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What to wear in Winter

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
I am sure most Camino Veterans know what is contained in this article I just found. I have walked in winter and there are great tips in here.
For any new pilgrim who is planning a cold weather Camino I think reading this will help alot.
 
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Arn

Veteran Member
I am sure most Camino Veterans know what is contained in this article I just found. I have walked in winter and there are great tips in here.
For any new pilgrim who is planning a cold weather Camino I think reading this will help alot.
One point I disagree with is right at the beginning "save the cotton for Summer"
Cotton in any active environment can be deadly. Once cotton gets wet (running, sailing, hiking, etc) it becomes clammy because of the trapped moisture. Your normal body temperature, in the 97 degree range, can not adequately dry a wet, or even damp T-shirt. Add to this wind across the surface and you can be in serious trouble...even if the air temperature is in the 80's. Save the cotton for BBQ on the veranda.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
One point I disagree with is right at the beginning "save the cotton for Summer"
Cotton in any active environment can be deadly. Once cotton gets wet (running, sailing, hiking, etc) it becomes clammy because of the trapped moisture. Your normal body temperature, in the 97 degree range, can not adequately dry a wet, or even damp T-shirt. Add to this wind across the surface and you can be in serious trouble...even if the air temperature is in the 80's. Save the cotton for BBQ on the veranda.
I agree with that completely. I skipped over that part when I read it. I wear all synthetic or merino or smart wool and everything quick dry for sure. I will never do a summer camino. I am doing the VDLP in mid October and I worry about the heat then also.
 

davebugg

A Pilgrimage is time I spend praying with my feet
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
I thought this might add to the discussion. It is from a posting I had made before. I focus more on the techniques and principles for cold weather walking, which is a separate issue from discussions about specific articles of clothing (Base layer, thermal/insulative layer, and outer/weather layer).

Cold Weather Clothing and Walking

The first thing I ask folks to do is to keep in mind the guidelines of when to wear an insulative layer, be it down, fleece, or synthetics, in a puffy-style jacket or vest.

Layering is a biggie in cool and cold weather, as is controlling exertion levels to minimize perspiration.

An important principle is: You never dress with the amount of clothing needed to keep you warm at the start of walking or hiking... you wear the amount of clothing needed to keep you warm 10 minutes after you start walking.

In cold weather, or even cool weather, one needs to do what is necessary to prevent overheating and sweat. That includes how fast a pace one is moving as part of one's total level of exertion, as well as how much clothing one is wearing, and how much air circulation one is able to maintain.

It does not take long, with any layering amount, to saturate clothing with sweat. THAT is when the danger of hypothermia, and at the very least a chilly discomfort will begin to take its toll. If saturation or wetness happens, the only recourse is to change into dry clothing. Since there is usually a limited amount of clothing carried in a backpack, it is essential to adopt strategies to control sweating. Keep in mind that the material of your layers will also determine the effect to you from the above scenario. Focus on clothing made from merino wool or specialized synthetics. These will allow the garment to remain somewhat insulative even though saturated with sweat. Cottons and cotton blends are a menace and can accelerate a hypothermic condition.

Strategies include those mentioned above:

Limit layers of clothing to only that which is needed when full exertion is achieved. For those who just can't suck it up for a few minutes when first starting to walk, wear only layers which can be quickly and easily removed. For instance, adding a poncho will add about a 15 degree F advantage to existing layers. It allows for good air circulation. As you warm up during the first 10 minutes of your walk, the poncho is easily removed and stashed into a side pocket of your pack.

Move as slow as you need to, within reason, to keep perspiration to a minimum. This may also mean stopping to allow your body to cool down. Even with a single, lightweight layer, some folks walking under load will tend to overheat. Keep monitoring yourself.

Keep an insulative layer, like a puffy down jacket or vest, near at hand so that if you are wetting-out while walking, you can put it on quickly when you stop for a break. Keep it in an outside pocket or on top of the other contents in your pack. A light puffy jacket or mid-weight fleece or a down vest works well here. The key is to keep this layer dry and to use it as a last resort when at rest. If this strategy is needed, do not continue walking until you have been able to stop sweating and you can achieve some level of dryness to your clothes.

In the above scenario, you actually become warmer by removing your saturated layers so that you only have on your dry insulative layer. Dig out a towel and dry off excess sweat as best you can. Wring out your other layers and let them start to dry. If you have a second shirt, put it on. Hang your wet things from your pack so that they can dry. After you have cooled down, and with your dry layer and your insulative layer on, walk slowly to avoid re-heating. You will make progress down the path, stay warm, while letting your wet layers become dry. The real goal at this point is to dry your layers, not achieve distance.

Do not discount the amount of added warmth a light scarf or bandanna or a buff will bring as it insulates your neck. Wearing one can make wearing less layers very comfortable. It will also be a good first line of defense against overheating and excess sweating by the ability to remove it, thus allowing the neck to act as a radiator in helping to shed body heat.

The type of headgear worn makes a big difference to one's heat loss or retention. A hat that works well for sun is not going to be the best choice for cold weather. In my view, even as good as synthetic fabrics are, wool (especially Merino wool) is king, as it is far less impacted by sweat affecting its insulative properties than most other materials. Some synthetic content will help the cap/beanie maintain its shape.

Even though wool weighs more than other types of insulation, you do not need a thick, heavy cap of wool to keep you warm. Wool is also far more breathable than many materials, which aids in heat control and regulation.

As with neck wear, a wool cap/beanie can be easily removed to assist with cooling the body to prevent overheating.

Much of the above is what I have used when mountain climbing at high altitudes. Patience and light, multiple layers are the key to preventing hypothermia when being active outdoors.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
Great clarifying post @davebugg as always.
I recall learning in my previous life whilst walking over mountain terrain with a heavy pack, a lot of heat regulation could be achieved with just taking the woollen hat on and off, and loosening clothing around the neck.

As I recall, 30% of body heat is lost through the head?
 
Last edited:
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Year of past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
I am sure most Camino Veterans know what is contained in this article I just found. I have walked in winter and there are great tips in here.
For any new pilgrim who is planning a cold weather Camino I think reading this will help alot.

Good logical stuff. Except the cotton as you highlighted.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés, Oct 2020
I am sure most Camino Veterans know what is contained in this article I just found. I have walked in winter and there are great tips in here.
For any new pilgrim who is planning a cold weather Camino I think reading this will help alot.
A really informative piece - thanks for posting.
 
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Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.
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jmcarp

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, 2013
Camino del Norte a Chimayó (USA), 2015
Camino Portugues, 2017
I thought this might add to the discussion. It is from a posting I had made before. I focus more on the techniques and principles for cold weather walking, which is a separate issue from discussions about specific articles of clothing (Base layer, thermal/insulative layer, and outer/weather layer).
...
And that, my friends, is why it is so great to have @davebugg back on the forum. Thank you, Dave, for the detailed explanation, advice, and insight.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
I'm not thinking of walking a winter Camino. I've only ever walked 2 weeks from Roncescvalles to Burgos. I rarely post. But I check the Forum nearly every day and am so heartened by the warmth and optimism I find here. I'm a bit of a kit nerd, so always read these sorts of posts. And, Dave Bugg, it is so good to see you back.
Thank you.
 

Tom Quinn

Happy walker
Year of past OR future Camino
(2019)
(2020)
I thought this might add to the discussion. It is from a posting I had made before. I focus more on the techniques and principles for cold weather walking, which is a separate issue from discussions about specific articles of clothing (Base layer, thermal/insulative layer, and outer/weather layer).

Cold Weather Clothing and Walking

The first thing I ask folks to do is to keep in mind the guidelines of when to wear an insulative layer, be it down, fleece, or synthetics, in a puffy-style jacket or vest.

Layering is a biggie in cool and cold weather, as is controlling exertion levels to minimize perspiration.

An important principle is: You never dress with the amount of clothing needed to keep you warm at the start of walking or hiking... you wear the amount of clothing needed to keep you warm 10 minutes after you start walking.

In cold weather, or even cool weather, one needs to do what is necessary to prevent overheating and sweat. That includes how fast a pace one is moving as part of one's total level of exertion, as well as how much clothing one is wearing, and how much air circulation one is able to maintain.

It does not take long, with any layering amount, to saturate clothing with sweat. THAT is when the danger of hypothermia, and at the very least a chilly discomfort will begin to take its toll. If saturation or wetness happens, the only recourse is to change into dry clothing. Since there is usually a limited amount of clothing carried in a backpack, it is essential to adopt strategies to control sweating. Keep in mind that the material of your layers will also determine the effect to you from the above scenario. Focus on clothing made from merino wool or specialized synthetics. These will allow the garment to remain somewhat insulative even though saturated with sweat. Cottons and cotton blends are a menace and can accelerate a hypothermic condition.

Strategies include those mentioned above:

Limit layers of clothing to only that which is needed when full exertion is achieved. For those who just can't suck it up for a few minutes when first starting to walk, wear only layers which can be quickly and easily removed. For instance, adding a poncho will add about a 15 degree F advantage to existing layers. It allows for good air circulation. As you warm up during the first 10 minutes of your walk, the poncho is easily removed and stashed into a side pocket of your pack.

Move as slow as you need to, within reason, to keep perspiration to a minimum. This may also mean stopping to allow your body to cool down. Even with a single, lightweight layer, some folks walking under load will tend to overheat. Keep monitoring yourself.

Keep an insulative layer, like a puffy down jacket or vest, near at hand so that if you are wetting-out while walking, you can put it on quickly when you stop for a break. Keep it in an outside pocket or on top of the other contents in your pack. A light puffy jacket or mid-weight fleece or a down vest works well here. The key is to keep this layer dry and to use it as a last resort when at rest. If this strategy is needed, do not continue walking until you have been able to stop sweating and you can achieve some level of dryness to your clothes.

In the above scenario, you actually become warmer by removing your saturated layers so that you only have on your dry insulative layer. Dig out a towel and dry off excess sweat as best you can. Wring out your other layers and let them start to dry. If you have a second shirt, put it on. Hang your wet things from your pack so that they can dry. After you have cooled down, and with your dry layer and your insulative layer on, walk slowly to avoid re-heating. You will make progress down the path, stay warm, while letting your wet layers become dry. The real goal at this point is to dry your layers, not achieve distance.

Do not discount the amount of added warmth a light scarf or bandanna or a buff will bring as it insulates your neck. Wearing one can make wearing less layers very comfortable. It will also be a good first line of defense against overheating and excess sweating by the ability to remove it, thus allowing the neck to act as a radiator in helping to shed body heat.

The type of headgear worn makes a big difference to one's heat loss or retention. A hat that works well for sun is not going to be the best choice for cold weather. In my view, even as good as synthetic fabrics are, wool (especially Merino wool) is king, as it is far less impacted by sweat affecting its insulative properties than most other materials. Some synthetic content will help the cap/beanie maintain its shape.

Even though wool weighs more than other types of insulation, you do not need a thick, heavy cap of wool to keep you warm. Wool is also far more breathable than many materials, which aids in heat control and regulation.

As with neck wear, a wool cap/beanie can be easily removed to assist with cooling the body to prevent overheating.

Much of the above is what I have used when mountain climbing at high altitudes. Patience and light, multiple layers are the key to preventing hypothermia when being active outdoors.
Dave,
Excellent advice. Cotton kills. Best used as a small towel or a handkerchief. So glad that you are back.
Semper Fi Marine.
Tom Quinn
 
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Arn

Veteran Member
I wore a bias-cut (lies comfortably on the skin) silk camisole as my first layer.
It dried in no time and kept me sane on the hotter days ...
Silk is one of the most versatile of all cloths. It's light weight, dries fast, resists soil and odors well. Silk is wrinkle and tear resistant. Because of its protein structure, silk is the most hypoallergenic of all fabrics. And, you can eat the silk worm shells...em....good.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
Great advice from @davebugg . As usual. There was a thread recently from @davidsowers who posted a great video of his winter walk, as well as a nearly perfect packing list for his 13-day Dec.-Jan. camino (his first!), during the pandemic (please, no discussion about that now).

Coming from a background as (also) a former soldier in Arctic Norway, and as an instructor for soldiers from several NATO member countries about survival in the Arctic, I can say that his packing list was close to perfection. Well done, @davidsowers !
 
Last edited:

chinacat

Veteran Member
As an aside, when I used to school horses in an (undercover) menage in winter, I used to wear a Jack Wolfskin vest and a WoofWear fleece ‘sweater’, both in Polartec. When I got back into my car afterwards and leant back against the seat, my back was entirely dry .., even though my hair was soaked, despite having worn a helmet with ventilation.
All my perspiration had ended up on the outside of the WoofWear.
The vest was a special weave .. I never had such a good result with a JW jersey polartec vest.
 

Jean Ti

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
.
I am sure most Camino Veterans know what is contained in this article I just found. I have walked in winter and there are great tips in here.
For any new pilgrim who is planning a cold weather Camino I think reading this will help alot.
On this site you can find a lot of info for walking the camino in winter.



They indicate the average cold ❄️ temperature on the camino Francés is +9 in winter. this is not that cold.

I think people that did winter camino's are really the best ones to advise future winter walker.

I am tempted by doing one next Jan - Feb
 

henrythedog

Loved and fed by David
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2017, 2018, 2019, Ingles 2018, (Madrid 2019 partial - retired hurt!) (more planned)
I’m a early winter through to to early spring peregrino. I live in the north west of England, which is wet, and I climb in the north west of Scotland - which experiences very severe winter conditions. There is nothing - even over the Pyrenees - to compare with the cairngorm plateau

So far as conditions likely to be encountered on Camino are concerned - other than on days 1 and 2, or just after Foncebadon - which could be
severe in mid winter:

Cotton is for the summer and not for the winter or exertion. If you want to carry it for the evening, fine; but it’s not a material for wet weather or for walking in.

Down hates damp. Even hydrophobic down hates damp. If you’re walking in a wet season use a synthetic insulation layer, not down. Consider a synthetic sleeping bag unless you’re convinced you can keep it 100% dry.

Don’t sweat. If you’re wearing more than ‘underclothing and one layer’
and you’re sweating, you’re wearing too much.

Outside the winter season, if it’s not cold, and it’s ‘just a shower’ -you can tough it out. Skin drys faster than cloth.

If your feet are cold, wear a hat. You lose a high proportion of heat through your head - not because ‘heat rises’ but because it’s where your brain is. Allegedly. If it’s functioning it takes a lot of nice warm blood to keep working.

Keep hydrated. Dehydration is a factor in hypothermia.

if you’re layering, as you should be; stop and adjust layers as frequently as you need to; don’t ignore over-heating or cooling (except the odd shower in warm conditions if you’re in shorts and a t-shirt, as above.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
We use wool clothing in the Arctic... I do not care too much about drizzling rain in England. But I do care about -30C in the arctic. :) Take it from an Arctic winter soldier.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
On this site you can find a lot of info for walking the camino in winter.



They indicate the average cold ❄️ temperature on the camino Francés is +9 in winter. this is not that cold.

I think people that did winter camino's are really the best ones to advise future winter walker.

I am tempted by doing one next Jan - Feb
I have done a winter Camino and the information here for the most part excellent. I personally believe with climate change long term average temperatures are becoming more and more unreliable. I encountered days of strong winds with gusts up to 70 kmph all day for 4 or 5 days straight, and in your face. Periods of heavy rain to drizzle with wind on the meseta. Rabinal snowed in and police warning if you tried to walk up to Cruz de Faro and needed help you were on your own. A little chilly in Ponferrada and then rain walking up and some ice to O’Cebreiro. But of course it changed to some pretty deep snow when we got there. Lots of people were sick. I had bronchial spasms that sent me to clinics twice for oxygen. Then after Sarria when you would expect a lot of rain and changeable conditions it was never too cold at all and not a lot of rain either. He But you know what? It was a great Camino with great vistas, good food and wonderful pilgrims. Would not change the experience ever. So don’t overpack. Ask a lot of people here questions if you’re not sure what to bring. Remember you can always buy anything you need when you are on the Camino. Buen Camino.
 

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