Winter Hiking: possible, safe and fun
Winter came quickly, but that doesn’t mean we should stay indoors. Hiking is an activity for all seasons of the year. Do not be overwhelmed by low temperatures or lack of sunlight and remember that we are not alone in this.
I am not the most experienced person when it comes to winter, but here are some recommendations that have worked for me. From now on, I want to invite you to be prepared to continue enjoying the different parks and outdoor activities during the winter safely.
General Recommendations to do Winter Hiking Safely
Hiking in the winter can also be a lot of fun. In addition, you can combine it with other activities such as Snowshoes and even Cross Country Skiing. Thinking about the temperatures of Minnesota and its geography, you can take into account the following safety recommendations:
- Research the conditions of the park you want to visit.
- Check the weather forecast before heading out.
- Always share with someone close the location of the place where you are going.
- Dress appropriately for the weather conditions.
- Plan your time, walking in the snow may take longer.
- If you are hiking in the dark, try to use reflective colors or lights and / or a flashlight.
- Carry the *10 ESSENTIAL.
Now let’s delve a little more about how to dress with layers and the best clothes to stay warm and dry while we go on winter hikes among other no less important recommendations.
The right clothes and layers for Winter Hikes
Hiking during the winter requires you to be warm, therefore, it is necessary that you wear the right layers of clothing for you. Keep in mind that each body is different. I mention this because the natural production of heat during movement or resistance to cold is going to be different for everyone. I, for example, “am always cold.”
Returning to the topic, when we begin to walk our body produces heat and we may want to shed some layers of clothing. However, if we experience cold wind gusts, temperature drops, or an unexpected snowfall, we may want to bundle up again.
Not all clothing works well in all thermal conditions. So I want to invite you to learn a little about layers and fabrics that can help us keep dry if we plan to do Hiking during the winter. Trust me, this will make a huge difference.
Layers: Wear a base, middle, and outer layer.
- Base layer: The main function of the base layer is to prevent perspiration from remaining on the skin. This layer wicks away moisture to keep you warm and dry. Avoid using cotton because cotton retains moisture and you will end up wet, uncomfortable and cold. Instead of cotton, opt for synthetic fabrics or natural fibers.
- Middle Layer: The middle layer is your insulation, primarily responsible for keeping you warm. When shopping for this cape, it is important that you look for fleece, down, or synthetics. These fabrics will help retain your body heat, preventing the cold from reaching you.
- Outer layer: The outer layer, also known as the carapace, brings everything together, protecting you from the elements like wind, rain, and snow. Choose waterproof pants and jackets that are breathable and wind resistant. You can also consider wearing a puffy jacket to add an extra layer when you take breaks.
Keep your ears, hands, and feet warm: Ears, hands, and feet are most susceptible to frostbite. Keep your hands warm and dry by wearing gloves or mitts. Wear lined fleece socks and pack an extra pair in case yours get wet. Protect your ears by wearing hats, earmuffs, or headbands. Also, don’t forget to keep your neck warm. – Experts assure that mittens will keep your hands warmer than gloves since the fingers can heat each other.
Consider an extra change of clothes: It never hurts to keep an extra change of clothes in the car in case you get wet during your walk. Remember that it is important that you have warm and dry clothing at all times.
Additional equipment for your adventures in the snow and cold temperatures
For any hike at any time of the year, always carry the *10 ESSENTIAL with you. In addition to those essentials, I recommend reviewing your list and considering the following items you might need during winter hikes.
Backpack: Winter hikes require more equipment and you will probably need space to store layers, we recommend using a backpack of 30L or more.
Navigation: Before leaving, I recommend downloading the trail map. You can use apps like AllTrails Pro and Avenza Maps. Keep in mind that phones and technology devices download faster in winter. It is important that you keep them in your chest pockets and that you consider carrying external chargers. There are also other devices for navigating the trails like the Garmin inReach GPS and the Garmin fenix watch.
Footwear: Wear waterproof hiking boots for winter and consider wearing crampons. This will help keep you balanced and steady in the snow, as well as providing security and avoiding falling on frozen roads.
Eyewear: Even in winter, sunny days are still strong. In fact, snow is the most reflective natural surface on the planet. Therefore, when the sun reflects off the snow, you risk snow blindness. Protect your eyes by wearing “glacier glasses” or polarized sunglasses.
Skin Protector: Cold and wind can be brutal to skin. Avoid wind burns by moisturizing your skin and lips.
Trekking poles: Travel the trail with more ease and stability with trekking poles. Look for trekking poles that have snow baskets.
Hand and foot warmers: Always carry a pair of hand and foot warmers with you, these can be a great help for colder days and unexpected situations.
Hydration and Nutrition when doing Winter Hiking
For any hike it is important that you include enough food and water. Even during winter:
Drink water before you are thirsty: Walking in the winter takes more effort and we may not realize that we are dehydrated when we are cold. So do not forget to drink water and stay hydrated as much, as in any other hike. Remember, hot drinks also help you hydrate.
Eat frequently: Depending on how long you will be walking, you may consider bringing a snack. Choose snacks that are full of protein, carbohydrates, and fat to help keep you energized.
Prevent Freezing: Use insulated drinking containers such as Nalgene, Hydro Flask, Stanley Thermos. Prevent the water from freezing by bringing it close to your body. Store your water bottle upside down, as ice forms on top first. Before the hike, cut bite-size chunks of snacks so your energy bars don’t turn into frozen bricks.
We are in Minnesota, and yes, the reality is that temperatures can get very low. Whether you do an outdoor activity or not, I want you to keep this term in mind. Frostbite refers to the freezing point that occurs when skin tissues freeze, and most often affects the nose, cheeks, ears, fingers, and toes. That is why it is important that, during the winter, you are always warmly dressed.
Do you dare to do Winter Hiking? Remember that we are not alone. Huellas Latinas Hiking Club is still active and we are doing winter hikes, at night and soon, we will be offering other winter activities in the different parks of Minnesota.
Comment below what you think of this article and join the adventure.
- 52 Hike Challenge. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.52hikechallenge.com/blogs/blog
- AMC. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.outdoors.org/resources/amc-outdoors/outdoor-resources/how-to-winter-hike-5-tips-to-get-you-started/
- American Hiking Society. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://americanhiking.org/resources/10essentials/Reserve America. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.reserveamerica.com/articles/hiking/hiking-in-the-snow-what-you-need-to-know