Top Tips for Safe and Comfortable Winter Hiking
While many avid hikers may wait until spring to take the trail once more, there are plenty of advantages to hiking in winter. The winter landscape can be quite beautiful to explore, and emptier trails result in greater opportunity for solitude in nature.
However, hiking in the winter provides a unique set of challenges when it comes to safety. Consider the following tips to stay safe should you choose to hike in winter.
1) Avoid Wearing Cotton
It goes without saying that you’ll need plenty of warm layers, but you should avoid cotton at all costs. Once wet, cotton will sap your body heat quickly, and you’ll run the risk of becoming hypothermic.
Even if you are hiking in a dry environment, cotton clothing can still become wet with sweat. Opt instead for wool and synthetic layers. Depending on how wet your hiking climate is, down layers should be avoided as well, as these lose their insulating properties when damp.
2) Plan a Shorter Route
Winter months mean shorter days. You simply won’t be able to cover as much ground as you can during generous summer days.
Don’t overextend your mileage. Instead, stick to shorter routes that will allow you to reach the trailhead before dark.
3) Beware of Avalanche Advisories
Especially in mountainous regions, be aware of which trails and areas are at risk for avalanches. Avalanches are extremely dangerous, so these areas are best avoided.
Avoiding avalanches will require local knowledge and research, so do your due diligence before hitting the trail.
4) Bring Enough Water
It’s easy to remember to drink enough in summer, and it’s just as easy to forget in winter. Nevertheless, your body needs water.
Make sure to pack a minimum of 2 liters for a day hike, and remind yourself to drink regularly. Many hikers enjoy bringing a hot thermos of tea, which is a nice way to stay hydrated on the trail in winter.
5) Bring a Flashlight and Extra Batteries
The winter months mean limited daylight, and you don’t want to risk being lost in the dark. While you should plan your route and mileage to be off the trail before sunset, prepare for the worst.
After all, an injury or a wrong turn may waylay you. Always pack a working flashlight and extra batteries to avoid being stuck on the trail overnight.
Hiking is a wonderful way to engage with the natural world year-round. While many hikers stay off the trails during the winter season, many trails can still be enjoyed in colder weather.
To stay safe, hikers will need to plan their route, wardrobe, and hiking supplies accordingly.