Raynaud’s Disease shouldn’t prevent you from hiking or backpacking even in cold weather. Preparation and prevention are the keys to when temperatures drop. I have Raynaud’s and I’m going to share my tips for managing Raynaud’s in the outdoors.
What is Raynaud’s?
Raynaud’s disease, syndrome, or phenomenon is an abnormal condition where arteries in the extremities such as the toes and fingers suddenly constrict. When a person with Raynauld’s is cold or stressed, the blood vessels narrow and the blood can’t get to the surface of the skin. Symptoms that come along with this state vary depending on the person and the severity of the case, and may include:
- The affected area turns white, and after a few minutes may turn purple or blue.
- The area may feel numb, tingle or ache; in my experience, it feels as if I have
minimal sensation in the spot that’s affected.
- When blood flow resumes, the skin reddens, may throb, or burn a bit (No fun).
What this translates to is that my feet and hands are a lot more sensitive to the cold than your everyday hiker. It can feel painful at times, my dexterity goes down, and if my toes are in that state before going to bed, forget trying to sleep that night in my tent.
Who Does Raynaud’s Affect?
It’s said that 5-10% of the population experiences Raynaud’s. For the most part it’s self-diagnosed, although you can get it determined medically. Raynaud’s is more common in women than men, for people who live in colder climates, for those with a family history of Raynaud’s, and if you’re over 30.
There are two types of Raynaud’s, primary and secondary.
- Primary Raynaud’s is most common and supposedly just happens, meaning the cause is unknown. and that’s a tough thing to swallow for someone who likes to know the root of things (like me).
- Secondary Raynaud’s is caused by other underlying diseases such as autoimmune disorders, medications, or injuries.
Raynaud’s: Preparation and Prevention
The best way to deal with Raynaud’s is to be prepared so you prevent a negative scenario from arising. Some of my suggestions are based on trial and error during my own long-distance hikes and shorter adventures, because I wasn’t always hip to the preparation supports prevention theory. If you create habits and systems that prevent your hands and toes from getting chilled, to begin with, you’re staying ahead of the game. Because let me tell you, it’s really hard to bring your extremities back once they go to the Dark Side.
Keeping your metabolism revved up will help you to stay warm. Whether you’re on a day hike or a backpacking trip, make sure you eat first thing and keep fueling your body through the day with snacks. Hydrate first thing in the morning and continue to stay hydrated all day. Ideally, you want to focus on a healthy diet and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and smoking, since they contribute to constricting blood vessels. The more you can support a good flow of your circulation system, the better.
If you’re backpacking, devise a system of how to pack as much of your bag while in the cozy warmth of your tent. Loss of dexterity is a big issue for those of us with Raynaud’s, which means I try to avoid exposing my fingers to the cold as much as possible. We all know that it’s easier to do things without gloves on, so get packed up in your shelter and do the last bits outside.
I’ve definitely been in situations where I’ve had to take down my tent when it’s rainy, frigid, wet, or with snow and ice. What to do, especially if you want to keep your gear dry but also have the use of your fingers? I’ve tackled it a couple of ways, depending on how much back-up gear I had with me:
- Option #1 – Take off your gloves or rain mitts and endure the suffering while you take down your shelter, so they remain warm and dry waiting for you when you’re all packed up. Place your cold hands under your armpits, do jumping jacks, twirl your arms and get hiking ASAP!
- Option #2 – Hike with back-up liner gloves so you can change them out after packing up. This means you don’t have to fight the cold or add more stress to the situation, remembering it’s often challenging to get warm again. Yes, it adds weight to your pack, but I’ve learned that it’s worth it for me to feel safe, comfortable, and warm. You decide. You know your body best.
Exercise and movement are one of the best ways to combat Raynaud’s, which is all the more reason you shouldn’t give up cold-weather activities. As much as I love breaks when hiking, I take shorter ones when it’s cold out to keep my body moving to prevent an attack. Pack snacks and lunch that are easy to eat and don’t require a ton of prep so you don’t have to spend time being idle.
If you do find yourself in a situation where your Raynaud’s acts up and you begin experiencing symptoms, try to stay calm. Raynaud’s is aggravated by stress and it doesn’t help to panic. I’ve been there before when I’ve barely felt my feet against the ground while hiking on a ridge in a thunder and lightning storm on the Pacific Crest Trail. We’re more at risk of having an accident if we aren’t thinking clearly or rushing, so it’s important to mentally slow down. Do what you need to take mindful action, get warm by moving your body, and affirm to yourself that you’re going to be fine.
One of the points I really want to emphasize is the need to stay dry and maintain your body temperature when you have Raynaud’s. Sure, this is key for any hiker or person who does snow sports, but it’s a hundred times more intense for someone in the Raynaud’s club. Here are some gear suggestions and tips that have worked for me.
Always carry gloves, no matter what the season or what the weather report says. I’ve been in situations where it wasn’t even that cold out and I was chilled, in summer months in high altitudes or at night. Yep, that’s Raynaud’s. Do yourself a favor and bring gloves with you. A lightweight pair of Smartwool gloves are great to keep in your bag at all times. Mittens are also practical because they keep your fingers warmer because your skin is touching.
When it’s really cold out in winter, I double-up on gloves. Sometimes I’ll use the Smartwool merino wool gloves as the base because merino wool is super insulating, but I also really like Outdoor Research’s Vigor Heavyweight Sensor gloves. I slip them on and then put a pair of heavy-duty snow gloves on top. It may seem over the top, but without that set-up, I’d be miserable while hiking.
There are tons of awesome, expedition-type gloves and mittens on the market, but honestly, I got my REI Co-Op pair at a thrift shop and they’re a winner. My boyfriend’s mom just made me a wool pair that does wonders on top of my gloves. And you know those long, yellow Playtex gloves some people use for dishwashing? Guess what – they will keep your gloves dry underneath when raining, and they’re both light and cheap. You get my point; see what you’ve got and give it a go first.
What I love about rain mitts is they also block wind, so they act as an insulating barrier. Mountain Laurel Design’s eVent Rain Mitts weigh less than 1.5 ounces and they do a fantastic job at protecting from rain, snow, and wind. Even when not raining, they have given me the added insulation I needed to stay warm on top of a base layer of gloves.
I use merino wool socks, but I’m not really loyal to a particular brand. In winter I like pairs that are really long going up my leg, kind-of like leg warmers, for extra warmth. When dealing with snow and cold rain in Patagonia, I used large Ziploc bags around my feet (see vapor barrier liners) for added protection and it definitely helped. Many folks swear by those chemical hand and feet warmers that activate when you open them, but I’ve never found they get that warm for me. Plus, they’re filled with chemicals that I don’t want against my skin, so I opt not to use them.
I got a tip from an experienced hiker recently who suggested I invest in some down bootie socks; he said they’re like cushions of love for the feet and I won’t have to worry about having ice blocks in my sleeping bag anymore – sounds worth trying on my next trip.
Tops with Thumb Holes
I don’t have much of an issue keeping my core warm when in the cold, it’s more my hands and feet I worry about. I prefer wearing a shirt with ‘thumbies’ as I call them: a shirt that stretches over your hand but allows your thumb and fingers to poke out. My favorites are:
I find this style helps keep my wrists and lower arms warm where my veins are close to the skin, plus it’s thin enough to fit under my gloves or mittens.
Keeping my core warm supports my hands and feet in terms of circulation, so I never hike without a fleece or wool beanie that covers my ears completely and a Buff for my neck and face.
With some thought given to preparation and prevention, there’s no reason why you can’t get outside in colder temperatures to enjoy hiking and winter sports. Movement and exercise are like medicine to those with Raynaud’s to boost circulation, so it’s not something you have to give up when it’s chilly outdoors as long as you take precautions. Give some attention to your nutrition, a packing up strategy, sustained movement, remaining calm under stress, and staying warm and dry with appropriate gear. With these tips, you should find you can manage your Raynaud’s in the outdoors with more comfort and ease.
Updated January 2023.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
- Three-Season Hiking Gloves Systems
- Winter Hiking and Mountaineering Gloves Systems
- Layering Hacks for Cold Weather and Winter Hiking
This is a really good compilation on how to live with raynaud’s and maintain the outdoor lifestyle in the winter. I wish I had this when my raynaud’s started 7 years ago. Some key things for me was avoiding tight fitting gloves (mittens with thin liners is best, carry spares, wearing nitrile gloves in extremes to avoid wetting layers) and a move towards covering all exposed skin. Every case is a bit different but I think this article hits a lot of the key things to do.
I’m glad you found the points covered were important, Tyler. My case is mild I’d say, in the sense that my skin rarely stings and turns blue, yet it can be really painful and scary if not prepared…so I go that route now! Thanks for sharing your tips and there ain’t nothing from keeping us outdoors, right?
Thank you for covering this topic! In my mid 70s I have dealt with it for years and as a flyfisher also have had to give up on damp, cold days even with fingerless or neoprene gloves due dexterity issues. I can’t imagine lighting a stove! There is hope.
I have fingerless neoprene gloves for fly fishing and they keep my hands from freezing even in cold temperatures. They look like coozies people put on their canned sodas. Never would have thought they would do a thing but they help tremendously!
This is a useful article and covers quite well how to deal with Reynaud’s. Fortunately, I’ve only got it in my hands, not my feet, nose, and ears like some do. I had no idea what the problem was until I described it to my doctor a few years ago. Sometimes, holding an ice cold drink will set it off, especially if there’s condensation on the container. One of the fingers on my left hand has been numb all week because of that and I just got normal feeling back today. If my body also gets chilled, I can get it with ambient temperatures of 50ºF.
My wife sometimes thinks I’m the Imelda Marcos of gloves because I have so many, but I’m always looking for the perfect blend of grip, touchscreen usability, warmth and lack of bulk. Of course, that doesn’t exist across all weather spectrums so I have many pair for different conditions.
I had a couple bad experiences before I knew what I was facing and started taking what measures I could. About forty years ago, my AT hiking buddy and I were panning for gold in the snowmelt on Independence Pass in Colorado. I saw no flakes of gold but this flake dealt with severe pain in his fingers for a month afterwards.
About ten years ago, I was winter solo hiking on the South Rim trail in Big Bend. The only water source in the High Chisos is Boot Creek (and Boot Spring during the rare years it’s actually running). My hands got wet dipping water out of the creek and the fingers quickly turned white and useless. There’s a combination of severe pain and numbness involved, which I know you’re familiar with. Dusk was approaching and the temperature was already below freezing and I was getting frightened because I had all the gear I needed to spend the night in that weather but couldn’t use my hands. Using teeth, pinning my pack against my body and the clubs at the ends of my arms, I finally got my pack opened and after great effort got chemical hand warmers activated. It was the first time I ever used them and I didn’t realize how long they would take to heat up and how wimpy they actually are. I was able to wrestle some socks onto my hands with the handwarmers inside, got my pack back on and hiked the mile and a half to my designated site in the dark. My hands were finally useable once I got to camp.
Cold is bad for setting it off but wet and cold is much worse and I always have trepidation when getting water in winter. After my Big Bend experience, I make sure I have a couple pair of 9mil nitrile gloves in my pack. On a bitter cold day during my last AT section hike, my hands were fine while filling up several water containers because I had the nitrile gloves that I slipped over a thin liner pair. I also now have some Sealskinz gloves and have found them quite useful. It’s nice to be able to fill up water from cold sources on winter days without worrying about my hands.
For hiking purposes, I have lightweight liner gloves and larger shell gloves that I can wear as an overlayer. I also have a pair of waterproof mitten shells I can put on. One very useful product I have are the pogies that Pacerpole sells. They look dorky but really keep my hands warm when hiking and also make it quite difficult to drop a pole. With the pogies, I don’t even need gloves down to about freezing and can wear a really light pair well down into the 20sºF.
There are also some medications that have mixed results. Amlodipine, which I’m already taking for borderline high BP is sometimes used, although it doesn’t help the Reynaud’s for me. Nifedipine is also used for BP and Reynaud’s. I switched to that but soon went back to amlodipine because the nifedipine left my mouth tasting like the bottom of a birdcage.
Those pogies do work great. You can also get Bar-mitts for regular trekking pole handles, which do the same thing. I reviewed a pair a few years ago. https://sectionhiker.com/bar-mitts-cold-weather-pogies-review/
Wow Grandpa, I really appreciate your detailed accounts and experiences. I felt huge compassion when you described when your fingers lost functioning; I know that well and it’s rather troublesome at times. It sounds like you’re now dialed with a good system to keep you safe and I’m glad for that.
Here in the UK I have found Peacock hand warmers invaluable. They use cigarette lighter fluid, and can be refilled on a walk or overnight. The large one can run for 24 hours
I think the US equivalent is a 12-hour hand warmer from Zippo, the people who make refillable cigarette lighters.
Thank you for this article. My boyfriend used to think I was just whiny until I started warming up my hands under his armpits! I like the thumbhole shirts, but I have found something that works even better for me…fingerless gloves. I thought that they would leave those fingers cold, but they don’t. If I hike with them on a cool day they provide just enough extra warmth that I often don’t even need full gloves. I have found that I start to cool down fast when I stop hiking and that’s just when I need that dexterity to have a snack or get camp set up. I can eat with them, set up a tent, or almost anything I can do without gloves. When I need full gloves I just put them on over the fingerless ones. They are cheap and you can get them anywhere. My first pair came in a package on sale at Target with full gloves. I had never intended to try them until I had them. It was an epiphany. I have really been surprised at what a difference they make. I now have a pair in the pocket of almost every jacket I own.
Thank you for that. I’ve never considered fingerless gloves because, in my estimation, the insulation was off precisely where it needed be be ON! They seemed to be among the most useless looking things I’d ever seen. I’ll try them.
The windmilling arms suggestion is one that will also enter my quiver of Reynaud’s hacks.
The windmilling arms is a common technique for heating up your hands in cold weather amongst winter hikers, even those without Raynauds. When your hands get cold, bloodflow to the periphery (hands) constricts and is concentrated in the core. Windmilling your arms and simply snapping your forearm forward, like casting a fly rod, opens up the circulatory “gates” in your wrists that prevent blood from flowing freely. Maybe Dr Joe can explain this better than me…
Grandpa, I too was very skeptical of the fingerless gloves and I’m not even sure what made me try them, perhaps I read something somewhere. I hope that you will be pleasantly surprised, as I was. Everyone is different, but they have been a game changer for me. I am able to delay or even prevent pulling out the big guns.
I love fingerless gloves! They do make a world of difference and I like to also use them when I set up my outdoor office and it’s still a bit chilly out.
Thank you for this article as it provides the guidance and confidence I needed to tackle cold weather hiking. I’d been put off because of the Reynards rendering my hands and fingers useless. Now that I have the examples you and the other commentators have provided here then I can start going out in colder weather knowing that I’m using a proven solution.
Russell, this is so wonderful for me to hear. As a community, we are all here to support each other so we can get outside more! Do let me know how it goes.
Thank you so much for this article, learned some great tips and even got myself some down booties! Safe travels!
Awesome news, HYKE48! Which down booties did you get?
Great article – thank you for brining attention to this disease. I had this for a number of years before I figured out it was a diagnosable issue. Similarly to Grandpa, I have this in my hands only. I can’t say enough good things about the technique of “wind milling” each arm rapidly to somewhat force blood back into my fingers – works well for me in only a minute or two. Greatly reduced my fear of winter hiking once I knew I could quickly warm my hands/fingers regardless of any external heat/hand warmers. Best of luck to all.
Thank you, NJ for reading and encouraging the windmill method; that is getting quite a lot of discussion!
My threshold for enduring cold on my fingers has always been significantly lower than folks I’ve worked and played with. I can remember being on a bike trip from MT to CA during the spring and my partner would have to fasten my pants because my fingers could not get the job done. Or when I was a carpenter and having to wear mittens while a workmate wore cotton gloves. My toes do fine, but my fingers are my “Achilles heel”. Years later I found out about Raynauld’s. However it has not stopped me from being a carpenter, spending many decades in Wilderness Areas on trail crew, as a bio technician, and as a Wilderness Manager for a full career.
I learned to take measures to get by. One tip I didn’t see mentioned is when you feel the symptoms coming on is to swing your arms and shake your hands to get blood down into your fingers. Doesn’t make it go away, but it can help you get by some tough spots..
Perhaps I should read the article more completely, but based on the my scanning I have some real concerns. I only get Renauds in my hands but when I get it I am helpless. I cannot even unsnap my sternum strap. I cannot grasp the zipper on my pants if I need to pee. I am COMPLETELY non-functional. I have been on ordinary day hikes where the weather turned worse than expected and I have had to have fellow hikers take my pack off because I am completely unable.
Why am I posting this comment? Some of us, myself included, would not survive if caught in wet cold weather without some sort of WORKING protective clothing. I never go anywhere without chemical hand warmers, and even then, when I need them it takes at least 30 minutes to an hour before I have ANY use of my hands.
I would like to see an article that offers ANY actual advice for sufferers like myself who would quite frankly DIE if caught in the wrong conditions without support. I am talking about conditions that might not even mildly affect people without Reynauds.
My impression of this article was that it was a puff piece that did nothing to address the issues that SERIOUS reynauds suffers have to face.
I bristle at your assertion that this is a puff piece. Not being a Raynaud’s sufferer myself, it seems to me that there are degrees of Raynaud’s, not just the severe kind that you suffer from. Based on the comments, I believe that the people who have Raynaud and who read this article by Heather got quite a lot value from it, even if you didn’t.
A question for you. If your Raynaud’s makes you completely non-functional in cold weather, wouldn’t it be prudent to just stay home where it’s warm? If you want to consider that advice, that’s what I would suggest.
Jim- since you are an expert on severe Raynauds, what advice would you give people who suffer from it as severely as you?
Jim, I think this post has been extremely useful. I’ve learned several additional things to implement for mitigation. If this column doesn’t help in some way, being alone out in the wilds may not be for you. There’s no shame in realizing that. Plan your future adventures accordingly.
When I mentioned in my earlier post that I was getting “frightened”, I worried that it could become a survival situation if I wasn’t able to so SOMETHING with my teeth and elbows. I didn’t know what Reynaud’s was at the time but the incident was a real wakeup call that I had a problem that needed an action plan not just immediately, but for the future as well and I started taking the problem more seriously.
I’m sorry you’ve got such severe Reynauds. It really sucks, I know. I used to have the exact same problems — completely unable to zip or snap anything. Do you, by chance, have a pseudocholinesterase deficiency?
I found out that I had this metobalic mutation common to Northern Europeans. When I cut nightshade vegetables out of my diet (and all the products containing additives made from them, like magnesium stearate), my crippling Reynauds completely disappeared. I can now even hold an ice cold beverage without wearing gloves, and I haven’t had one of those hiking zipper episodes in years.
I discovered my situation via 23 and Me, after running my raw data through Promethease. Red box, right at the top of the results. Changed my life.
NIGHTSHADE!!!!! The gift that keeps giving. I have rheumatoid arthritis and I take no meds for it. My primary doctor asked if I wanted to see a rheumatologist and I said I would go home and remove all nightshade plants from my diet. Well, 95%, I know just how much eggplant parm I can get away with occasionally. It’s not just veggies, if any of you are smokers you want to put those cigarettes down. Tobacco is a nightshade plant.
And thanks for mentioning the genetic predisposition for this!
Jim, Fifty years ago when I first had some symptoms I was doing some carpentry work in a retirement home. From staff there I learned of three causes of Reynauds Disease: Capillary death due to old age, extreme vibration such as jack-hammer operation, and poor circulation. In other words one cause of (worsening) Reynauds Disease is Reynauds Disease. Now this was not based on careful, peer-reviewed research, but it is consistent with my experience over the decades. (Not that the other reasons listed by Heather are not real, but I successfully dealt with it by assuming that it was a vibration-induced injury that needed to be managed.)
After that one winter, when I was working outdoors more than in that warm retirement home, I very rarely had a problem. In addition to strategies similar to Heather’s, I used a bare lightbulb hanging out a window that I could hold (with gloved hands) until my hands warmed. I also made sure all my hammers had fiberglass handles with rubber grips — no steel handles. Now that I’m in my seventies and my methods of avoiding it are proving less effective, I’m having to consider avoiding even short hikes after the temperature gets below a certain point. Please do whatever you need to do to avoid significant attacks.
Decades ago I had an XC skiing buddy with Raynaud’s. he solved it with surgery on hid nerves in his back.
I have experienced this for years but didn’t know it was a thing with a name until just a few weeks ago.
I found that if I did some deep breathing when I crawled into my sleeping bag, my toes warmed up and I could sleep. Much safer than standing on the hot coals from a fire pit! Yes, I was that desperate to warm up and it was 50’ out.
dj Strong – As a yoga instructor, I’m a big advocate of deep breathing to warm you up and calm you down. And both are important when dealing with Raynaud’s. Thanks for sharing.
Dr Joe here. I am an M.D.
There is no definitive cure for severe Raynauds. If you have a severe case, I agree with Philip, you should avoid outdoor activities in cold weather, as much for your own safety as those of others. As for Heather’s suggested coping strategies…this is exactly what we tell our patients. Layer up with gloves, stay active, stay hydrated, and eat food to keep your furnace running.
Thank you, Dr. Joe for your comment. I did mention in my article that there are different degrees of Raynaud’s and it does sound like Jim’s is a severe case. For that degree, I concur that it may be necessary to stay indoors when super cold.
I’m glad to hear your advise your patients on similar coping techniques. Thank you again for sharing your input.
I have Raynaud’s in my hands and feet and have for decades. The sport I haven’t figured out well is cycling. I live in Northern California, and riding down long hills after big climbs can be terrifying (and so painful) if I lose the ability to brake well. I’ve tried all kinds of cycling gloves, but it’s hard to find a pair that keeps wind out and has a lot of insulation but isn’t so bulky that I can’t work the shifters and brakes. Has anyone found any great gloves for cycling with Reynaud’s? The yellow dishwashing gloves over warm wool liners is an interesting idea I could try. My hands are the one thing that keeps me from riding before work on cold mornings. So frustrating!
Thanks for this article!
Heated glove liners from The Warming Store may help. They need recharging each time used, but with a good overmitt or wind proof shell they may work for you
I’ve had moderate Raynaud’s for years. Luckily I live in the relatively mild climate of coastal California, so it’s been more annoyance than limb-threatening. A couple years ago I was taking a Wilderness First Aid class and the instructor mentioned a “home remedy” for Raynaud’s developed in the 1980s by Dr. Murray Hamlet of the US Army. It basically involves Pavlovian conditioning with hands in a tub of hot water (maintained at about 110-115F) first in a warm indoor space and then immediately in a cold outdoor space while dressed lightly, repeated 3X every other day for three weeks or so. I tried this and it definitely did help in my case. I bought two bucket heaters and two temperature-controlled outlets with submersible thermometer probes to plug the heaters into (total cost about $140) and maintain temperature in an indoor bucket and an outdoor bucket.
According to the research I’ve read on this, the benefit is not necessarily permanent, but does seem to persist for one or several years, and can subsequently be reactivated with additional hot-soak sessions.
I would encourage people who suffer with Raynaud’s to web search for Dr. Murray (or MP) Hamlet to find out about this treatment. Unfortunately the scientific journal articles are mostly behind paywalls with only the abstracts easy to access, but with a little diligence it is possible to get more details about this simple, effective, and safe treatment.
Wow Matty, this is fascinating for me to learn about! Thank you for sharing and I hope this can benefit others.
I, too, have dealt with Raynaud’s for years. It is an extra burden to always be stressed about weather and cold. Preparation and anticipation is crucial, to the point where we do appear to be overpacked and ‘doom and gloom’ to our non-Raynaud’s friends. So be it. In addition to my arsenal of gloves, hats, buffs etc, I now carry down mittens, weighing only 1.25 oz per pair. Black Rock sells a ‘flip’ down mitten that allows me to use liners and not remove the outer mitten. I also wear designated dry sleeping socks when I backpack, and keep my down coat wrapped around my feet in the bottom of my sleeping bag, as I usually pull it up around me sometime during the 4am chill. This eliminates the need for down booties in the tent.
When Nordic skiing I use heated boot liners with the battery pack clipped onto the back of my skate boot. I also finally broke down and bought heated glove liners from The Warming Store that must be worn with an overmitt or gloves. The heating wire runs along each finger instead of having heat delivered to the back of the hand. Total game changer for me….I can comfortably ski for a few hours and not be in tears with pain.
Thanks for the additional tips. I will try nitrile gloves when having to scoop water so my hands stay dry. I’ve been considering Pogies too.
Nancy, just an FYI. I too have the fold-back mittens from Black Rock Gear and love them. Unfortunately, they went out of business recently. Sad.
Thank you, Nancy for your additional tips. I’m sad to hear those Black Rock flip down mittens went out of business though!
This is part of an email I sent tp Philip:
I think the “Hiking with Reynaud’s” hit a nerve–and not just the ones affected by lack of blood circulation. I had no idea how many others dealt with Reynaud’s. It’s certainly benefited me and given me some additional arrows in my quiver for handling it. I love snowy mountains (I’m in Texas and don’t have to deal with them on a constant basis!) but the last few years I cringe every time I see someone doing outdoor activities in those conditions because I know the pain I’d be facing if I tried it. Now I’ve got some new ideas on mitigation. Thank you for the post.
You might want to try a nitrile glove as a vapor barrier liner direct to skin. I’ve been surprised at how much my hands sweat, in most any temperature or conditions. Not until after I remove the VBL do I notice the moisture inside the VBL, and that moisture would otherwise be acting as an evaporative cooler. I probably still have a mild case of Renaud’s, but evaporation was a much greater cause of my suffering than I would have thought.
I size up two sizes, which is more comfortable for me, but allows some evaporation, which perhaps prevents a clammy feeling. The VBL can be reused many times if it’s a 7 or 9mil. Before removal, I like to use hand sanitizer on the VBL, then turn the glove inside out when I remove it.
A VBL glove is also nice to have when duty calls, cleaning up the camp, and stealing mail (apparently).
I tried that and my hands were soaking wet in minutes. How do you keep your hands from feeling like they are in puddles of water?
I backpack and ski in the PNW with Reynauds. It’s always nice to read pieces like this because it’s easy to feel really odd and isolated when you look overdressed in the backcountry or have to escape indoors while skiing to get some feeling back in fingers and toes after just a an hour of skiing. The dexterity issue is the most frustrating.I had a much better summer this year after I bought warmer gloves, a down balavlava and down booties. Keeping my core from getting chilled seems to be key as well. I’ll probably pick up some heated boot liners this fall!
I just read this & found it helpful I love mountain biking & hiking but my raynards stops me or spoils it sometimes! I get it bad in my hands feet face, it can be sunny & my fingers still go numb then really painful! I have all sorts of gloves but layers do help, I read this looking for how to keep my legs warm when hiking! I’m not a meaner & think of myself as quite tough but it’s so painful sometimes when cold I cry !
I have reynaud’s that affects me in the feet. To the point that we installed radiant heat in our house. My corpse like feet were an often source of amusement for others. My hands are less affected but when they do flip cold, it’s a lot work to get them back. I use lightweight gloves for when things are going smoothly. Then I add simple wool mittens. When things get really bad or windy, I add the gauntlet overmitts.. I always have extra socks and mittens with me. I never freak out by the weight they add… always over prepared. I’ve had some near frostbite issues with toes, and earlobes so frozen I could have broken them off.. an ear that looks like and old dried apricot is not fun.
Thank you for this great info; the comments are great too! I have Raynauds but it has gotten much less intense since I’ve retired from my high-stress job. I always carry Zpacks Possum Down gloves with me. They’re awesome!
Hi Heather. I was sent this by my hiker friend. We have been hiking (we live in New Zealand/ Aotearoa and believe it or not here we have always call it tramping, but are well aware the rest of the world refers to it as hiking) all our lives, most of it together. Over the last few years my Raynauds has been getting worse and now even cooler mornings inside my house my fingers are an issue. Recently I have been commenting to him that I am really worried that I am going to struggle with any cooler/cold trips, but feeling so sad admitting this. This article has given me renewed hope and determination to get organised and get back out there. I am so glad you “put pen to paper” and also all the other responders who have added their gems.
One thing I’d like to point out about the “chemical” hand warmers. The “chemicals” you speak of completely harmless — and in fact are basically just a fast rusting process.
Each pouch typically contains iron powder, salt, water, an absorbent material, and activated carbon. When the pouch is removed from its outer packaging, oxygen gets through the permeable covering. With salt and water present, the oxygen reacts with the iron powder located inside to form iron oxide (Rust) and release heat.
The absorbent material can be pulverized wood, or vermiculite. So don’t worry about contact with your skin, or chemicals in the environment. The worst thing about them is the plastic packaging.
You have done a great service in writing your article on Raynaud’s. I am 75 years old and until your article, I never heard of anyone else having Raynaud’s besides me. I made an off-handed remark to my doctor 20 years ago about my cold hands and feet and he diagnosed me with it. I thought that everybody had cold hands and feet and that it was normal! By the way, as one other commenter wrote, I also have a cold nose. Here is an example of the strangeness of Raynaud’s. About 5 summers ago, I was sitting in the library on a computer. The air conditioner was blowing on me and I noticed that a digit on my middle finger was numb. I looked at it and it had turned white. That was the first time. There were times at home when I’d be sitting at the computer for hours during the colder weather and my feet would be blue. In my younger days I’ve skied and snowshoed but I don’t recall having issues with Raynaud’s other than having problems with zippers as many have mentioned. I have had another symptom that no one else mentioned so I’m not sure if it’s related to Raynaud’s. In the past when I’d been outside in the cold for a period of time, I’d have problems speaking. It’s like my mouth was frozen (it wasn’t). It was like I was talking in slow motion. Any thoughts on that? One suggestion I can offer others that helped me is to wear two pairs of sweat pants in the house. One pair just didn’t do it for me but two works great! Ironically, I like to keep the house cool, 68 during the day, 63 at night. I could really relate when you said you couldn’t sleep because you couldn’t get your feet warm. You were outdoors. This happens in my house! I can’t tell you how many hours of sleep I’ve lost due to my cold feet. Some might think if I set my thermostat to 72 my feet would be warm. Nope. I would be too hot and my feet would still be cold. It’s like the top half of my body and the bottom half have two different regulatory systems. I found your article by accident looking for info on base layers. It’s a shame this article can’t have wider exposure so other Raynaud’s sufferers can vent and make suggestions. Would you or anyone want to start a Raynaud’s blog or newsletter? Just a thought. Thanks to all.
Fellow Raynaud’s sufferer here for the last 5-10 years or so. Matty, thanks for the information on conditioning treatment, I will try that with both hands and feet. Heather, thanks for addressing this topic so thoroughly!
Marcy, there is a Raynaud’s Association website:
where I found this article on the conditioning treatment:
I make an effort to have loose, thin, dry layers and to keep hydrated. When backpacking, I have found ways to manage everything except my nose getting cold at night. I like “glittens” that have a pull-over shared end to fingerless gloves.
Thanks JP for the Raynauds.org address. There is a wealth of information there. As far as my cold nose, what I do when trying to sleep at night is bury my head under 5 layers of covers. Yes, it makes it hard to turn over under all that weight, lol, but I manage and my nose gets warmed from my body heat and my exhales within a half hour or less. When I hike in the winter, I wear a ski mask that I bought years ago of some kind of man-made material. It covers most of my face except for my eyes. The only problem with that is that eventually condensation forms inside the mask even though there is an opening for nostrils and holes for my mouth. Nowadays they have something called a balaclava. They’re relatively inexpensive and you could buy a few to switch off when one gets damp as I imagine there’d be the same condensation issue. I just looked up a few balaclavas and the Gorewear Gore Windstopper on REI for 37.93 (reduced from 55.00) received a very good review from a woman who wrote that it never makes her face feel “swampy or sweaty.” It has similar mouth holes to my mask but it’s difficult to tell if there is any actual opening for nostrils. It’s a one size fits all and maybe that’s why it’s on sale. It’s something to look into.
I live in Alaska and I have such extensive Raynauds that I have had bad frostbite on all my fingers and both my thumbs that I was hospitalized for debridement. I still have no fingerprints. I wear mitts made for expeditions and make sure my hands stay dry. I love Winter and backpack weekly even in the deepest snows and coldest weather. Its funny because I suffer from the heat at 70 degrees, and am comfortable in a t shirt at 55 degrees with no jacket, but my hands are turning a dark purple, Raynauds gets worse after you have damage from frostbite. I love cold weather and spend all my free time outside. Chemical hand warmers are a must for sub zero backpacking treks. My feet usually remain fine.