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Title image:  Getting ready for expeditions, resources and tips

Training for Travel with Personal Trainer Terri Truman

Regulating Body Temperature

Last time we chatted about water/fluid intake and how critical it is to manage output and consumption. Similarly, it’s essential to manage your body temperature.

Core temperature is a person’s “normal operating temperature”, specifically in deep structures of the body (e.g. pancreas, liver), in comparison to temperatures of peripheral tissues (e.g. skin). Life-essential biological and metabolic functions occur in this narrow temperature band: going outside of these ranges not only impacts performance, but can put your health and safety at risk.


Core Cold - Hypothermia <35.0 °C (<95.0 °F)
Core Normal 36.5–37.5 °C (97.7–99.5 °F)
Cold Hot - Hyperthermia >37.5 °C (>99.5 °F)

Hypothermia occurs when your body’s core temperature drops below that which is required for normal metabolic and bodily functions. This usually happens when you are exposed to cold air or water, but there are no hard-and-fast rules: people can go hypothermic indoors, exposed to air conditioning! When symptoms like uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, confusion and fatigue appear, they must be addressed immediately. Rug up, wrap up and get that core temp up!

Hyperthermia occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate, causing your core temp to climb uncontrollably. This can happen anytime - when you’re backpacking, working out or running – and yes, even at sub-zero temps in the mountains if you’re not appropriately dressed! Common symptoms of hyperthermia include headache, confusion and fatigue. If sweating has resulted in dehydration, you may find dry, red skin. Core temps above 40 °C (104 °F) is a serious situation that requires immediate intervention: work quickly to lower your temp.

In the mountains you have three basic tools to manage your core temp to prevent hypo/hyperthermia. They are:

  • Dress - You should always “dress for success”, with clothing appropriate for the conditions. A good base layer that wicks and keeps perspiration away from your skin is a must. Above your base layer, wear insulating clothes and outerwear that can be easily added/removed (layering). Opening and closing zippers (venting) can help regulate your temp. Since so much heat is lost through your head, hats/ balaclavas are very effective to vent or retain heat.
  • Dress in layers and make sure to keep warm enough

    Dress in layers and make sure to keep warm enough

    Cover up in the sun, but not so much that you overheat

    Cover up in the sun, but not so much that you overheat

  • Fuel – Furnaces don’t run without fuel and neither do people. Eat high-caloric, easily digested carbs. Snack frequently if you need to. Keep fueling and stay hydrated. If you can handle the weight, pack a small thermos or stove: there’s nothing like a sip of hot cocoa when you’re chilled to the bone!
  • Stay fueled with frequent snacks

    Stay fueled with frequent snacks

    Enjoy hot beverages on cold days

    Enjoy hot beverages on cold days

  • Pace – Mentioned last, because it’s not always a good option if you’re out with a group. If you’re cold, pick up the pace: if you’re breaking a sweat, slow down. Remember, it’s not a race: slow-and-steady usually wins the summit.

So pay attention to your body - you’re the best judge of how you’re feeling at the moment. Change your pace, adjust your clothes, eat a candy bar, sip some coffee. And remember to watch your trail-buddies for temp-related issues: they may need your help and not know it… but now you do!