On a warm and sunny day, many people think of going for a hike to get some exercise and a dose of nature. But you don’t have to stop hiking just because the weather becomes colder and the snow starts falling to the ground.
Here are some winter hiking tips to inspire you to get outside more in the upcoming months and enjoy the natural beauty of all four seasons.
Check the Weather
It’s important to check the weather forecast before a hike no matter what season it is. But in the winter, you’ll want to know what the wind chill is and if there is any chance for freezing rain, ice, or snow so that you can plan around adverse conditions. If the trail conditions are good, consider picking a hike with some elevation gain to get your heart pumping and your body temperature up.
Dress in Layers
How you dress yourself before a hike makes a huge difference in how comfortable you feel and how much you’ll enjoy the outing. You’ll need to stay warm and dry, and the best way to accomplish this is by dressing in layers. On your top half, start with a moisture-wicking, long-sleeve base layer shirt. The middle layer, such as a puffy jacket, insulates you from the cold. Then the outer layer, such as a waterproof shell jacket, protects you from wind and moisture.
Overall, avoid cotton clothing on winter hikes. Other tips are to cover your hands with fleece gloves under waterproof mittens, wear wool socks on your feet, use a neck gaiter for your nose and cheeks, and bring a winter hat for your ears.
Bring Warm Food and Beverages
To help your body warm up on a cold hike, bring a warm beverage or soup in an insulated thermos. Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate all taste great while warming you up on a cold winter day. You can also heat up soup on the stove at home before adding it to a thermos for your trailside lunch.
Hiking in the cold burns more calories than hiking on a warm day, so bring plenty of high-energy snacks with you as well, such as trail mix, nuts and seeds, protein bars, dried fruit, carrot sticks, and dark chocolate. An insulated hose for your hydration pack can prevent the water from freezing and from you becoming dehydrated on a cold day.
Allow Plenty of Time
There are fewer hours of daylight in the winter, so make sure to allow enough time for your hike by starting early enough. It may be tempting to wait until mid-afternoon to hit the trail because that’s when it’s the warmest, but you don’t want to be caught in the dark when it’s very cold outside either. Most people move a bit slower when hiking in the cold, and there can be snow and ice obstacles to overcome too.
More Tips for a Successful Winter Hike
Winter hiking is challenging, but it’s also very rewarding to see the natural world in a whole new way and get some great exercise at the same time. Here are some additional tips to set yourself up for success as you head out to the trail.
- Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia
- Let someone know where you’re going
- Map your route and don’t solely rely on your smartphone
- Bring a first-aid kit
- Bring crampons and hiking poles for treacherous sections of trail
- Invest in warm and waterproof winter hiking boots
- Wear sunscreen on any exposed areas of skin