Cold Weather Hiking Hacks to Get You Through Winter
Surviving winter alone is a tough act. And surviving a hike in winter is a whole new story. I survived my very first hike in winter and lived to tell the tale. Before my hike, I read a lot of hacks, tried them myself, and even developed some of my own depending on the situation I found myself in. There are a lot of hacks out there but let me help you out by listing these cool as winter hacks.
1. Know your location
You may choose a familiar hiking location for your winter adventure. However, you should take note that some places may have changes in appearance especially when snow falls. So it’s important that you study the trail you’re taking or at least have your map and compass readily available.
Winter Trick: During this time of the year, the length of day is shorter. So take into consideration the setting of the sun. If you plan not to have an overnight camp, better set out earlier on your hike.
2. Prepare your gears
One of my most important investment in my hiking life, is my gears. If my gears are in their best condition and appropriate for the weather for which I’m using them, then I’m all set. Here are what I consider when preparing my gears for a snowy hike.
a) Winter Hiking Gear
You may say you already have your hiking gear all set. But don’t forget of the word winter. The ground is rarely visible with all the snow plus it can get pretty slippery as well. So here are your must-haves for this snowy season hike.
Whether I’m hiking in spring, summer, fall, or winter, I always have my backpack. It’s where I carry my essentials around for any circumstances that may come my way.
Winter Trick: Choose one that suits your hiking needs. Although you want a backpack that has it all, you still need to consider its weight. You wouldn’t want to be carrying those useless weight just because they look good on your backpack.
Just because you’re not sweating, doesn’t mean you don’t need hydrating. Water bottles are always a must even in winter hiking.
Winter Trick: Bring wide mouthed water bottles. Before the trip, fill it with warm water to slow down the freezing process. Then store it upside down. The bottom part of the water bottle may freeze first still leaving you with a liquid part. Just be sure to check for leakage.
Winter Traction Devices
Walking in snow is slower than when you’re just walking on the soil or grass. Because of this, I carry my traction devices for when the ground becomes a little too challenging with my shoes alone.
Winter Trick: There are various traction devices for different terrains. But when it comes to hiking, more aggressive devices are the safer way to go. Look for those that are comfortable in snowy terrains yet can also offer you a nice grip on icy ones.
b) Winter Clothing
Is your closet about to burst with your clothes? Don’t worry, you’ll be using a lot of clothes for winter. One of the most important things to put in mind is to do layering for a warm hike. The least thing you want is to be frozen solid and experience frost bite.
Have some warm socks and insulated boots. It’s also best if you wear waterproof ones as wet feet during a hike in winter can surely spell disaster.
Winter Trick: You can wear thin socks for the first layer and a thicker one for the second layer. The size of your socks should make your boots fit perfectly. Boots that are warm yet too tight will surely make your feet feel uncomfortable.
Jackets and Pants
Wear waterproof, windproof, insulated jackets with a hood. You don’t know when the snow will fall or when the wind will pick up. So it’s best that you’re already protected. Your pants should likewise be waterproof and windproof as well. These will serve as the shell of your hiking clothing.
Winter Trick: Choose pants with side zippers for easy movement when putting on and taking off your shoes. Zippers can also act as ventilation for both your upper and lower half of the body.
These can compose of your base, second, and mid-layer insulation. Insulations mostly comprise the layering clothing for a winter hike.
For your base layer, which is basically your underwear, choose synthetic and wool fabrics. They keep your sweat off of your skin to evaporate quicker. You can wear a thinner base and top it with a thicker second layer. The mid-layer insulation is for heat retention. This may include fleece jackets or vests.
Winter Trick: The next layers should be bigger than your base layer. This will enable you to move comfortably. However, don’t wear oversize layers as you’ll surely feel the weight of these clothing while hiking. Your mid-layer insulation can be taken off when you’re on the move since your body can provide you with enough heat. But you’ll need to put this on when you stand still. Never forget your spare clothing too.
Hats and Gloves
You can wear your hat inside your hood so it doesn’t really have to be waterproof. However, you should take note of the warmth it can produce. Your gloves should be waterproof and insulated to keep your hands warm. Hats, gloves, etc are important hiking gear.
Winter Trick: Keep your hats and gloves lightweight preferably made of wool. Avoid cotton hats and gloves for they absorb water easily. You don’t want to keep on carrying the additional weight of water that only makes you colder than you already are.
3. Prepare your food
Food is a very big part of your hiking trip regardless of season. But there are more things to consider when packing food for the winter. I usually feel like I’m one of those animals hibernating when gathering my food. However, bringing the right food benefits me all the time.
This may be the time where you can indulge yourself with food and not feel bad about it. Hiking in winter burns more calories than in any other season. When taking winter hikes, I make sure to bring the foods that I truly love because most of the time, I just have to eat.
Winter Trick: Bring easily packed and easily consumable foods that don’t easily harden or freeze in the cold temperature of winter. You might consume more energy trying to bite into energy bars than the calories you get from it when it freezes. Remember that it’s best to keep eating while moving as stopping will only make you feel cold.
It’s best to bring warm food with you on a snowy hike. This can help you keep warm and fuels you to keep on moving. The food can turn cold along the way though. So if you want to always have hot food, keep your cooking gear with you.
Winter Trick: There are meals which you can just add water to. You need to save energy as much as possible and working on a complicated meal can drain you. Choose a recipe which can be easily prepared yet still remain appetizing. Check out this post to see more.
4. Prepare your survival gears
Whether the weather changes suddenly and you need to camp for the night or you may just want to experience the night in the snowy wilderness, it’s best to prepare the following:
This includes your tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Your tent, just like your shell, should be waterproof and strong enough to stand against the harsh conditions of winter. However, if you’re not sure about your tent, don’t fret. Just visit my post and you’ll have your tent fit for camping.
Winter Trick: Just like most of the gear listed, keep your sleeping gear lightweight without sacrificing quality and the heat it can give you. If you have damp clothing, or you want to have warm clothing the next morning, keep your clothes near your sleeping bag when you sleep.
Keep these things close whether there’s emergency or not. These will help you in circumstances you’ll encounter during trip.
Maps, compass, and whistle: Having these is very important so you’ll have a way to find your back to the right trail. And the whistle, for when you need to attract attention for emergency situations.
First Aid and Hygiene Kit: I always carry in my backpack these kits. As a frequent camper, I have witnessed and experienced myself the importance of these things. And I believe you can picture them as well.
Tools and Repair Gear supplies: Got something to fix? Not a problem if you have these things ready. Just like in any other season, winter hiking should not be a source of stress but a source of beautiful memories.
Winter Trick: You may choose to leave some of the things listed here. Just keep track of the time when hiking. It’s best to start early and end before the sun sets if you only plan to have a day hike so you have enough light to finish your hike.
Now take out your hiking gear, and start planning for a winter wonderland hike with these hacks.