For some, winter is the ideal time of year to sit next to a heater, rolled up in a blanket, and sip on a hot cup of cocoa until spring. But for many others, wintertime is that idyllic season when the great outdoors feels more inviting than ever. If you’re an adventurer looking for the next big thrill this winter season, then taking on a hiking expedition might just be the thing for you.
Mind you, winter hiking is radically different than hiking during the warmer months of the year, because the colder weather necessitates different clothing options, different food provisions, different hygiene protocols, and more. With that in mind, here are the five tips that will allow you to enjoy your next winter hike to the fullest.
Research Your Hiking Route Thoroughly
First and foremost, don’t just rely on your guide to take care of everything – be sure to do your own research well ahead of time. Why? Because researching your hiking route will not only help you visualize your journey and keep your bearings even if you happen to get separated from the group, but it will also let you know about any potential rough climbs or descents, or other hazards that you should prep for.
What’s more, be sure to get in touch with your guide and ask any questions that might pop in your head, because the more information you have, the better suited you’ll be to take on the challenge. This is especially important if you have any nagging injuries or special requirements because you need to let your guide know as soon as possible so that they can optimize the hike per your needs.
Master the Art of Layering Clothes
Hiking during winter can be a slap in the face. Quite literally, as the winds are howling with tremendous speed and the cold starts to bite on your cheeks, you might start to feel like all of this was a pretty bad idea. But instead of abandoning your expedition midway, you should actually prepare for the local climate well in advance, and master the art of layering your clothes.
Remember, a single piece of heavy clothing is not enough to protect you from the harsh winter environment somewhere deep in the mountains, but if you put on many lighter layers, you just might stay warm throughout your hike. With that in mind, be sure to wear an undershirt, a t-shirt, a sweater, a fleece pullover, long boxer shorts, long-johns, warm socks and insulated boots, thick gloves, a ski mask, hard-shell pants, and of course, a hard-shell jacket.
Take Good Care of Your Hair and Skin
There is a common problem winter hikers don’t think about until its too late, the problem of keeping your skin safe from the elements, and protecting your hair and scalp. Depending on the duration of your hike, you will be sweating, you will need to change your clothes, and you will need to maintain basic hygiene in the harsh outdoors. This is when your hair will start to feel greasy and dirty, which might cause dandruff, or worse, irritations that will drive you up the wall.
You have to prevent this by bringing an organic anti dandruff shampoo with you and using it right before you go on your hike, and immediately after you return to your lodging. As for your skin, be sure to moisturize exposed areas during your hike to prevent burns and irritations.
Fuel Your Body Throughout the Hike
Nutrition during a winter hike can be quite different than eating on a summer hiking expedition. During summer, all you need is plenty of water and some light travel snacks or a container of fresh fruit to keep you going. But during winter, you need calorie-dense foods that will supply your body the energy needed to push through the harsh winter environment. Be sure to bring energy and protein bars, a thermos filled with hot coffee, an insulated water bottle, and various nuts and seeds containing healthy fats.
Don’t Forget the Necessary Safety Gear
And finally, don’t forget to bring your personal safety gear. This includes a first-aid kit, a durable rope to wrap around your partner and yourself during a blizzard, a sleeping bag, a durable tent, a multitool, an emergency flare, and a separate GPS device and compass.
Hiking in winter can be a truly memorable experience, but you need to prepare well in advance. Be sure to follow these tips to stay safe on your adventure, and ensure a hiking excursion of a lifetime.