Winter Hiking: A Beginners Guide
Do you love to hike but live somewhere that gets cold and snowy in the winter months? Don’t let cold weather dull your shine, get outside! There is so much beauty to be found in winter hiking as long as you’re prepared for the temperatures and the terrain. In this post, I’ll share 9 tips that will help get you out on the trail tomorrow. I will also share how I pack my pack and what I’m wearing to stay warm, dry, and comfortable while winter hiking.
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Reasons to hike in the ‘snowy’ winter:
- Trails are often desolate; few people want to brave the cold temperatures or own the proper gear to do so so you’ll often have a normally busy trail to yourself.
- Snow and freezing temperatures vastly change your favorite trails making them seem almost brand new. Your senses are surprised by new smells and sights on the same ‘old’ trails you’re used to! But be warned, the trail might not be as easy to follow so be sure to brush up on your navigation skills.
- In the winter months, your phobia of bugs and/or fear of animals on the trail is pretty much diminished! Enjoy the lack of bug spray, bear spray and bug bites at the end of your hike.
Top Tips for Winter Hiking:
Layering is key when winter hiking.
Layer your clothing; you want to be warm without sweating too profusely. Once your clothing is wet its ability to retain heat becomes impaired.
Allow yourself appropriate timeframes
Hiking and Snowshoeing require similar effort (unless you’re breaking trail that is!), however, snowshoeing will take you longer. Please allow yourself more time to hike a trail in the snowy, winter months! Plan small for your first couple of winter adventures to see what speed you generally move at; it’s only up from here!
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Try and plan to be at your highest point at the warmest and/or clearest point in the day depending on your priorities! Take into account all landforms; bodies of water can be tough if they’re not fully frozen. Remember and prepare for the sun to set earlier in winter as well.
Appropriate Equipment is Vital
As always, with any kind of wilderness adventure, please make sure you are appropriately equipped in both gear and knowledge! Look into taking a wilderness first aid course or at a minimum read up on proper winter first aid needs.
Follow All LNT Principles
Do not destroy the trail. Continue to follow LNT principles and be sure to utilize snowshoes or cross country skis where appropriate to refrain from post-holing and making the trail dangerous for other hikers (and especially cross country skiers)!
Snack Storage is Important
Store snacks close to your core to prevent them from freezing and to ensure you are able to consume them when you’re in need of energy. You may not feel hungry, but cold temperatures and breaking trail through the snow requires a lot of energy; make sure you are appropriately equipped with enough snacks!
Store your waterbottles lid-side-down in your pack. This will just change ‘the top’ which is likely to freeze first. Having a wide mouth opening and filling your water bottle with warm water before departure also help prevent water from freezing.
The Cold is Draining
The cold causes batteries to die faster. Keep this in mind if you plan on using your phone, a headlamp, or a camera. I suggest utilizing a paper map and never relying on your cellphone, no matter the temperature. Make sure you bring extra batteries for your headlamp as well!
Warm Drinks Bring Life!
Pack a thermos full of hot cocoa, coffee, or tea! A great insulated bottle should keep this warm for a few hours. Warm yourself up from the inside out with a simple sip.
Winter Hiking Gear.
- Cotopaxi TARAK 20L OR Gregory Zulu
- First Aid Kit
- Hand Warmers/ Foot Warmers
- Water (64oz.)
- Extra Hat
- Extra Gloves
- Spare Socks
- Packable Down Coat
- Essentials (Fire Starter, Emergency Blanket, Compass, Headlamp w/ extra batteries, Knife, etc.)
- Duct Tape
- Camp Blanket
Women’s Winter Hiking Clothes.
Specific styles linked!
- Top and bottom base layer (wicking action from Columbia)
- Fleece Long Sleeve Top Layer (Eddie Bauer)
- Windbreaker (Cotopaxi Teca is the best!)
- Weather Resistant Vest (Columbia)
- Hard Shell, Wind, and Waterproof Pants (Eddie Bauer)
- Fleece Hat (Eddie Bauer)
- Wool/Waterproof Gloves
- Wool Socks/battery-powered heated socks (Darn Tough)
- Foot Warmers (stick to the sole of boot)
- Insulated Winter Hiking Boots (Merrel)
- Fleece Neck Warmer
- Sunglasses/Snow Goggles
- MSR Snow Shoes
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