As the weather gets colder, it doesn’t mean that you have to stay inside! Some of the most beautiful and fun hikes that I have gone on have been in the winter months. The key is just being prepared and safe. Here are some tips to make your winter hiking experience a good one.
Regulate your Body Temperature:
The key here is to dress in layers! Since you are constantly moving and stopping when hiking your body generates a lot of heat and then cools down quickly! You don’t want to sweat, because when you stop, if your clothes are wet, you are going to get cold. At the same time, you don’t want to not dress warm enough and be cold the entire hike because that can lead to a dangerous situation. Here is an example of how you can layer:
-Layer 1: Baselayer-Make sure that this is a lightweight wicking layer.
- Icebreaker Merino 200 Oasis: Made with Merino Wool
- Smart Wool Merino 250 base: Made with Merino Wool
- Cerinic Wanderlust Wicking Shirt: Made with Recycled Poly
-Layer 2: Mid weight Base layer, I usually opt for a mid weight merino wool here.
REI Minus33 Smartwool
-Layer 3: Insulating layer for this layer you can wear a puffy or a fleece layer
- REI Co-op Groundbreaker Fleece Jacket – Women’s
- Patagonia Women’s Nano Puff® Jacket
- The North Face Denali 2 Fleece Jacket – Women’s
REI Patagonia North face
-Layer 4 and yes, the final layer a shell jacket, this will help cut wind and keep you warm. I usually opt to always keep this layer on if I want to shed layers I usually will shed layer 3 than 2 if I get warm.
- REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Jacket – Women’s
- Patagonia Women’s Stretch Nano Storm® Jacket
- Flylow Billie Coat – Women’s
REI Patagonia Flylow
It is always a good idea to keep 1 or 2 extra layers in your pack just in case!!! I always carry some type of puffy or parka (depending on how cold it is) so that I can put it on when I rest. I then take it off when I start moving again.
-Layer 1: Merino wool base layer, this will help keep your body warm and wick away moisture.
- REI Co-op Lightweight Base Layer Tights – Women’s
- Icebreaker 200 Oasis Deluxe Base Layer Leggings – Women’s
- Smartwool Women’s Merino 250 Base Layer Bottom
REI Icebreaker Smartwool
-Layer 2: If it is dry you can technically get a way with a heavy pair of leggings, personally being my klutz self I prefer a pair of water proof pants, these will dry quicker and keep you dry/comfortable for the hike. Water proof pants are also great if you like to butt slide down steep sections of the trail.
- Legging option: Patagonia Peak Mission Tights – Women’s
- Light Weight Waterproof Hiking Pants: Cerinic Explorer Pant
- Waterproof Snow pants: 686 Utopia Insulated Pant
Patagonia Cerinic 686
Additional cold weather gear you will want:
–Sunglasses – The sun can be blinding off the snow and ice
-Glove liners– Makes it easier to do agile things with your hands verse gloves or mittens
-Winter gloves/mittens\– I wear mittens when its really cold as they keep your hand much warmer
-Heavy merino socks
-Fleece neck Gaiter
-Ice Ax – This is very helpful if you will be doing water crossings (to test the thickness of the ice) or for steep sections of ice for additional support/traction/reach.
For winter hiking your normal hiking boots are not going to cut it, especially if you need to use crampons/snow shows. For winter hiking, you are looking for a stiff boot, not a flexible one. Make sure that when you are picking out your winter boot that they are insulated, waterproof, comfortable, and crampon/snowshoes compatible. Depending on the condition of the trail you will need to use different traction devices, for all winter hikes I bring: Microspikes, snowshoes, and crampons.
Here is a little break down so that you know which to wear when:
-Micro Spikes: these are useful for packed snow with limited ice. ( I use Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System)
-Crampons: These are better for heavier ice and when the trail is steep, the spikes let you easily get traction on the ice (I use Grivel G-10 New-Classic Crampons)
-Snowshoes: For loosely packed snow, this will help prevent post-holing. Please note that these are required in most areas to help keep trails in good condition. (I use Atlas Elektra Rendezvous Snowshoes – Women’s)
Hiking naturally burns off a lot of calories, now add-in that your body is working to stay warm and the extra pack weight and your body is naturally going to burn more! It is important to eat throughout the day if you’re worried about taking breaks because you are going to get cold keep moving while you eat or pop on your puffy/parka. Just remember to keep eating!
Also, remember to stay hydrated. Because you are not sweating, it is natural to think that you do not need to stop for water. This is not the case. Your body still needs water. Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day to prevent cramping/headaches. If you are worried about your water freezing, you can insulate your water bottles and even start with filling your water bottles with warm water. (Do not eat the snow, this will dehydrate you quicker. Ensure that you are regularly drinking from your water bottle).
Planning is always important on hikes, but in the winter even more so. In winter, the days are shorter so you need to ensure that you maximize your daylight. The last thing you want to do is to be coming down an icy mountain in the dark. We like to start in the dark. No one minds doing a long walk in with their headlamps if it means we can have a safer hike.
Some other things you can do to plan are below, these are good for hiking any time of year:
-Talk to other hikers: Prior to going on a hike I always reach out to fellow hikers on Instagram or in Facebook groups to see if they have any update on the trail conditions. This provides me with an idea of what I am likely to encounter during my hike.
-Map your hike: I traditionally download the GPS map on AllTrails but it is also great to always have a map
-Check the weather conditions. In the mountains, weather conditions can turn quickly. Make sure you understand temperatures and wind speeds/chill. Remember, with altitude comes a drop in temperature (approximately 5 degrees per 1,000 feet of elevation and often stronger winds once you clear the tree line. Make sure you are prepared.
-Set a turn around time. We do this for all hikes, but it is especially important in the winter, with the limited daylight. In the winter due to extra weight and trail conditions, you are naturally going to move slower, so just be aware of this.
The only way you are going to get comfortable with hiking in the winter is doing it and I promise you it is so worth it!!
If you have any questions or want any additional advice regarding winter hiking please email me I would love to chat Kelli-Anne@cerinic.com
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