Hiking is one of the many activities that tends to be moved to the back burner once autumn’s crispness morphs into winter’s chill and ice, but it doesn’t need to be and you’re missing a lot when you do.
The downturn in visitors adds to the deep peace you find in nature while leaving more space for wildlife to come out and play, all while eliminating most of the bugs you must contend with during hotter times of the year.
You need to take precautions for winter hiking, but that’s always true. There are always tradeoffs — needing to bundle up now means you don’t need to wear as much sunscreen because most of your skin is covered, for example.
Here are some cold-weather hiking tips from the American Hiking Society so you can experience those breathtaking snowcapped horizons!
Don’t toss the sunscreen.
Winter hikers often forget about the sun’s glare reflecting off white snow, along with the fact that its UV rays don’t switch off when the weather grows cold, unfortunately.
Dress in layers.
Take several layers you can peel off or put on when you stop and go on the trail. Your base layer should be a wicking fabric that will pull your sweat away from the skin. Excess moisture that isn’t allowed to escape can freeze and cause hypothermia.
Wear a hat!
Our heads are filled with oxygen-carrying capillaries that fuel our brains and consume one-third of the body’s energy. During the colder months it is important to keep your head covered to maintain function and not lose precious body heat. You may want to bring a warmer/heavier hat for rest periods.
Keep your water bottle warm.
To keep water from freezing, keep your water bottle on the inside of your jacket — properly sealed, of course.
Be prepared for shorter days.
Get a good idea of the usable daylight hours before going hiking. Always carry a headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries.
Use a sleeping bag liner.
Putting a liner inside a 20-degree bag is an inexpensive way to boost your bag’s rating another 10 or so degrees for winter camping.