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These winter hiking tips are going to make you one smart winter hiker.
Why not extend the hiking season when cold winds blow?
There's no reason you need to retreat into your warm winter woollies and gaze longingly at your backpack hanging in the gear locker.
How to hike in the winter adds an entirely new skill set to your hiking resume.
Let's get started with a question.
If you answer yes to these additional questions, then you can safely say YES to winter hiking.
*Is your hiking clothing up to the task of blocking wind, shedding snow, and insulating you in layers?
*Is your gear waterproof, lightweight, pliable and easy to get on and off when you're bundled up?
*Do you have a sturdy pair of winter hiking boots?
*Are you easily chilled, even when indoors?
*Can you navigate when familiar landmarks are buried beneath snow?
*Are you on board with why carrying the hiking ten essentials is important?
If you're still reading, you're a winter hiker.
Winter hiking tips, coming right up!
Hiking in the winter means a lot of benefits will flow your way:
And many, many more joys of winter hiking.
I grew up where the snow piled up higher than a car two months into the winter season, and the wind howled in below zero temperatures for weeks.
So I know my way around winter hiking, and am delighted to share these winter hiking tips with you.
Let's start off with some winter hiking clothing tips.
Humans aren't hairy enough to stay warm without the aid of winter clothing.
But promise me that you will ditch fabrics that won't keep you warm and dry. That means no cotton, no matter how cosy it feels at home.
Dress for the worst possible scenario, and be able to peel off layers easily.
Avoid tight fitting or binding sleeves or pants. You want all of your hot core blood circulating freely to keep you warm.
To give you an idea of how serious your hiking clothing layering system needs to be, here is what I wear when hiking in winter (and snowshoeing):
For details on all of this womens hiking clothing, go here.
More winter hiking tips can be found here.
In addition, I carry traction devices for my boots, for the same reason car owners who drive over wintery mountain passes carry tire chains: gripping ability on slippery or uneven surfaces.
Your safety should be a big consideration when planning a winter hike, for all sorts of reasons.
It's possible to get a doozey of a sunburn, so carry sunscreen, too.
Bring more food than you think you will need.
The extra weight in your pack causes you to work a little harder than on a summer hiking trail.
But the peace of mind you have with extra food (which is fuel for your internal furnace) is priceless.
Eat fast, easy to digest carbohydrates with a bit of fat and protein for staying power.
Some winter hiking menu suggestions:
Wear winter hiking traction devices on your boots for increased stability and safety on snow packed and icy surfaces.
Keep moving. Winter hikes are not the time to lounge around at a (probably windy) viewpoint.
Always have your hat and gloves ready in an outside pocket of your backpack, and whip them on whenever you take a break from forward motion.
It's easier to stay warm than it is to get warm.
Know the signs of hypothermia.
Ditto for frostbite.
Take immediate action when you experience them, or spot them in a hiking companion.
Avoid hazards with conservative decisions.
Don't lean or sit on wet surfaces.
Dehydration is possible even when you don't think you're sweating or thirsty.
Keep your hands and feet warm at all costs.
To keep your feet in top shape on cold weather hikes, use these tips.
Prevent cold hands with these tips.
Use technology to give yourself a wide margin of safety:
These 7 habits make all the difference!
Your mental approach to winter hiking needs to be adjusted in terms of navigation, distance, elevation gain and pacing.
Winter hiking is harder than an easy summer trail, and will demand more from you.
Here are some winter hiking tips that I've learned the hard way, and would like you to consider before you head out into the cold.
Navigating in dim light on cloudy winter days gives your depth perception inaccurate information.
Ditto for a winter hike in brilliant sunlight.
It's easy to think distances are shorter than they appear, so double check your mileage on a map.
Don't try new routes on a winter hike unless you're rock solid with your navigation skills.
Double check your route on a topographical map before heading over terrain that might lead you off the edge or downhill at a steep angle.
Gaining elevation might be harder than expected, but so is losing elevation in deep snow or icy conditions.
Pace yourself according to conditions and hours of daylight left.
Accept that your pace will be far slower than on a summer hike.
Keep track of the passing hours and be firm about your turn around time.
If weather conditions deteriorate, turn around without regret.
Be prepared to feel more tired, and much hungrier, than on a summer hiking trip.
If you feel yourself sliding or slipping, resist the urge to fling out your arms and hands to break your fall.
Instead, fall on your back or side if at all possible.
Carry snowshoes and switch over to them when necessary.
Finally, here are two of the most valuable winter hiking tips I can offer you:
Don't let less than ideal weather stop you from winter hiking, but be respectful of Mother Nature and check the weather forecast before you start your hike.
Be prepared to spend a night outdoors.
Winter hiking is not the time to cut corners or take chances. Always be prepared!
And a special word to solo hikers.
Think long and hard about doing a solo winter hike.
Although I never hesitate to hike by myself in the other 3 seasons, I pause when considering hiking solo in winter.
There is a razor thin margin of safety if you become hypothermic or injured, even when carrying a personal locator beacon.
For solo hiking considerations before you head out alone on a winter trail, read this.
If your summer gear is water repellent, it's time to up your game to water proof coatings.
And if your gear is dirty, it's time to clean up to give yourself every chance of staying warm and dry.
I rely on NikWax for this, for both my clothing and my gear.
Realize that these coatings need to be reapplied after hard usage or with the passage of time.
It's also good hiking practice to go over your gear before you attempt a winter hike, looking for torn fabrics, holes, pulled apart seams, or too much wear and tear at failure points like zippers.
When you get home from a soggy, cold winter hike, be sure to empty your pack and hang up your gear away from direct heat sources. This is one of the best winter hiking tips to heed!
After all of these winter hiking tips, I certainly hope so.
Hiking in the winter, early to late, is one of the best ways to find solitude and silence.
It demands more from your body and mind, but it delivers a whole ton of advantages over summer hiking.
Fight the urge to curl up under a blanket, and use these winter hiking tips to conquer a new frontier: hiking when Mother Nature shows you her less friendly side.
Feeling really adventurous? Read up on winter hiking tips for camping in the heart of winter.
Any questions about these winter hiking tips? Drop me a line using the CONTACT link at the top left of this page.
I'd be delighted to kick around some winter hiking approaches for your upcoming hiking trip.
And if you have some winter hiking tips to share from your winter hikes, please post them here for all of us to enjoy!
Some of the links on this page and on other pages of this website are an opportunity to create a win-win situation.
If you purchase the hiking gear and clothing that I use and recommend through the links, you get great trail stuff but don't pay extra.
And Hiking For Her receives a single digit percentage of your purchase price to keep the lights on and the electrons humming.
Thanks for your support, it means a lot!
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