When all of the leaves have fallen, and the temperatures bottom out, it may be tempting to hole up and hibernate at home. Though nothing is quite so wonderful as cuddling up in front of a hot fire, there is a lot of beauty to experience in the outside world even during the winter.
Going on a winter hike is a completely unique experience unlike anything you’ll get during the summer. Here are some simple tips for making your winter hike an enjoyable experience:
- Dress in Layers – This is a must for hiking in any season because temperatures change throughout the day. Start with a layer of long underwear for warmth topped with a light jacket and waterproof pants. If it’s really cold, you can wear a thicker, more insulated jacket on top.
- Make the Safe Choice – Keep in mind that the same 12-mile trail you can knock out easily during the summer might be more of a challenge in winter. When planning your first winter hike, keep it short and simple in terms of distance and difficulty.
- Check the Weather – You should do this any time of year, but it is particularly important to stay apprised of conditions during a winter hike. Check the temperature as well as predictions for precipitation, wind speed, and daylight hours. If you’re near the mountains, check an avalanche report as well.
- Carry Safety Gear – You should always be prepared when hiking, but you’ll need some basic safety gear during the winter for sure. Pack a first aid kit, compass, and pocket knife as well as warming packets and a headlamp in case you get stuck after dark.
- Bring Someone with Experience – Even if you’re a seasoned hiker, conditions can change quickly in the winter, so it always pays to bring a friend. Having someone experienced can also help you make smart (and safe) decisions about trails to choose and gear to pack.
- Bring Plenty of Warm Liquids – It is important to stay hydrated during a hike and warm liquids like tea or hot cocoa are perfect for winter. Just make sure it’s nothing too heavy.
- Invest in Quality Gear – During the summer you might be able to get away with hand-me-downs or secondhand gear but in the winter, you need to be able to rely on your gear. Think of high-quality gear as an investment you’ll benefit from all season.
- Practice with Crampons – Crampons are metal spikes you can attach to your feet for better traction in snow. While you may feel like you get the hang of using them quickly, it only takes one misstep to lead to an injury. Practice wearing them and using them uphill and downhill before your hike.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Turn Around – No matter what time of year it is, safety should always be your number-one concern. If the conditions are starting to turn or you feel yourself getting tired more quickly than usual, don’t be afraid to turn around.
- Refuel at the End of the Day – After a winter hike, you’ll be ready for some hot food (and maybe a beer). Find a nearby restaurant to rest and relax.
A winter hike is a completely new way to experience the world and all the beauty it has to offer. Just remember that the winter brings some unique challenges and safety issues that you need to consider before you hit the trail. Follow these simple tips for a safe winter hike.