Winter Hiking: Five (5) Useful Tips for Beginner

Do you love hiking in winter? Observing the white nature, embracing the cold and hiking to the top of the mountain during winter are good to challenge our endurance and strength and its good for our mental health and physical. With its beautiful experience, hiking during winter surely will present memorable experiences towards us.   

But, as beautiful as it can get, hiking during the winter season is not an easy talk and it is all about preparation. Properly getting yourself prepared are essential to ensure the success of your hike. Hence, this is our beginner guide on how to survive hiking during the winter season.  

i) Dress Appropriately  

The secret to having comfortable hiking during winter is to stay warm and dry at all times. That is why to dress appropriately is important. The easiest way to remember is to dress like an onion; which means layers.   

Having a layer of dresses is convenient as hiking in colder weather, temperatures tend to vary at the bottom of the trail to the summit of the mountain. This will help you to regulate body temperature and stay comfortable by wearing layers of dresses that suit you.   

Below are the recommendations and suggestions for what you have to wear so that you will have the basic idea of what you should wear;  

  • Head  

One of the easiest ways for heat to lose from our bodies is through our heads. So, we need to cover our head especially our sensitive part like a nose and ear as it is prone to get cold.  

Wearing a hat is a must during winter hiking to retain our body heat. While wearing a face mask, headband or neck gaiter is optional but it is nice to have it too.  

  • Body  

Remember while choosing what to wear for our body, these three items must be included; base layer, an insulating layer, and a shell layer.  

The base layer will act to get rid of perspiration away from our skin. The insulating layer is to insulate from the cold and lastly shell layer is to keep winds and moisture out.  

The objective to have all of these layers are because you can easily add or remove layer throughout your hike depending on what you want at the moment.  

  • Leg  

For our legs, wearing a thermal layer as a base is always good to have. Pairing this with waterproof trousers on top of it and you are basically done.  

  • Feet  

For winter hiking, picking up a good pair of boots is important. Waterproof hiking boots usually will do the trick just fine but if you are going to hike in a lot of snows, consider using a pair of insulated winter boots instead.  

If you are in doubt about whether to wear snowshoes or crampons, this might help you to differentiate them. Snowshoes are usually light and wide that attach to the shoes and suitable for deep snow. By increasing the surface area of your feet, you will be able to cruise on top of the snow.  

Crampons are a bit durable with spikes that will grip into ice, making them very useful to hike on steep or slick inclines.  

Oh! And for your socks, always wear synthetic or wool socks so that your feet will always dry and comfortable all the time during your hike.  

If during your hike, your feet accidentally get wet, this is some trick you could try. Get a bag of plastic bags. Wrap it around your feet making sure it’s dry first, wear your socks and shoes back. It won’t bring too much different but it might help a little bit for you to continue on your journey throughout the day.  

Generally, always remember to;  

  • Not to wear cotton because when it gets wet, it takes time to dry.  
  • Cover all your skin. Any exposed skin will lead to freezing temperature outside and might bring a potential hazard to us.  
  • Avoid tight clothing. Wearing too tight will cause poor circulation.  

ii) Bring Enough Food and Water Supplies  

Another thing we need to aware of during hiking in winter is that our body burns twice the calories it usually does during hiking because our body burns more to keep us warm. Packing snacks that are high in protein and easy to be consumed while walking is always a good choice.  

If your hiking trail has a shelter to take a rest, do not forget to bring along meals you can eat to replenish your energy.  

Having enough water is important too. Water bottles could be kept in insulated sleeves to keep them from freezing. Another cheap alternative is to wrap the water bottle in some wool socks and keep it in your backpack.  

If you happen to have extra space, bring along big thermos to keep hot beverages. It is such a wonderful feeling to have to enjoy sipping hot cocoa, hot tea or even thick soup on this cold weather after having relentless hours hiking.   

iii) Start Early  

Another thing to put into our mind is that daylight hours are shorter in winter. So, hit the trail as early as possible to avoid being out in the dark.   

Plus, we tend to move slower and encounter more obstacles during a winter hike compared to any other season. By starting early, it will increase our chances to finish our hike.  

iv) Always be Prepared  

A piece of wise advice, especially for first-timer to hike in winter, is to always be prepared. Checking the latest weather forecast and trail conditions before starting the hike is one of the obvious steps.  

It is important to get a clear picture of what you might face during your hike. Always bring more water and food than what you think you will need so you have enough for an emergency. Ensure you have a bag large enough to carry all your gears, food and drinks.  

v) Stay Safe  

“Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory,”

Legendary Mountaineer, Ed Viesturs  

Think about your safety first. Do not hesitate to turn around if you run into situations that look dangerous.  

Although reaching the summit is our goal, you must still have time and energy left for your descent. And never be afraid to postpone or cancel your plan to hike if conditions are so bad and you feel not confident to go ahead. 

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