Using Polartec Alpha to stay warm when camping

Friday, July 6, 2018

First outdoor campout in the UK was with Adventure Queens along North Downs Way

I am fairly certain my body struggles to regulate its temperature.  When I get cold, I tend to stay that way.  Sleeping as a child, I would have 10-15 blankets on my bed.  To this day, I always sleep with socks on and religiously wear merino wool during the winter.  On the flip side, such as this Wednesday, London was so hot I couldn't cool down on my midday run.  I was so desperate to cool off I took my shirt off and ran in my sports bra.

Staying warm was one of my big concerns for Kilimanjaro.  We climbed on the cusp of the rainy season which meant the weather would be unpredictable and probably wet.  I religiously use an electric blanket in the winter back home and wasn't confident a hot water bottle would be sufficient on the mountain.  Luckily, the good people at Polartec sent me the Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw zip made with Polartec Alpha to test out.  The hoodie is bright orange, which is very handy when I need to find in a dark tent.  It also makes me easy to spot at a busy campsite.  It has a insulating hood, integrated hand gaiters, and warming pockets.  It is also very light and packs down small in a vacuum bag when travelling.

How I slept during my Kilimanjaro trek

With my luggage weight on Kili limited to 15 kg, I wanted to test out the hoodie before my trip.  In January, I joined the Adventure Queens for an overnight wild campout along the North Downs Way.  I chose to bring my two person tent rather than sleep outside under the stars.  It was due to rain a bit that weekend and being mid-winter, the temperatures were already low.  I packed the hoodie in my rucksack and put it on once the sun started to set.  The cold damp was starting to creep into my bones as we sat around the campfire telling stories and roasting marshmallows.  I ended up sleeping in the hoodie and stayed fairly warm overnight.  As I emerged from my tent the next morning, I found the air to be crisp so kept all of my upper layers but swapped my thermal tights for jeans.

Post-breakfast hike with new friends
After breakfast, we broke into groups and too a very low-key hike through the local woods.  There were a few hills which took some effort due to mud and warmed me right up.  I had to tie the hoody around my waist to prevent overheating in my two other layers.

Along the way to the top of Kilimanjaro with the hoodie under my rain jacket

The Lofoten Alpha Raw zip passed the test for me after this campout and made it onto my packing list for Kilimanjaro.  I used the same approach on Kili as I did on the January camp out, sleeping in the hoody every night but also used it as one of my eight layers on summit night. The guides recommended seven layers but I get cold so I added an extra.  It turned out that seven would have been the correct number!  We summited at 8:30am and were so hot by the time we got to the top.  I stripped most of my layers off at that point and carried them down in my rucksack.  If I had a choice, I would always choose to be a little bit warm over a little bit cold so I didn't mind carrying the extra weight.

At the top with eight layers on top and four on the bottom

The Polartec Alpha fabric was originally designed for U.S Special Forces to be used in both dynamic and static situations.  It is extremely breathable, lightweight, and dries fast.  This means you don't need to stop mid-activity and add or remove layers.  It washes well and the hoodie didn't leave fuzz everywhere even though the texture is fluffy.

Polartec Alpha is a fabric I will be sure to lookout for in the future when I am investing in new pieces for future outdoor adventures.  Being lightweight, packable and versatile for layering makes it a good staple to keep in your rucksack.

How do you keep warm on your outdoor adventures?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

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