Winter hiking can be extraordinary. Cliff ledges where runoff has dripped turn into tiered icicles, the colorful wildlife stands out in stark contrast to the white surroundings, and the air is crisp, fresh, and cool. The views are stunning and the experience is invigorating. But, as with most wonderful experiences, it’s best to be prepared before walking out the door. Here are seven quick tips to help you have an enjoyable winter hike!
1. Bring a walking stick. You’ll most likely encounter patches of snow that are thick and a stick can come in handy assisting you through the rough spots, providing leverage for you to move through the snow. Poking areas of snow with your walking stick can also indicate how deep the snowdrift is or if there are any unexpected dips in the terrain. This can help prevent twisted ankles.
2. Waterproof boots are a must. Anyone who has spent time in snow is well aware that snow is wet. And plowing through snow all day will leave your shoes soaked through unless they’re waterproof. Feet safety is at the forefront of your hiking adventure: sore, cold, aching feet are a sure way to end a hiking experience in misery. Ensure your shoes are tall enough to keep snow from falling in from the top as well, hence why boots are recommended. And make sure your shoes have traction. You can attach steel crampons to your shoes to provided ultimate traction on treacherous and slippery slopes.
3. Dress in layers. It will be cold. Very cold. Make certain your layers are warm and also waterproof, especially your outer jacket layer. While layering, be smart and check to see if you have decent flexibility and mobility in your layers prior to hitting the hiking trail. Being warm and bundled won’t help you if you’re an immobile statue.
4. Eat. A lot. You might not realize it while you’re trekking along, but having to fight through layers of snow burns more calories and exerts more energy than a standard hike. Fill your pack with more nutritious snacks than you typically would if you were going for a springtime stroll through the woods.
5. First Aid Kit. This is a pretty standard must have for a hiking adventure. You might hurt yourself. Be prepared.
6. GPS device. Things look different when covered in snow. You may have hiked the terrain a thousand times during the spring, but the land will look different and you can easily get lost or turned around on a familiar trail. If your GPS doubles as your cell phone, it’s good practice to keep it in a waterproof bag and turned off to conserve the battery, only turning it on when needed.
7. A sketch pad and camera. Okay, this may not be a NEED, but it sure is great to have with you! You will come across unique sights that you’ll only witness during the winter due to the weather conditions and documenting it for later can be worthwhile. Savor a wonderful view with your eyes first and foremost, then pull out your camera or sketching tools. Sitting for a moment to sketch a beautiful view can also help give your body a little break along the hiking trail.
Most importantly: have fun! Winter hiking can be hard work, but when the cool air hits your nostrils and the calm of the wintery white forest meets your eyes and ears, you’ll know you made the right choice to hit the trail.