Tips For Winter Hiking
“Hiking in undiscovered places is a lot of fun.” ~ Karolina Kurkova
I get asked A LOT about Winter hiking. Most people think I am crazy
and I concur for even undertaking the freezing feat. Hiking isn’t always enjoyable, even in warmer months, why would I want to torture myself when it is sub zero out?
Honestly, I don’t know, but I am Type A and I DO love a great challenge.
Joking aside, their is something about being atop a mountain that is freeing. To quote Leo, you really do feel like the “
Queen King of the World.” After picking your way up the side of a mountain, where at times it is more climbing then hiking, to reach the top is an exhilaration of accomplishment and success with stunning views as a reward. It is even more of an achievement when done during Winter.
While there are dangers to hiking, especially in the colder months, if you are smart about it, it is not only an adventure, but also a lot of fun. And yes I am serious.
Layer. Layer. Layer.
The most important tip is layering. And more layering. Clothes take up the majority of my backpack. Even in freezing temps, you are still exerting yourself and if you are like I am, sweating your derrière off despite the frigid temps. You want to not only have clothes that will absorb the sweat, but you also want to have extra so you can change if you need too.
Nothing is worse then being unable to appreciate a view because you are freezing your tuckus off. The rule of thumb is usually to have a base, middle, and top layer. Each having their own use in keeping you warm.
A base layer will wick away the sweat and keep you warm. Fabrics like wool, tencel, and spandex are great sweat absorbers, drying quickly while fabrics like cotton absorb liquid and stay wet longer.
The middle layer(s) is your insulation. You can add or remove, depending on how hot you are, but they most importantly keep you warm. The last layer is one that should keep wind out and is water proof. You also want something that while warm is still easy to move around. We don’t want any A Christmas Story snowsuits here!
Waterproof gloves, a wool hat, and even a face mask are extremely beneficial. As well as a pair of insulated snow pants, which not only keep you warm, but will also keep you from getting wet if you fall.
Hot hands are a life saver. I never realized until I actually got some for Christmas this past year, (Thank you Sarah!) how much of a game changer they are. I went for an hour hike in sub zero temps, with windchills that made it even colder. Due to getting frost nip a few years ago, keeping my hands warm is difficult, and these solved that problem.
Microspikes, Crampons, and Snowshoes
As a fashionista of course I have to talk about footwear. Or rather what goes on the bottom of your boots. During the Winter, microspikes, crampons, and snowshoes play a pivotal role in the traction you get when hiking. It isn’t smart NOT to have one or all three with you. Microspikes and crampons have metal spikes on them that dig into the ice, and help provide traction, as you hike. Depending on the severity of ice, depends on which ones you use.
Snowshoes act as a flotation device above the snow, so you don’t sink in deep snow. They also have built in crampons, giving traction when their is ice. Trekking poles are also a great tool to have as they help distribute weight.
First Aid Kit
This is a given. Not just for winter hiking, but every season. Even for smaller hikes. You never know what conditions you could run into. Mother Nature is incredibly volatile, (heck we have all seen that recently) and even more so when you are thousands of feet up in the air exposed to the elements. Anything could happen, and having a first aid kit, as well as items like rope, a small axe, and fire starter are beneficial in case anything happens.
It is better to always be prepared for the inevitable. You will worry less, making the trek through wintery wonderlands and conquering mountain tops much more enjoyable.
Are you a hiker? Have you hiked in the Winter? What are your tips when dealing with the elements?