6 Cold Weather Hiking Tips to Keep in Mind
Just because the temperatures have dropped, doesn’t mean you don’t get to go on an enjoyable hike. If there’s one thing everyone needs to know about wintertime, it is that it can still be fun, especially if you’re extra prepared.
Hiking when there’s snow everywhere can be just as exciting as hiking during the warmer season—sometimes, even with fewer hassles. If you already have your gear for warm weather hiking, you’ll only need to give it some modifications for the cold.
Tips for Hiking During the Cold Weather
Before you head out that door and revel in the breathtaking sights of winter, keep these important guidelines in mind so that you can stay warm and safe.
1. Don’t Forget Your Hat
Going on a hike during the colder months, you should keep in mind that what’s inside your head should be protected at all times. The capillaries in our heads serve as vessels for carrying oxygen to our brains. As a result, we don’t lose too much body heat and are able to keep warm.
If you plan to go on a hike when the temperatures drop, make sure to wear a warm and heavy hat over your head to maintain its heat-preserving role.
2. Bring a Warm Bottle of Water
Just as important as bringing a warm water bottle with you as you venture out into the cold is to find the best ways to preserve the bottle’s warmth and keep the water inside it from freezing.
Imagine the disappointment of finding out that the water inside your bottle is already frozen solid as you sit by the campfire. It’s not a great way to lift your spirits, at all.
You should be able to solve this problem with the help of a koozie, which is a foam sleeve that you wrap around a bottle, cup, or any beverage container to preserve heat.
3. Your Sunscreen Is Still Important
Plenty of hikers forget that the sun is still a huge factor when hiking during the cold months. What’s tricky about hiking in the cold season is that you get so focused on the cold that you don’t really think about the harmful rays doing damage to your skin.
It doesn’t matter if it’s snowy or not; the sun’s glare will still be reflecting off the snow. As such, it is safe to say that, yes, sunscreen is still a must.
4. Be Aware of Short Days
It’s not unusual for the colder season to have shorter days. By the time October comes around, you’ll find the dusk settling much earlier than it did during the summer months. Always be aware of the usable daylight hours before you head out for a hike.
You don’t want to go out unprepared and discover that you don’t actually have much sunlight to work with as you head back. That’s a potentially dangerous situation that you mustn’t put yourself in.
5. Always Dress in Layers
If you’re thinking about donning a fluffy parka, that is so not the idea we’re trying to put in your head. That type of winter apparel is meant for the ski slopes and is unpractical for the trail. Instead, you’ll want to put on several layers that can be peeled off and put on as you navigate the trail.
The innermost layer should be one that absorbs moisture so that sweat won’t be sticking to your skin. Keep in mind that when moisture isn’t able to escape from your clothes, it can freeze and cause hypothermia.
You’ve probably seen jackets designed with zippers on the armpit area. That was done to keep air circulation going and keep your clothing dry.
6. Warm Up with a Sleeping Bag Liner
Some hikers have the tendency to go overboard and pack a really heavy sleeping bag before they head off to their campsite. That extra carrying weight can be a really bad idea, particularly for long hikes.
You’ll want to pack as light as possible while still bringing everything you need to stay warm. A light sleeping bag and an excellent lightweight backpack are more than enough.
If you want to be even warmer, you can place a liner inside the bag. This should bump the temperature up a couple of degrees.
It’s one thing to be aware of all these important tips, but remember, there are still other safety practices to keep in mind. First and foremost, you must always plan your trip. Make sure to head out only when the weather forecast is good and you’ve properly graphed your route.
You’ll want to have a time control plan, which helps determine where you should be on the trail during certain times of the day. Don’t forget to inform other people about your plan, too. Have them know the location of your hike as well as the time you expect to get back.
Hiking during the colder months may seem like a lot of work, but it actually isn’t that much different from your summer hiking preparations. Plus, nature during the winter, blanketed in white snow, is quite a sight to behold and will make all your efforts worth it.