Preparing for a Winter Hike
When you’re looking for real adventure, the harsh weather should not stop you from doing your thing, but remember to be well prepared to ensure that you stay safe all the time. Whether you’re interested in ice-climbing on a frozen waterfall or love winter camping in -40C, you will enjoy it to the full when you are equipped with the right tools and gear. This holds true for winter hiking, which can be extremely satisfying when you know what to pack in your bag. Let’s find out more about what you should do to make sure your winter hiking is loads of fun.
Keep a Check on Local Weather
Whenever you plan for winter hiking, first of all, check the weather forecast of the area. The area with heavy snowfall always has increased chances of storms and rainfall. Make your decision sensibly based on the expected local weather and never plan a hike arbitrarily. It can be fatal if you ignore the natural hints and try to challenge nature.
Even if you have planned your trip wisely, there may be some unexpected weather changes so keep checking the weather forecast periodically. Be prepared for sudden changes and arrange an alternative plan in case of unforeseen situations.
Seek Training and Assistance of Experienced Personnel
Winter hiking is not an ordinary sport and it is not suitable for everyone. You may have available circumstances to go for snow hiking but this does not mean you can go. It’s always better to get some training before opting for such a risky adventurous journey. Winter mountaineering courses teach you necessary skills like how to use an ice axe and other tools like crampons. There are other must have skills that a person must possess if planning to go winter hiking and taking a course will help immensely.
When you plan for winter hiking for the first time it is advisable to go in a group with at least one experienced person around. No matter how much training you have, it can never beat the importance of onsite experience. You should have someone on backup in case the situation goes against you and you get stuck with a problem.
Find the Right Shoes and Clothes
When preparing for winter hiking for the very first time, you will have to learn more about the shoes and clothes that will keep you warm without affecting your movement. Therefore you have to take some time to perform research and be able to pick the best shoes and layers.
Buying the Best Hiking Shoes
A comfortable and appropriate pair of shoes is a blessing for your feet. Choose shoes that go well with snow hiking and are resistant to extreme weather. Allocate a good budget for your hiking shoes as they are going to be your partners in a tough journey and needed to be of high grade. Spending time and energy in selecting the right fit for the right purpose is worth the effort. Here are a few things to remember when you’re out looking for the right pair of hiking shoes:
It is important to ensure that your shoes are waterproof or else you will find yourself in trouble when you’re out on your hike. Most people pay more attention to checking if the shoes they are going to buy are warm, but confirming the waterproofing of your winter hiking shoes is an even more important consideration. Different brands offer shoes with different waterproof flexure and most of them perform well between 2 and 8 hours of walking. Carefully check the waterproof flexure before finalizing a buying decision.
Pick your shoes with consideration of the intensity of your activity while hiking. Your heating needs will vary greatly depending on how fast or slow you’re moving. If you’re going to take a break and not moving, your heating needs will change substantially. However, don’t automatically assume that because you’re going for winter hiking you should be buying the warmest shoe, as it can leave you with sweaty and sticky feet and make things difficult, especially during a high altitude walk. So, know how intense your hiking session is going to be and then pick the right shoe that is suitable for your effort.
In chilly weather, it’s always recommended to wear multiple layers of clothes instead of a single warm and stuffy coat. Layering helps you maintain your body temperature throughout the day as weather conditions usually fluctuate. It can be sunny at midday but extremely cold as night falls. With layering, you can adjust to the temperatures easily by removing or adding a layer.
Packing layers for your hiking trip is a task that must be done smartly with appropriate planning. Here are some easy yet useful tips for packing your stuff.
Always opt for packable insulated jackets that can fit easily in a small space. Softshell jackets are ideal for taking along as they are lightweight and flexible. They are breathable too and allow an adequate airflow around your body so you don’t feel breathless or suffocated under the layers. They keep your body warm but they are not waterproof.
Remember, at least one waterproof layer of clothing is essential in your hiking pack in case of rain or some other emergency situation. Start layering your clothes with base clothing that is appropriately fitted and provides warmth to the body. The next layer is ideally a fleece or softshell pullover. And for the final layer, an insulated top or jacket that can be kept in your hiking pack and accessed easily when needed.
Don’t forget to wear the right type of socks. You may consider investing in a pair of wool socks before going for winter hiking because they will help keep warm and comfortable. It is a good idea to opt for warm, breathable socks, such as wool because they work amazingly well to wick away perspiration and keep your feet dry during strenuous exercise.
Waterproof bottoms are ideal for winter hiking paired with hiking socks and hiking shoes. There are a number of viable options. For instance, you can go with softshell pants which are resistant to water and wind and breathable, so you don’t have to worry about sweating when working hard. Alternatively, you can opt for breathable waterproof rain pants you can wear over your base layer. They work very well to retain body heat because they are windproof but keep in mind they increase your risk of getting overheated unless you opt for rain pants with leg vents. Similarly, insulated ski pants may also work fine here because they are waterproof and insulated to keep you warm.
Essential Equipment for Winter Hiking
- Gaiters – Gaiters are necessary for walking through deep snow and save your boots from filling up with snow. They not only keep snow out of your winter boots but also provide extra protection for your feet from cold.
- Goggles or Sunglasses – Another thing you must bring along with you on winter hiking are multipurpose goggle or sunglasses. They not only protect your eyes from dust and snow but the adjustable tint lenses keep your eyes safe from direct sunbeams and snow glare when needed.
- Headlamp – Daylight hours are less in winter and places with heavy snowfall often experience a very short exposure to sunlight. So you will face more dark hours than bright sunny ones. If you are planning to continue your hiking in the dark hours an effective headlamp is a must. It will allow you to see your path and spot any potential hazards in the dark.
- Batteries – Carry a sufficient amount of batteries along with you as batteries drain faster in cold weather. Ideally, lithium batteries are used in cold temperatures as they have the highest resistance to low temperatures. It’s better to keep your batteries and phones in a warmer place preferably in your pockets so that they stay charged for a longer.
- Thermos flask – Learn to become a proper hiker but finding some time to enjoy a cup of tea on your hike. A warm drink in cold temperatures will work wonders warming you up and motivate you to keep moving. Opt for a stainless steel flask, as it won’t break while you’re busy exploring the world around you.
- Ice Axe – Ice axe is your must have for snow mountain hiking. It is essential to choose the perfect axe that can work in heavy snow and not one used for regular mountain climbing. An ice axe of 55cm to 60cm length is perfect for winter hiking.
- Sunscreen – Sunscreens are a must have to protect you from sunburn from the intense rays reflecting off the snow.
- Rain cover – be sure to invest in a high quality backpack that comes with a built-in rain cover, as it weighs less this way and keeps your gear dry even if it rains or snows heavily.
Other must-have articles are:
- First aid kit
- Protein-rich and energy-boosting snacks
- Drinking water
- Spare hiking socks and gloves
- Rope or cord
- Lip balm
Pay Attention to Food and Hydration
Once you know what you need to carry when setting out for a winter hike, you should also spend some time learning more about what to eat and drink during your hiking session. Here are some food and hydration tips to bear in mind when planning for your next hiking trip:
- Don’t keep moving without eating or drinking for long because your body’s metabolism is going to keep you warm and you should fuel it up with water and food. By carrying the right snacks and water, you don’t have to take long breaks to eat or drink throughout the day, so be sure to carry a backpack that offers easy access to water and snacks on the go.
- Take steps to keep your food from freezing or else you might end up chomping on a frozen energy bar that will be a test of your nerves. You may want to opt for foods like chocolate, candy bars, and even nuts and cheese because they are likely to stay softer for long even in cold weather. Be sure to find a way to stow your food as close to your body as possible to keep it thawed.
- Ensure that your drink tube does not get frozen or else you will have no way to access your hydration reservoir. Thankfully, many manufacturers now offer specific items that may help insulate the tube as well as the bite valve. Be sure to sip often to keep the tube functional and don’t forget to block back into the reservoir after drinking, as it is going to help keep the tube empty.
- Opt for water bottles when winter hiking, as your regular hydration reservoir is not going to perform optimally in very cold temperatures. However, you need to bear in mind that your water bottle can also freeze, and it usually does from the top down, which may make it impossible to open the bottle top. It is a good idea to flip your bottle upside down to avoid dealing with this problem. Moreover, you should be keeping the bottle in your pack instead of keeping it in the exterior pockets.
The fact of the matter is that winter hiking can be extremely challenging and exciting, yet it is a rewarding experience, so long as you know how to prepare yourself for the task ahead. Be sure to improve your knowledge about winter hiking and pack the right gear, clothing, and food to stay safe, warm, and comfortable during your hiking trip.