Tips for Hiking in the Winter
Winter Hiking Tips
Tomorrow is the first official day of winter, and Christmas and New Year’s will follow just a few days after! All of our family and friends love the outdoors and have dogs, so our favorite thing to do when everyone gets together over the holidays is go hiking. It is a great way to get some energy out and the scenery is so beautiful. If your family is like ours and will be hiking this winter, scroll down to read our best winter hiking tips!
Wear The Right Clothes
When hiking in the winter, aim to wear 3 layers:
- a base layer to help wick moisture off your body
- a fleece insulating layer to keep you warm
- a waterproof/water resistant outer layer, or “shell,” to keep you dry
You can always shed layers if you get too warm. You should also wear warm socks, gloves and a scarf. Since you lose a majority of heat through your head, the most important article of clothing you must wear when hiking in the winter is a warm hat.
Cotton holds moisture, so once wet, it no longer insulates you from the cold. Even worse, it wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk for hypothermia. Instead, pick out hiking clothes that are made from polyester, nylon or merino wool.
A good pair of hiking boots is always a better idea than tennis shoes, especially in the winter. Waterproof boots will keep your feet dry, but for optimal warmth and dryness, consider investing in a pair of insulated hiking boots. If you will be hiking in the snow, wear a pair of gaiters to prevent snow from getting in your boots, as well as crampons or microspikes to help prevent you from slipping and falling.
It is always a good idea to bring an extra pair of socks and gloves in case yours get wet. Your hands and feet tend to get cold the quickest, so keeping them warm and dry is essential for a safe and enjoyable hike.
Stay Fueled and Hydrated
Even though it is cold, it is important to drink plenty of water. Set a timer on your phone to remind you to take a sip if you aren’t good at drinking water in the cold. This will keep you from getting dehydrated and fatigued.
You body burns more calories when hiking in the cold, so it is not unusual to feel hungry on your winter hikes! Bring high protein, power snacks with you, preferably ones you can eat while still moving. Stopping to eat a sandwich, or other full lunch, will give your body time to get cold. This causes your muscles to have to work harder to warm up once you start moving again. Protein bars and trail mix are always our favorite!
Bringing coffee, hot chocolate, or tea in a Thermus is a great idea to keep you warm while you hike. Just remember to drink enough water in addition to your hot beverage!
- Even on short hikes, it is always smart to bring a First Aid-Kit.
- Bring a compass and a map. You never know when your phone will lose service or shut off due to cold temperatures, and you don’t want to get lost!
- Bring a flashlight or head lamp.
Remember It Gets Dark Sooner
Opposite from summer hiking, try to time your winter hike for when the sun is highest in the sky and the warmest. When the sun starts going down, it gets significantly colder. However, since it gets dark sooner, it may not always to be possible to avoid hiking in the dark. If you plan on hiking in the dark, or think you might run out of daylight on your hike:
- Go on the hike in a group, or make sure family and friends know where you will be hiking.
- Put all your layers back on if you took any off.
- Make sure your flashlight or headlamp is accessible.
- Double check your map to make sure you are heading in the right direction.
- Continue to drink water and eat your high protein snacks to keep you from feeling tired.
- Be aware of your surroundings and be mindful of wildlife.