“Oh the weather outside is frightful…”
On one of our family walks, the temps were hovering around -15 C (5 F) – not including wind chill. Bundled up with layers, lots of snacks and a thermos of tea, we were prepared for everything. The fact that Chinook winds warmed trailhead temps to just below 0 C (32 F) was an unexpected gift. The moral of this story: don’t stay at home because of a little cold weather. Prep the pack, get out and enjoy the beauty of the outing.
Tips for winter hiking:
- Don’t plan on wearing light hikers on a winter walk. If your feet get cold, the whole body suffers. Up to -10 to -15 C (14 to 5 F), you can probably get away with waterproof hiking boots , two layers of socks and gaiters (to keep snow from creeping in). Below -15 C (5 F) wear winter boots such as felt packs. The extra insulation makes a huge difference in comfort.
- Use boot crampons/icers to keep from slipsliding away!
- Take along a hiking pole or two for stability. Uneven snow surfaces torque knees and backs; keeping your balance makes the outing more enjoyable.
- Be sure to dress in non-cotton layers. Add layers when cooling down (before you actually get chilled) and take off layers when heating up (before you start to sweat – damp clothes, even quick-drying and wicking fabrics, chill the body). Think long johns, hiking pants, quick-dry shirt, fleece and wind/waterproof jacket with hood.
- Wear a hat – heat loss from the head is huge.
- Take two sets of mitts – one light, one heavy – and change them around as you heat up, cool down.
- In the pack be sure to carry an extra set of dry mittens and socks, scarf or neckwarmer, thermos of herbal tea or hot water (avoid caffeine), water, energizing snacks, compass and map, first aid kit, headlamp and a down or other lightweight insulated coat to throw on when you stop walking.
- Make sure someone knows of your route plans or leave a note in your vehicle in case of emergency.
- And don’t forget the camera so that you can record the lynx sighting, the storybook view of snow-laden trees, the frost lacing shrubs along the creek bottom – or perfect light on a Sundance site. You know, all that great stuff that you can rub in the faces of the wimps who thought it was too cold to get out for a walk.
What are you waiting for? Winter won’t be here forever you know.