Hiking in WINTER – (5 Tips & Tricks)

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Hiking in Winter means that you might encounter snow and ice on the trails. These five tips and tricks will help you to be more prepared and enjoy your hiking adventure.

Hiking in Winter

  • What is Winter hiking?
  • Can you hike in winter?
  • What do you need to hike in the Winter?
  • Is Winter hiking dangerous?
  • How to get started?

Wikipedia considered winter hiking to be an additional type of hiking

Winter hiking offers different challenges, hazards and opportunities.

Hiking in winter transforms a trail.

I always try to take the kids to go see the snow in the mountains when it’s winter time. That means that green is naturally colored in white and the mountains hiding behind the iciness in abrupt beauty. A different world of magic winking at us.

There is a close relationship between skiing and hiking especially in longer routes in snowy conditions.

Hiking in winter provides a few challenges but there are also a few good reasons why to try it.

Reserveamerica.com gave a few good reasons to go hiking in winter snow

One of the reasons were the solitude. Popular hiking destinations attract crowds in the summer but not in winter.

Winter hiking gives you the peace and quiet to commune with nature.

Snow hiking also presents unique challenges that avid hikers relish.

Winter hiking is not just about snow; wind, ice and cold can all contribute to an experience of a lifetime.

What do you need to hike in Winter – 5 Tips & Tricks

Winter hiking requires more planning than regular hiking because you need to take extra safety precautions to combat harsh whether elements.

Bearfoottheory.com in their Winter Hiking tips advised hikers to keep hydrated

Keeping hydrated is very important as dehydration expedites the onset of hypothermia. They believe if you feel thirsty you’re already dehydrated.

Staying hydrated you can use an insulating hose for your hydration pack when hiking in the winter.

If you are using a water bottle wrap it in some wool socks or in a beanie in your backpack to keep it warmer.

Tips to prevent the hose from freezing if you are in extreme temperatures

  • Use an insulating hose for your hydration pack.
  • Throw in hot water (not boiling).
  • Blow the water back up the tube and into the reservoir right after you take a drink.
  • Drink often.
  • Carry the hydration pack under your clothes and close to your body.

It is important to remember that exercise in winter burns more calories

This means that you might get more thirsty and use more water than normally. Your body will need more calories so you need to pack snacks high in protein that you can eat while hiking or without stopping much.

If you stop for a long time to eat or longer time then your muscles can get cold and will take longer to warm up. It’s best practice to rather eat on the go and not stop to eat when hiking in winter.

Hike with the Sun

In summer you want to avoid the hottest part of the day but in winter time this is the opposite. Try to hike in winter when the sun is the warmest and the highest in the sky. If the sun lowers and starting to set the trail becomes shady and temperature drops as well.

If you are thinking of doing a sunset hike, try to be close to the trail head
and carry extra layers

Another important tip is to block the sun.

Sunshine reflects of snow just like it reflects of water and can create difficult conditions for your eyes and skin.

Hikingdude.com warned against snow blindness

Snow blindness is a painful temporary loss of vision due to overexposure to the sun’s UV rays. Chapped lips and sunburn can also occur.

Sunblock, sunglasses, lip balm and the correct clothing can help to prevent this from happening.

Firstascent.co.za advised that gear is most important and that you should layer your clothes for heat

You have to keep yourself warm and dry.

Always keep a spare of dry layers available in your back.

They are basically 3 layers:

  1. Base layer
  2. Mid / insulation layer
  3. Outer / Waterproof layer

Base layers are moisture wicking quick-drying garments that will regulate your body temperature and keep it warm and dry.

Mid layer is the insulating layer that retain body heat. There are lot of options to choose here from but most popular are fleece or down jackets. I like to wear freeze and a gilet if it is really cold.

Waterproof layer this is your shield against the elements so it must be waterproof and breathable. Click here for my review on Mac in a Sac Waterproof Jacket.

These are the layers I use when hiking and if it is really cold, I will add a gilet and down jacket as well. Please click here for my review on Mac in a Sac Gilet.

Without an adequate outer shell or waterproof shell you’re layering system will fail.

Footwear is also very important and you should make sure that you wear the correct boots

Regular waterproof hiking boots will do, but if you are going to hike a lot in the winter, consider investing in a pair of insulated winter boots. Click here for my review on Merrell ForestBound Mid WP boot.

If you are hiking across snow and rain a good pair of gaiters will prevent snow and water getting inside the boot. It is good practice to carry an extra pair of winter hiking socks just in case your feet gets wet.

When Hiking in snow and ice in the winter you might need extra traction in your feet wear to prevent slipping.

Microspikes, crampons and snowshoes are the 3 options you can use depending on the condition of the trail.

Microspikes
Crampons
Snowshoes

Veggievagabonds.com warned that you can’t hike as far in summer as you hike in winter so don’t expect to

Winter and particularly snow hiking takes a lot more time and energy, so start small and leave early to make sure you’re back before dark.

Cold whether or icy conditions can make it very difficult for a hiker so be prepared.

It’s important to remember that your electronic devices might stop working. They might freeze. This means you must have the correct gadgets when hiking in winter and you should learn how to use a map and compass as a backup plan.

Recapping the Tips

Keep Hydrated.Eat High Protein snacks.Hike with the Sun BUT protect yourself against the sun as well.Layer Up, if your Waterproof layer is not adequate your layer system will fail.You cannot hike as far in summer as in winter. So plan carefully.

Is Winter Hiking Dangerous?

It can be, like any other outdoor sport and winter hiking has a few other challenges as well.

It can be too cold!

How cold is too cold to hike?

It’s not safe to hike below 40 degrees. Hiking below 40 degrees requires specializing knowledge of wilderness survival and gear.

You should have a safety plan in place when hiking.

  • Make sure you checked the whether before you go on the hike.
  • Take extra clothes.
  • Contact land managers before you go to confirm the conditions.
  • Always tell someone where you are going to hike and keep on the trail.
  • Don’t hike alone.
  • If you have technical winter gear make sure you know how to use it.
  • Pack your 12 Essentials.

How to get started on Winter Hiking in 3 Easy steps?

  1. Choose whether appropriate gear
  2. Have a safety plan in place
  3. Start small, don’t push yourself too much and have fun!

After reading these 5 Tips and Tricks for Winter Hiking, I hope you feel more comfortable and confident to go out and enjoy the outdoors this winter.

If you have any questions regarding the tips and tricks please leave a comment below!


“In the midst of winter, I found there was within me an invisible summer.” – Albert Camus

Let’s go hike!

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6 thoughts on “Hiking in WINTER – (5 Tips & Tricks)”

  1. Cornelia,

    I love this. I actually live in Alaska, and for me, I don’t particularly like to “hike” in the winter I have to say. Too many dangers up here to hike in the mountains during the cold seasons. We actually just had an avalanche warning in many of the popular hiking areas, but people up here actually like to snow machine in most areas, so they have to be careful.

    I will say, you are right about winter hiking burning more calories. It’s like wading through really deep sand basically. This winter up here, we had snow nonstop. On my deck, it was up to my waste alone, and we shoveled a few times. Should give you an idea of how deep the snow can get up here.

    I will say though, that hiking up here when the sun’s out is cold. We often get to temperatures of -20 degrees when the sun is out. Not now, we’re finally seeing temperatures of 40 degrees, thank goodness! We thought this winter would never end. But, it is pretty when the sun’s out. The snow glitters and the air glitters with the frost. It’s very pretty, but I like to enjoy the view from inside when it’s that cold. 🙂

    Great information though in this!

    Katrina

    1. Hi Katrina, thank you for taking the time to comment. I love Alaska, has lots of snow and a few very good peaks I can dream of bagging as well as Volcanoes. You are blessed.

  2. I love this article Cornelia, I felt at peace reading it and knowing that there ways to go about hiking in winter. I like to hike a lot and I really get sad knowing the weather determines whether I get to hike or not. I totally agree with the fact that you need to layer your clothes for heat and always carry spare dry clothes for emergency. It’s important to keep yourself warm and dry to avoid getting sick. Not forgetting the right type of foot wear to keep your feet warm. I am definitely going to keep your steps in mind to have a safe and fun hike in winter with family and friends.
    Thumbs up

  3. Hi Cornelia,

    I totally loved the article. I felt at peace reading it and knowing that there are ways to go about hiking in winter.

    I love hiking but always struggled to do it!! but after reading this article I came to know various tips and tricks which would shorten the learning curve. Also, I agree with you that hiking can be done to burn calories.

    Sometimes I feel afraid to do hiking because of the fear of avalanches but I will surely destroy this fear within.

    I will surely recommend this post to my friend’s Thanks again for sharing these tips and for this great post!

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Samantha, thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes, hiking can be dangerous but it is so beautiful in winter time, I hope you can enjoy a winter hike soon.

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