Winter ATV riding can be great fun if you are prepared. Cold weather riding comes with a few risks one should be aware of. I am talking about the risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Paying attention to what happens to your body when riding in cold weather could make the difference between a fun ride and a miserable ride.
When winter ATV riding in cold weather you must be aware of the windchill factor. The windchill factor goes into effect when ever the temperature is below 50° F and the wind speed and/or the speed of your ATV is above 3 mph. The National Weather Service has put together a Windchill Chart that easily calculates the windchill temperature.
Example: If it is 30° F and you are traveling at a speed of 30 mph, the windchill temperature is 15° F. Unless you are prepared for 15° F temperatures you risk the possibility of hypothermia and/or frostbite.
Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat causing the bodies core temperature to drop below 95° F. According to the Mayo Clinic the signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Confusion or difficulty thinking
- Poor decision making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
- Drowsiness or very low energy
- Apathy, or lack of concern about one’s condition
- Progressive loss of consciousness
- Weak pulse
- Shallow breathing
Left untreated, hypothermia eventually leads to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and to death.
Frostbite occurs when cold temperatures causes the fluid in the cells of the skin and other tissues to freeze, resulting in blood clots in blood vessels, which reduce the supply of essential oxygen to tissues. Symptoms include numbness and a loss of sensitivity to touch. The affected area will also tingle or feel as if it is burning. As the condition worsens, the pain begins to fade and eventually disappears.
Frostbite most commonly affects the fingertips, toes, tip of the nose and ears but can affect any part of the body. Severe cases of frostbite can lead to amputation of dead areas (fingers, toes, etc.) due to loss of oxygen to the tissues.
Prepare for the cold weather by layering clothing. A balaclava worn under your helmet will help keep your head and neck warm. It is a good idea to bring an extra pair of gloves and socks in case the others get wet. Heated grips or mitts will help keep your hands warm. Thermal socks and a good pair of boots will help keep your feet warm.
Chemical heating packs are great because they are easy to use, lightweight and easy to pack. There are heating pads available for your hands, feet and body. Layer them between socks, gloves and under garments but never put them directly next to your skin.
If winter ATV riding in extreme cold, stop occasionally to warm up and check everyone for symptoms. By being aware of the risks and proper preparation, cold weather ATV riding is great fun. In fact I enjoy it most because the trails are less crowded and a lot less dusty (when covered with snow). If you enjoy winter ATV riding, give winter ATV camping a try.
Browse the selection of winter gear at CampingATV.com and enjoy ATV riding year round.