I used to give up hiking in the winter, how silly was I! Winter hiking can be challenging, but with the right preparation, you can enjoy the beautiful parts of winter.
Spending time outside is important for your physical and mental health. If you can safely enjoy the season of snow then you should!
I’m going to walk you through my winter hiking tips to help you feel more confident and prepared about winter hiking!
I acknowledge that everyone is living in different circumstances, I address as much as I can in each tip. You can take my tips and use the general message tailored to suit your needs as a hiker!
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6 Winter Hiking Tips
1. Hiking is Harder in the Winter
Feel free to disagree, but the weight of snow and the risks of icy surfaces make winter hiking much more challenging to me.
My Advice: Pick an easy-moderate hike, especially if you’re not an experienced hiker.
Snow and ice will complicate most of your usual hikes. The snow will add extra weight for you to move through which will make you more tired. Considering this, if you find yourself breathing heavily after a 7km hike then you should cut back on the hike length and intensity.
Ice creates an increased risk of slipping and falling and it is a nightmare when you try to climb up a steep section. You lose grip much easier when moving downhill as well.
Snow may also cover up holes or give you a false sense of security when near a cliff edge.
These considerations are essential when picking your winter hike route, but I will go into more detail on how to mitigate or avoid these risks in the following tips!
This calming effect would help you relax whether you need a break or you’re very stressed.
I know how scary it is when you just want to calm down and there is not always a quick fix, but if nature can offer some sort of a solution then it is important to try!
If you insist on hiking a longer and/or more difficult trail, make sure you prepare well. You can always put these hikes on your spring/summer/fall hiking lists!
Snow and ice mean colder temperatures and your cold tolerance is really going to play a factor in what you wear when hiking in the winter.
My Advice: Wear layers so you can warm-up and cool down easily.
Hiking is a workout and during the winter you will feel some parts getting warmer as you hike and others staying cold.
The best way to keep a healthy body temperature is to wear layers that you can easily take off and place in your hiking bag. You should not strip down when hiking in the cold even if you feel warm, but it is okay to go shed a couple of layers when it becomes too much.
You can also put layers in your bag to add to your attire when your primary clothing is not enough.
Try a thrift store before throwing away a lot of money!
Here is my usual winter hiking attire:
- Thermal Socks
- Winter Boots
- Thermal Leggings
- Hiking Pants
- Snow Pants (avoid unless needed, can add a lot to the weight you carry)
- Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt
- Winter Jacket
- Neck Warmer
I do not always wear snow pants or both a sweater and coat, but it depends on your cold tolerance and what you think is best.
From a previous job I own undershirts and leggings that help control body temperature which I believe really helps me.
Pro Tip: Find gloves with touch-screen designs to help with using your phone or camera!
3. Try Snowshoes or Ice-Grips
Depending on if the terrain is deep snow or iced over, you may want to opt for snowshoes or ice-grips.
You can find great winter footwear, but using snowshoes or ice-grips will help you hike with extra confidence.
Can’t afford snowshoes you find in sports stores? Try finding a handmade pair! I use mine all time and they only cost me 20 dollars.
Ice-grips can be a life-saver. Even if you look outside and it does not look iced over, trails are usually worse. You can find cheap pairs online or at your local stores! They slip on over your shoe and you can easily take them on and off when you need to!
4. Pack and Prepare
After reviewing all the previous tips, they would be useless without proper preparation.
You can use this as a checklist before you winter hiking!
Pack all your typical hiking gear plus any winter extras. Make sure to take a snack and water. Consider tools to build a fire and a blanket, it could come in handy.
5. Hiking Buddy or Solo Check-In
I’m an avid solo hiker, so I know that recommending a hiking buddy or group is not always possible so I will touch on both options:
Hike with a Friend or Group
If you can find a friend or hiking group to join you on your winter hikes it will be a great addition. Hiking with others helps with preparation and in case of emergency. Check out local hiking Facebook groups if you want to find people to join!
When you’re hiking solo, my biggest recommendation is to have either a family member, partner, friend, or even app to check-in and out of your hike.
Let someone know where you’re going and when, and let them know when you finish.
This is the best way to be proactive in case of an emergency.
6. Share Your Experience
Please share your winter hiking experience through social media, conversation, blog comments, and any communication outlet.
Sharing your experiences can help prepare others who plan to hike the same trails.
Doing your part will help others and inspire others to do theirs as well!
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I hope these 6 winter hiking tips will help you feel more confident and safe on your winter hikes!
Snow, cold, and ice may prove challenging, but it doesn’t have to stop you.
Please comment any advice or questions!