Winter hiking can be both a dangerous and rewarding sport to undertake. And as a result of the fortitude that’s required as well as the potential risk that’s involved, its popularity has continued to grow and expand over time amongst athletes and adrenaline junkies.
But regardless of why you decide to get involved in winter hiking, there are certain things that need to be considered to ensure your experience is a positive one.
Namely, your clothing and your gear — this is the single most important component for your winter hike — for obvious reasons. And today, we will be covering what type of clothing and gear you should be on the lookout for.
Winter hiking pack
Ensuring you have the right pack for traversing through the snow on the hiking trails is paramount. It takes a lot of energy to go through those icy pathways, so getting a pack that allows for easy access to your materials will be essential.
Whether it’s a water bottle, an ice axe, or any other kind of accessory, you’ll want to be able to reach for it swiftly and easily.
Additionally, you’ll want to get a thin and light pack to offset all the heavy gear you’ll be wearing to keep warm on those winter trails. Anything too heavy and thick will just weigh you down and make your hiking experience more difficult than it needs to be.
In some instances, you might need a wide-range of equipment for safety and purposes. There are many bags such as the Osprey Aether 65 backpack or the Osprey Rook 65L backpack that offer top compartments for the comfortable storage of necessities.
And finally, even though it’s important to find a lightweight backpack, it’s equally important that you pick one that’s strong and durable. The last thing you need is your straps to snap or holes to rip in your bag while you’re trekking through a winter hike.
So be sure that your backpack is durable while at the same time lightweight so that it can meet your needs on the trail.
Winter hiking boots
The right winter boots are critical; you want to make your decision based on comfortability and longevity. Are the boots warm, snug, and comfy? And are they strong, tough, and durable? If they check those boxes, then congratulations — you got a winner!
Look for features such as water-resistant outer layers that prevent water from leaking in through the open crevices of the laces. Also, be on the lookout for rigid soles that will help grip any ice-bound surface and stabilize your footing while traversing over any slippery pathways.
Furthermore, you could also add ice-cleats to your boots for additional traction. These kinds of traction devices are designed to slip right onto your boot and balance you out.
In challenging and demanding territory, you can also utilize crampons — who would have thought that spikes fixed to a metal plate could be so useful? Crampons will allow you to comfortably make your way through various types of ice and frost-coated terrain.
Winter hiking clothing (Dress in layers)
Winter can be very unforgiving, and this is especially true when you lack the proper apparel. So ensuring you’re dressed in the appropriate attire is a prudent decision you don’t want to overlook or take lightly.
The best way to prepare yourself for the cold on your winter hikes is to dress in layers. Layering your clothing provides the insulation needed to retain heat while blocking out the cold.
The first layer should ideally be a close-fitting top that prevents moisture, there are certain mock materials that help dispense with any perspiration in this regard.
This layer is used to further barricade the cold from the core of your body. The best kinds of materials for this section of layering are thin and light garments as they create a space where stagnant air will become confined.
The first two layers are used as barriers to reinforce your outer layer, which is obviously going to be a thick jacket or a bulky cardigan — take your pick.
Winter hiking accessories
Hiking is one of those extreme (and high maintenance) sports that requires attachments and additions to be done safely. Depending on the type of terrain you’ll be embarking on, some of these accessories may not always be necessary, however, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t at least take them into consideration.
Many accessories such as gloves and toques will most certainly be a necessity during the winter. But others, like sunglasses and leg gaiters are optional.
Other things to consider are:
- Small shovels – If you need to remove big snowdrifts in order to move through a certain area, these will definitely come in handy
- Airbag pack – If you’re ever swallowed by an avalanche, these nifty and potentially lifesaving bags will create a pocket of air while you wait for emergency personnel
- Hiking poles – As you make your way through the rugged landscapes, a trekking pole allows you to remain stable, conserve energy, and assists with difficult hikes over ice, snow, etc
Hiking advice for the wintertime
While every hiking route will be a bit different, there are certain pieces of advice that will apply across the board. Here are a few of them:
- It’s easy to get lost, so be sure that you have a map or compass or fully charged cell phone with you at all times
- Ensure you have the right accessories and materials for a safe trip, this includes food, water, the proper gear as well as the appropriate tools
- Leave room in your pack for a first aid kit — you never know
- Be aware of the weather conditions for your hike before you leave, the last thing you want is to be ill-prepared in an unexpected snowstorm
- Inform family and friends of your whereabouts
- Respect the signs that enforce boundaries, these are usually established to prevent wildlife and people from encountering each other
The most important thing about hiking in the winter
Despite all of the rules, precautions, safety equipment, and excessive clothing, winter hiking is still a time to have fun, enjoy nature, and bask in the great outdoors! And that’s exactly what you should be doing on your hike!
Enjoy and appreciate the experience; and when you implement the tips and suggestions in this post, that’s exactly what you’ll be able to do.