Winter Hiking Tips

Winter woodsIf you don’t mind a little cold and potential inclement weather, winter can be a wonderful time to get out and hit the trail. It’s great to escape the crowds, and be alone in nature. The beauty and peace of a winter trail is hard to beat. But winter hiking requires a little more preparation and planning than hiking in other seasons.

With winter comes shorter days and  harsher weather. Always be sure to check forecasts and current conditions of trails and roads before heading out. You don’t want to be caught in a blizzard or stuck in the mud when you can avoid it.

If you’re getting out in the winter, you should be able to know how to find trails and routes in snow. Even if the forecast was clear when you left town, you could wake up, one morning in, to a blanket of snow. If you don’t know how to find your way in the snow, you could end up getting lost in the woods.

It’s always important to let people know where you’re going, but even more so in the winter. Winter can be cruel, and you don’t want to be lost or injured with no passing hikers, and no one knowing where you are.

In addition to the normal outdoor essentials you would take during spring, fall, or summer, you need to take some extra gear for winter hiking.

Carry more food than you normally would. Your body burns more calories in the winter, some say up to 50% more than in the summer. You need to keep your body properly fueled. It’s also good to have extra food in case you get lost.

Be the cake. Layers are key for staying warm in any winter activity. Start with a warm base layer. This is not only the setting the foundation for your warmth, but it helps wick away moisture if you start sweating. Next is your midlayer. This layer provides your insulation. Top it off with an outer shell. You want your shell to be waterproof and breathable. The nice thing about layering is you can regulate your body temperature more efficiently than without layers.

Steer clear of cotton. If you get your denims wet, they will stay wet. And they will get cold. Then you will get cold and be miserable.

You’ve got to have waterproof boots and a few pairs of thick wool socks. These will keep your feet warm, dry, and comfortable. Don’t forget the hat, gloves, neck gaiter, which will provide some much needed added warmth. If you know you’re going to be hiking in the snow, get some leg gaiters to keep the snow and water out of your boots.

Here are some other tips!

  • Duct tape fuel canisters to avoid frostbite; those suckers get cold. Wrap extra tape and you can use it along the trail.
  • You can carry food that’s normally perishable on summer hikes. This offers a nice change of pace from freeze-dried meals.
  • Insulated water bottles or insulated carriers will keep your water from freezing over.
  • Batteries and cold weather don’t mix. Use lithium batteries instead of alkaline. If they’re not working, try warming them up in your hands or pocket.
  • Hand warmers are worth the extra trash you have to carry.
  • If you’re planning on changing clothes, sleep with your next day’s apparel in the bottom of your sleeping bag. This gives you some extra warmth while sleeping and saves you from chills in the morning.

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