Yosemite is located in Central California and has what is termed a “Mediterranean climate”. That means we have warm days and cool nights. In fall and winter the true “alpine” side of Yosemite shows up with cool/cold days and colder nights. Snow and ice are common as is freezing rain. So what should you bring to wear? Like our recommendations for spring and summer we want to think “layers” but we also want to think “dry”.
During the Fall and Winter rain and snow are fairly common. Temperatures in the mountains regularly fall well below freezing at night and barely get above freezing during the day.
Thermal Underwear (top and bottom)
Polar Fleece Pants
Long Pants (slightly loose to layer polar fleece under)
Long Sleeve Shirt
Polar Fleece Jacket
Heavy Winter Coat with Insulated Hood
Thick Polyester Socks (couple pairs)
Polarized Sunglasses (a must!)
Here how it works: Ok the key here is to think “warm AND dry”. A little bit of moisture when it’s cold can chill your body and lead to hypothermia really fast. If you’re playing in the snow always make sure your waterproof layer is on the outside. These are things like your ski pants, heavy winter coat, gloves, waterproof boots.
As you get colder don’t change an article of clothing out for another, simply layer it on top of what you already have on. Your body stays warm by heating the air around it so begin by putting your thermals on close to your skin. Then your T-Shirt, Polar Fleece (pants and sweater), regular pants, long sleeve shirt and your jacket. If you feel yourself getting to warm start letting a little air in by unzipping your jacket or removing a shirt or layer of clothing.
Remember the goal is to be warm, but not sweating.
Your outer extremities will feel cold the most. Wear a couple pair of socks and quality gloves. Wrapping your neck in a scarf, putting on ear warmers and a hat keep the blood flowing to your head and back down to your core warm and help prevent heat loss. You’d be surprised how much warmer simply putting something around your neck can make you feel.
If something gets wet remove it as soon as possible and replace if with something dry (e.g. lose a glove put a sock on your hand). It only takes a few minutes for hypothermia to set in if you’re wet. If, for some reason, you fall into the river and manage to get out while hiking, seek IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION. Don’t be afraid to dial 911. The 30 minutes it takes you to hike back to your car and drive back to the village could cost you your life. Hypothermia is the number 1 killer in the mountains.
Note to the fashionistas: No one will give a crap how you look when you’re dead. The silver fabric BeBe (or whoever makes it) jacket with the rhinestones may look nice while you’re out on the town, but is useless when it comes to helping maintain your core temperature if you’re stuck in the woods overnight. Look on the bright side though, if you do insist on wearing it your body will be easy to find and you’ll be the best dressed corpse they’ve ever rescued.