and rescue team leader with Raynaud's disease might offer a useful nugget, small tip, or new insight to the experienced practitioner to help them start and stay warm and functional, so they can provide the best possible care for their patients.
Before Leaving the House
- Use a boot dryer, glove dryer, and/or fans and hang gear to dry as soon as possible following the previous day's outing.
- I'm diligent with lotion, ointment, and bandages to prevent and heal cracked skin that plagues hands and feet in winter to keep them ready for the next day's outing.
- I use liquid skin instead of bandages and tape before heading out the door to prevent constricting digits in the field.
- On gusty days, I may prophylactically apply KT tape to my nose and/or cheeks when a mask does not cooperate with googles or glasses.
- On the way out the door, my first pair of gloves goes against my belly in my base layer/jacket.
- In the vehicle, boots go under the floor vent in the cab where they get even more warm air.
- Put boots on while still in the vehicle instead of booting up by the tailgate.
- I ensure all my equipment is ready to go right out of the vehicle, instead of shivering while putting skins on skis or buckling ice tools to a pack.
- When I'm working and waiting on students, clients, etc., I use a “car puffy” as an extra outer layer that I strip off and leave in the vehicle as we walk away from the trailhead.
- Supplements and medications might help keep extremities warm, ranging from garlic and grapefruit to niacin and tadalafil. These have their proponents for a variety of applications, whether work in the polar regions, high altitude climbing, or Raynaud's. Regardless, they should first be discussed with one's primary care provider.