Winter is a great time to hike, as it allows you to experience the beauty of nature. Hiking on top of a blanket of snow can be a beautiful experience, possibly observing a different view of nature, like the tracks of an animal ahead of you. However, winter hiking can also present its own set of challenges. Before heading out, make sure that you have all the necessary gear and prepare for the unexpected. Here are some of the most common winter hiking tips to help keep you safe.
Never go out alone
Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Also, let them know what route you plan on taking in case of an emergency.
Beware of reduced visibility
During winter, visibility is reduced due to the shorter daylight hours and the blowing snow. In addition to carrying a light, you should bring a navigation tool and map.
Carry the Ten Essentials
For every season, carry the ten essential items. These items will help keep you safe and comfortable while hiking through snow and ice.
Wear proper footwear
You should also wear proper footwear; if the snow is deep, consider snowshoes. If the trails are icy, you might want to invest in traction devices such as the Stabil Icers or Yaktrax. Even if it is not icy back home, snow on heavily used trails can be packed down and become frozen. If you are planning on using a heavily traveled area, use a pair of hiking poles with carbide tips to improve stability on icy trails.
Beware of hypothermia
If you are planning on hiking in cold weather, make sure that you have all the necessary gear and prepare for the unexpected. One of the best ways to avoid hypothermia is to layer up and carry extra warm clothes in your backpack. According to Matt Davis, the regional trail coordinator in North Dakota and Minnesota, it is better to hike cold and put on warm clothes rather than wearing less. You should also bring extra food, warm beverages, and a space blanket in your backpack.
Although it might be challenging to remember to stay hydrated in cold weather, you should still drink plenty of water – not just your coffee or hot cocoa. Your body needs electrolytes and water; you will still sweat under all your layers, so hydrating is key in harsh environments. When stopping to rest, take a drink of water to keep hydrated. You can also prevent your water from freezing by putting it inside a wool sock or inside your coat.