Hiking for me is a year-round activity. I need the outdoors and sun to help regulate my mood. Too much time spent indoors and I start to feel the cabin fever setting in. This can be a problem in winter when most people hibernate like bears. So I often find myself out on a trail in the middle of winter.
Of course in the winter, it gets cold, it gets dark, and it can be a little hard to motivate yourself to leave the comfort of a warm comfy bed. I've had a few people ask me why I like camping in winter. "Don't you get cold?" Well yeah but if you're prepared you can stay warm and comfortable enough to enjoy being outdoors. Something I admit I didn't learn until this year. Here are my tips for winter hiking to ensure your cold weather trips are just as fun as your summer adventures.
Check and restock your first aid kit. Make sure you've included band-aids, hand warmers, and lip balm with SPF for chapped lips. I also always make sure I have packed my 10 essential items in my pack. Included in the ten I am sure to keep my headlamp with fresh batteries and pocket knife within reach.
Make sure your gear is appropriate for the conditions
I repeat, make sure your gear is appropriate for the conditions! This is the most important part of camping safely in winter. If the temperature is going to drop to -5 degrees DO NOT risk camping in a 20-degree bag without a bag liner to make up the temperature difference. Check and recheck the weather, to make sure your gear is appropriate for your trip. Also, if you live in an area with heavy ice and snow, bring crampons or snowshoes but make sure you know how to use them appropriately. Dealing with ice and snow can be dangerous so be prepared.
Keep your electronics tucked away
Nothing kills a phone battery quicker than cold weather. It's best for your electronics to keep them tucked away in a warm spot until you need them. I typically tuck my camera and phone in my bag while I sleep to keep them warm. During my hikes, my camera is in my pack and I bring a spare camera battery just in case that's kept in my jacket pocket.
Layer it like a bean dip, shawty.
I learned this lesson when hiking the Grand Canyon in March and found that it still applies in the middle of winter. Wearing multiple layers makes it easier for you to adjust when your body temperature fluctuates. During your hikes, your body temperature will rise and its best to be sure you are warm but not hot, which can cause you to sweat. Once you stop and begin to cool that sweat freezes and can cause hypothermia. I typically wear as few layers as possible while hiking and throw on my coat during breaks.
Eat and drink regularly.
Due to the cold, you may feel less inclined to want to stop and take a snack break. You may not feel thirsty but it's important to make sure you are well hydrated for any activity. At night I tent to place wrap my water bladder in my jacket to keep it from freezing. I also carry an insulated Wyldergoods thermos that doubles as a soup carrier. I'm more likely to stop and snack if I know that I have hot soup waiting to warm me up some in my pack.
So far that's what I've learned from this winter hiking season. I have much MUCH more to learn and plan on updating this list as I go. Check back soon!