Hiking and enjoying the outdoors is more than just a hobby for us. It’s a passion. Waiting until the warmer months just isn’t an option! Winter hiking has it’s benefits from the silence of the snow to the less crowded trails and open spaces. Of course, the winter will scare some away but as long as you are prepared there is no reason to fret! Know the elements and stay safe with some of these helpful tips.
1) Start Early and Finish Early
Ignore the urge to sleep in despite the dark and cold mornings. With limited daylight and shorter days, you should take advantage of what sunlight you have. Wake up in the dark and drive to the trailhead while the sun is rising. This way once you start walking you should have the entire day to complete the trek just in case it takes longer then originally thought. Plan out the day and make milestones to assess how far you have traveled. If you are going at a slower speed due to the conditions you may want to turn around for the day. No harm in playing it safe and trying the trail another day. Good excuse for a cold brew anyways!
2) Use Eye Protection
This one may be an afterthought for some of us. It’s freezing and cloudy out so goggles or good sunglasses may be the last thing on your mind! No matter the season eye protection is always important. Especially if the snow is coming down or if it's particularly bright out. Have you ever tried to walk around in blowing snow without shades? We can tell you it's no fun! Also, if there is snow already on the ground the glare alone can be seriously hazardous. Don’t forget to pack the lip balm as well!
3) Know when to use Crampons
Try not to pack this extra weight until you know you will need them. Reading the reviews of a hiking trail can be a great way to know if you will need these or not. Checking the weather before you head out for the day is always a great resource. Just like any piece of gear crampons vary in price and differ on the activity you will be doing. Crampons are also becoming more specialized by activity. Super-lightweight traction devices are made for everyday winter walking. More traditional crampons handle snow and glacier travel, technical hiking (when you bring along an ice axe) and mountaineering. Know the trail or speak to a local guide or specialist to get the right gear for your adventure!
4) Learn How to Hike Up and Down in the Snow
Sounds like an easy one but snow can be tough! Even with all the correct gear, knowing how to ascend and descend in the snow is a skill that should be practiced before any big hikes. Trekking poles are great to use for this if you know you may need some help balancing.
When going uphill, take short steps and “kick in” to the snow bank. Try not to use kicked steps from previous days’ travelers, they may be very icy. Going downhill, learn a technique known as plunge stepping. In a nutshell, it is a gravity assisted step down, not forward. Don’t lock out your leg otherwise you may end up jarring your knee.
5) Love your Gear
Layer up and pack smart. What you wear will make or break your day so layer up for the most effective way to keep warm. This does not mean you need to wear 6 layers of clothes. Have a good underlayer, a long-sleeved top and a good down jacket. Avoid cotton (it holds moisture and will make you cold when wet) and stick to wool or synthetics for your base layer. Frostbite is a real danger in sub-zero temperatures and is most likely to affect fingers, toes and face so covering the extremities is vital.
One final tip?! Pour that coffee into a thermos for a toasty end or tasty beginning to your winter adventure. And don’t forget about that bum! The Deluxe Folding Stool is the perfect camping chair to pack up a quick day hike, taking almost no room in your vehicle and a comfy seat after a snowy adventure! Double up with the Caravan Chair and use the folding stool as a foot rest. Add a tasty brew and your day is complete!