Hiking in the winter can be a great experience, but it is quite different than hiking at other times of the year. You will need to take extra caution and use gear that you don’t need during the other seasons. If you are contemplating winter hiking here are some things you should know.
First, never take your first winter hike by yourself. It is always best to set out with someone who has some experience hiking in winter weather. Even late winter can be cold, windy and snowy. Learning from hikers who have winter experience will make for a safe, enjoyable hike. If you can, start by trying shorter winter hikes first. Do a few before heading out on a long winter hike. This will allow you to get used to winter hiking and learn the tips and tricks that will allow for a smooth hike.
As you begin to prepare for your winter hike, know what gear you will need. Without proper winter gear you could find yourself in trouble and even freeze to death. Here is a list of items to get your started.
Boots: The most important item for winter hiking is a pair of warm boots. Many hikers choose insulated leather boots, but no matter what your preference, make sure the boots are large enough to fit at least two pairs of socks. Always take extra socks, preferably made from wool, and layer them.
Layers: Not only are layers great for keeping warm but they also allow you to remove clothing if you are getting too warm. Yes, even in the winter you will sweat. Your base layer should include long underwear, your middle layer should be some type of fleece jacket and your outer layer should be waterproof and breathable to protect you from winter winds and other weather. Never choose cotton as a fabric for any of your layers as it can get wet, freeze and simply will not keep you insulated.
Hats, mittens and other protective wear: A light hat is recommended for when you are warm and hiking and a heavy hat that will cover your ears is needed for when it is windy and bitter cold. You should also have some type of face mask. You should wear gloves first with mittens layered over the top. Make sure you bring several pairs.
Snowshoes and trekking poles: If your hiking will take you into deep snow, snow shoes are a must. There are different styles to choose from, but newer varieties made of aluminum or plastic tend to be easier to use. Trekking poles help to keep you moving and balanced.
Snow shovel: If you will be hiking in deep snow, especially if there is any threat of an avalanche, a show shovel is a must and everyone in your group should have one for safety.
Other recommended gear: Don’t leave without your water bottle, plenty of nourishment, goggles, emergency gear and a first aid kit. Pretty much everything you would take along on your hike during other seasons should be with you in the winter as well.
Finally, as you hike in the winter, there are some easy techniques that might help you out. One of the most important is how to make a snow shoe track. When using snow shoes take turns leading to break the trail, this will help disperse the hard work of being the leader. If you are in front make sure you are taking small enough steps that others can easily follow. If you are following, try your best to stay in the track. This will keep you moving at a faster pace.