Winter Hiking Tips
Hiking is one of those outdoor activities you can easily enjoy 365 days a year, if you prepare properly. With the correct gear and a little preparation there is no reason why you can’t enjoy an afternoon trekking through fresh fallen snow as much as freshly bloomed flowers. Let me get you started.
This is one of the trickiest parts of winter hiking. Wear too much clothing and you will sweat and once you start sweating you will get wet and cold. Wear too little clothing and you will start cold and stay that way. The key is to dress in layers, which will allow you to easily add or remove clothing until you identify the perfect combination. Early on I suggest taking short hikes that will allow you to judge your comfort level without putting you too far from your home or vehicle. Once you move on to longer treks make sure you pack extra gloves, socks, hat and even a shirt in your bag – each will come in handy if the temperature drops or you need to replace a wet layer. For extra long hikes consider a heavier jacket or blanket for wear during breaks.
Eat, drink and be merry
The decreased temperature requires additional calorie intake as well as regular hydration so do not forget to fuel up regularly. Because stopping to eat or drink increases the possibility of catching a chill many winter hikers simply forget to do so, feeling it is better to keep moving. To ensure you maintain your energy and hydration levels make sure you always have both food and water within easy reach and ready to be consumed while on the move. A water bladder is an excellent means of keeping hydrated , just make sure you keep it from freezing by either burying it inside your pack or under you outer layer of clothing. As far as food is concerned I like to keep jerky in a coat pocket and munch it on the move, but any high calorie easy to eat snack will work.
Winter hiking means bringing some extras, some just in case items. This also means you will need a backpack to make carrying those extra items easier, probably a 30L or larger pack for all but the shortest treks. You pack should include the extra clothing mentioned earlier, a flashlight or headlamp, extra food & water, a first aid kit and maybe an emergency shelter. Exactly what you carry depends a great deal on where you hike; in deep snow areas snowshoes may be necessary, in icy conditions ice cleats are a must. Don’t forget to also pack sunscreen, sunglasses and lip balm as sun reflecting off ice or snow is not only blinding but also a regular cause of sunburn. It is also recommended you take along a staff or single ski pole for testing your footing or extra stability on slippery surfaces.
Good luck, good hiking!