Don’t let the cold weather stop you from your regular sporting activities as winter is knocking at our doors. Going on an adventure has never been easier even though days are getting shorter and colder. All you need to do is closely follow a few helpful tips that help get your mindset in the right place.
Not only does hiking have numerous benefits that will help improve your physical and mental health, but it will also help boost your cardiovascular health, confidence, strength, and balance, as well as help you fight against the winter blues that are inevitably present as the days get darker.
So, if you’re interested in defeating the couch potato mentality and overcoming your winter blues, take a look at a few tips and tricks on what you should know about winter hikes.
Find a Hiking Pal
Before anything, it’s essential to find a hiking buddy so you won’t hike alone. Why is this important? If you are not an experienced hiker, hiking alone in winter is not safe. Having a hiking pal is like having a safety net in case of emergencies as hiking in the snow on steep hills or mountains can be a bit risky.
If you have a bit of experience in winter hiking, you might even want to bring your dog along on the hike to keep you company.
Although many people think that hydration is not as necessary during the winter as it is in the summer days, staying hydrated on a winter hike is of the utmost essence. You can stay hydrated not only by drinking water but also with a good, old-fashioned herbal infusion.
Don’t worry — you can easily prevent your water from freezing by purchasing a special water bottle or even just wrapping it in a wool beanie, scarf, socks, or anything similar to keep it warm.
If you opt for carrying tea, purchase a thermos to keep it constantly warm. A thermos is a smart investment whether you’re a regular hiker or not. We’ll throw in an additional tip — put some ginger and lemon in your tea for extra protection against potential colds.
Dress Warm and Smart
Think in terms of layers before you set out on your winter hike. There is nothing more important than layering up as below zero winter temperatures are quite dangerous. Especially if you’re going on a long hike, don’t forget to pack an additional layer of clothing!
We’ll break it down for you. When it comes to tops, go with three layers — base layer, an insulating layer, and outer shell. Opt for synthetic materials that will quickly dry if you sweat.
For the bottom, opt for two layers if the temperature is extremely low. For example, think about wearing a base layer and a waterproof layer on top. If it’s not too cold, a pair of thermal leggings will make you feel comfortable and warm.
Waterproof gloves, wool socks, and insulated winter hiking boots will do the trick to cover the rest. You can also wear a pair of gaiters to keep the snow from getting into your boots. Ellis Brigham is great for hiking gear if you don’t know where to start. Don’t forget to pack an extra pair of socks just in case yours gets wet.
All the more, sunglasses and sunscreen will become your new best friends when hiking. Even though there is a misconception that most winter days are overcast and protection against the sun is not needed, they can easily and quickly turn sunny. When that happens, the white snow becomes even brighter than it already is.
That’s why it’s crucial to bring sunglasses to help soften the reflectiveness of the snow, which makes your hike quite uncomfortable. Whether you’re hiking in summer or winter, never go without your sunglasses.
Furthermore, being exposed to the sun in winter months can do just as much damage to your skin as the summer sun. Apply sun protection before you set off to prevent your skin from burning in the high mountains.
Not many first-time hikers think about bringing food on a hike, but it would be challenging to complete a hike without stacking up on protein. Protein does wonders for your energy levels, and choices are abundant when it comes to protein foods you can consume on the go.
Avoid food that will make you stop moving so you can eat it, such as sandwiches or any other picnic food. Chocolate and energy bars can also freeze in below zero temperatures, making them more difficult to eat.
Think more in terms of cereal bars, nuts, raisins, and other dried fruits. Interestingly, cheese is also a fantastic choice as it won’t freeze or get too cold to eat, and you can consume it on the go.
Check the Weather Forecast
It might sound like obvious advice, but regularly checking the weather and avalanche forecast is a must if you are going on a long hike. Moreover, it’s especially crucial to do it in winter as the weather is likely to change more often.
To be more specific, it’s not as simple as opening the weather app on your phone. You should check the daylight hours, wind speed chart, avalanche reports, and the depth and state of snow cover on the slope (which may not be available for all hiking trails).
Keep in mind that in these conditions, even a small breeze can significantly impact your overall perception of the cold. That’s why we have advised you always to carry an added layer of clothes.
The same stands for avalanches — even small avalanches can significantly impact your hiking path, making it impossible for you to reach your desired destination. That’s why you should regularly check the avalanche forecast.
Pro tip — Keep in mind that all batteries lose power quicker when exposed to lower temperatures. That’s why you should keep your navigation tools (GPS, mobile phone, etc.) closer to your body so your body heat can keep the device warmer. Bring a power bank, as well, to charge your devices on the go.