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Don’t Let the Cold Weather Stop Your Hiking Adventures

Winter hiking
Flickr/Johan Klovsjö

Winter might be approaching, but that doesn’t mean your hiking should stop. This is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a new type of hiking adventure.

The summer months are over, fall is here and winter is just around the corner, but that doesn’t mean you should put away your hiking boots until next year. What better time to experience a new side of hiking than through a wintry landscape with the ground and trees covered by a fresh layer of snow?

Winter hiking is similar to summer hiking, the only difference being that the hiker is required to adapt to the type of winter terrain and conditions, which include snow risk and hazards. By taking simple steps beforehand, you can ensure that your hiking adventures continue through the winter months too.

Being Prepared

Tell someone where you are going.

Before setting off on your hike, have a destination in mind. When the weather conditions take a turn for the worst you don’t want to find yourself roaming randomly with no set destination in place. Go on a hike with other people and make sure that friends and family are aware of your intentions and for how long you expect to be out for. If you arrive by vehicle at the start of your hike be sure to leave some information on the dashboard stating where you are hiking, what time you set off at, what time you expect to be back and any contact information. This way someone will be able notify authorities of your movements if you fail to return at the designated time you stated.

Make sure that you have the correct equipment with you.

In winter, hiking poles are useful as they will help to stabilize your walking and help you to gauge how deep the snow is before moving on. Your clothing is another vital component, which should not be overlooked. Avoid wearing cotton in winter as it absorbs sweat and moisture and clings to your body, reducing your body temperature and giving you the chills. Layer your clothing with a synthetic or natural fiber, such as wool, as a base layer and follow that up with a middle layer and a waterproof outer layer. You will also want a hat, gloves and good footwear in addition to a head buff and hand warmers.

flickr/IamNotUnique
Flickr/IamNotUnique

Be smart about food.

You will need to consider the food you will be carrying too. In order to keep your body temperature regulated you need to consume calories, which means that you require a healthy supply of fuel. Slow release carbohydrates such as oats and pasta are an ideal food choice as these will keep you going for longer. Packing a thermos will be handy to have on hand to keep you warm.

Fitness

Hiking is a gradual process, so you should avoid doing too much too soon. If you are venturing out on your first winter hike begin with shorter, easier routes and slowly build up the intensity as you find longer and more difficult trails.

Hiking is a great way to increase and maintain your fitness as repetitive walking movements will build muscular strength while your heart and lungs become stronger as they adapt to the cold environment. When you’re not on the trail, spend time training your core stability which will help when you have to carry a pack on your back. Good strength in your core will also help to avoid any unwanted missteps along the way.

flickr/Grand Canyon National Park
Flickr/Grand Canyon National Park

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Snow Conditions

Wintry conditions can be very beautiful. It’s also a time fraught with hidden dangers. Snow can cause falls, make the simple task of walking harder, chill you to the bone, dehydrate you or reduce your field of vision when the sun’s rays bounce off the snow. You need to be prepared for snow conditions to prevent any hazards along the way.

Be more vigilant and watch the weather forecast. Wear the correct boots, gaiters and waterproof clothing. Hydrate properly during your hike and be aware of the signs of fatigue. You will be better off turning around early rather than being stuck far from any help and at risk.

flickr/Adrian
Flickr/Adrian

Regardless of the hike distance, you should go with a backpack that has the essentials inside, such as a headlamp, first aid kit, whistle and an emergency blanket.

By taking the steps to avoid any potential hazards you will be better off and prepared while hiking this winter.

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Don’t Let the Cold Weather Stop Your Hiking Adventures