9 Basic Tips for Winter Hiking

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

A Snowy Winter Hiking View

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.

Just below the summit of Lake Placid 9er, Hurricane Mountain

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!

Water Freezes

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.)
  • Snacks
  • Extra Hat
  • Extra Gloves
  • Spare Socks
  • Packable Down Coat
  • Tissues
  • Essentials (Fire Starter, Emergency Blanket, Compass, Headlamp w/ extra batteries, Knife, etc.)
  • Microspikes
  • Duct Tape
  • Camp Blanket

Women’s Winter Hiking Clothes.

Specific styles linked!

Some of my favorite brands for outdoor winter apparel include Eddie Bauer  (if you’re a teacher enjoy 15% off with proof), Columbia Sportswear, Patagonia, and Cotopaxi.

Summit of St. Regis, Saranac 6er

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Published by expeditioneducation

Hi there, I'm Kati! I'm an outdoor recreation loving public school teacher who plans epic adventures on her school breaks. If you like to explore and experience beautiful new places on a budget, then let me help you plan your next trip!

4 thoughts on “9 Basic Tips for Winter Hiking

  1. Gareth Mate – Thoughts and Stories from the Great Outdoors. | Outdoor Enthusiast & Blogger | Englishman living in The Netherlands Instagram @garethmate
    Gareth Mate says:

    Good read and good advice. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Awesome tips! Absolutely love the packing list. I wish it snowed more here in Tennessee but hopefully snow hiking is in the future for me. I would love to do it. A not so crowded trail is always fun.

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