Just because the weather has turned cold and bitter doesn’t mean that the outdoors aren’t still great. If you love to hike and you’re determined not to let the change of seasons stop you, good for you! Just be sure to follow some simple safety guidelines to keep warm and safe on your winter hike.
Tips for Packing Winter Hiking Gear
Before you hit the trail, you’ll need to pack your gear. During the summer, the goal is to keep things light, so you don’t overheat. In the winter, however, you want to make sure you bring enough to keep warm and comfortable. You’ll need to customize your pack to the length and location of your hike, but here is a quick checklist to get you started:
- Waterproof pack cover
- High-energy snacks
- At least 2 quarts water per person
- Drink mixes for hot drinks
- Water treatment supplies
- Hand sanitizer
- Sunglasses or ski goggles
- First aid kit
- Insulated mug for hot drinks
- Wicking base layers
- Long underwear or wool pants
- Fleece or down layers
- Wind and rain gear
- Wool or synthetic hat
- Face mask
- Liner gloves and insulating gloves
- Waterproof gaiters
- Instant hand warmers
- Snowshoes or skis
Once you’ve assembled your gear, pack it in such a way that the necessities are accessible, and the fragile gear is protected. The last thing you want is to have to unpack everything in the middle of the hike just to find a box of matches.
Simple Tips for Winter Hiking
Having the right gear on hand is the most important tip for hiking, no matter what time of year it is. Once you’ve got your gear packed and ready to go, here are some other tips to keep in mind:
- Bring more snacks than you think you’ll need. Your body will burn calories at nearly twice the normal rate on a winter hike, so bring plenty of high-calorie snacks you can eat on the go.
- Stay hydrated with warm beverages. You’ll need to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated but bring a warm beverage in an insulated thermos to keep warm as well.
- Hike during the warmest part of the day. Time your hike for the hours when the sun is highest in the sky so the temperature will be the highest of the day.
- Choose your trails wisely. During the winter you may want to avoid waterside trails that could get icy. You should also look for uphill trails to keep your blood flowing.
- Know the signs of hypothermia. When your body temperature drops too low, it can impair your cognitive function and that’s when things get dangerous. Know the signs of hypothermia and basic safety guidelines to avoid it.
- Layer your clothing. In the winter you need to be concerned both about staying warm and about staying dry. You’ll need three layers – a base layer, an insulating layer, and a weatherproof shell.
- Wear a hat to prevent heat loss. Covering your head will keep you warm and prevent you from losing heat. Choose a wool or synthetic hat that covers your head and ears.
Hiking comes with certain risks, no matter what time of year it is. By following the simple tips above, you can keep yourself safe and warm on your winter hike.