Are you a seasonal hiker or do you like to hike all year round? If you plan to go hiking in the winter there are a few things you need to consider. Check out these tips and tricks for winter hiking and start planning your next trek today!
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I enjoy getting outside and hiking all year round but late fall and into winter is my favorite time. I find it much easier to be prepared for cold temperatures and winter weather. Granted, I live in an area where winter is pretty mild but we still have to be cautious and higher elevations do get some snow and ice.
These tips and tricks for winter hiking are intended to be a starting point for your further research. If you plan to hike in extreme weather conditions you may want to check out some of the resources I have included throughout this post.
12 Tips and Tricks for Winter Hiking
- Dress in Layers. Wearing layers is always appropriate when hiking but especially in the winter. You need to avoid both hyper- and hypothermia and layers can help you to better regulate your body temperature. Because you can add or remove layers as needed.
- Wear appropriate footwear. A sturdy pair of shoes or even a trusty pair of Choco sandals are perfect for summer hiking. In the winter you need to wear something that will not only keep your feet warm and dry but that also provides proper traction on potentially slippery surfaces. High top, waterproof hiking boots like these are always a good option. If you are still concerned about traction try adding a pair of slip-on traction cleats.
- Stay dry! Carrying an extra pair of socks, extra gloves and an extra bottom layer can come in handy if you encounter wet conditions. The combination of cold and wet can be deadly but it can also be easy to combat.
Food and Water
- Carry water. Staying hydrated is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer. Carry your water close to your body or in a thermal case like this one to prevent freezing.
- Increase nutrients and electrolytes. Adding nutrients with and electrolytes can give you more energy and help you stay hydrated longer. You can use energy gels or powdered drink additives.
- Bring a warm beverage. A thermos full of hot coffee or broth can lift your spirits and give you added energy when hiking in the cold. Note: Alcohol should be avoided. Although it can give a temporary warming sensation alcohol greatly increases your sensitivity to cold temperatures. It can also impair your judgment leading to injury or accidents.
- Carry bite-sized snacks. Snacks can freeze so break them into small pieces before you head out. If your granola bar freezes you can suck on the bite-sized pieces for a few minutes until it is easily chewable.
- Carry a map. And know how to use it! Cold weather can zap cell phone batteries and you may not get signal in some areas. While no one ever plans to get lost having a map could save you if you do.
- Tell people where you are going. Always notify someone where you are going, the trail you intend to follow and when you expect to arrive home. Time is critical in a rescue situation and this information could prevent wasted time.
- Carry a headlamp. Darkness can come on quickly and if you are delayed for any reason, a headlamp will be essential. I also suggest you carry some backup batteries in your pack. My favorite headlamp is the Black Diamond.
- Use trekking poles. Trekking poles can help you navigate steep wet or icy terrain. They are lightweight and you can strap them on your pack when you don’t need them.
- Carry a first aid kit. I always have a first aid kit with me. I have a mini one in my purse, a moderate-sized one in my backpack and a heavy-duty one in my car.
When it comes down to it, these winter hiking tips are not really all that different from what you need for the rest of the year. The biggest challenges will be to regulate your body temperature, avoid slippery trails and remember to stay hydrated!
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