Hiking is something that can be enjoyed all year round. However, a different approach is needed for the colder months. While you shouldn't let the winter put you off from getting outside, remember there are some extra steps needed to guard against the cold. Follow these tips for safer hiking this winter.
There’s little point being unprepared at the best of times, but in the winter months some further groundwork is vital; as well as all the usual details, you need to think about the potential for an emergency, like getting stranded in the cold, or an abrupt change in the weather. A phone, some spare cash and a credit card in case you need to pay for overnight accommodation, a first aid kit, presciption medications, a means for lighting a fire, a torch and insulated shelter are just some of the items you'll want to have to hand for winter hiking.
However, plenty of food and water, navigation equipment, and some basic tools are also necessities for hiking outdoors, regardless of the time of year. To make planning easier, create a checklist and tick off everything before you leave. Otherwise, you could invest in a survival kit, and refer to the 10 essentials to ensure you have most of the basics.
Dress Like A Pro
Once you’ve been hiking for a while, you should have learned the advantages of layering; it’s the preferred system of most hikers. Layering usually consists of three basic layers: a base layer to keep your skin dry, a middle layer, and a shell layer. In the winter, you might want to take/pack multiple layers in case you start to feel the cold, you get wet, the weather turns bad, or in case of emergencies.
Footwear is one of the most important parts of winter hiking; not only will good footwear keep you warmer, but it can help to keep you steady on difficult terrains. Wear solid, supportive, waterproof boots with a good grip. Also, consider wearing crampons if they’re suitable for your chosen footwear, and hiking poles for addition grip/support. And when visiting a recognized trail, always ask a park ranger what equipment they are recommending for the current conditions.
Wear thick gloves, hats, scarves and socks, too. While gloves scarves and hats can aid in heat retention, socks are especially important. Cold, wet feet will not only make you feel miserable, but they’ll also make the rest of your body feel chillier. Go for thick, warm socks to keep your feet cozy – alpaca, merino, or alpaca and merino blends are all ideal.
Check Weather Reports
Keep an eye out on the weather reports by checking both the forecasts prior to your trip and on the day; pay specific attention to the wind chill factor, which can make the weather feel much colder than it is. Keep a radio with you so you can listen out for alerts. And if they’re available, download apps for the latest updates from your planned location and the weather in general: If the weather sounds as though it’s going to worsen considerably, think about changing your plans.
Visit The Appropriate Websites
Recognized hiking trails usually have websites. For instance, you can find the National Parks dedicated websites easily online – just search for the name of the specific trail. Visit the websites ahead of your hike and on the day. The websites are packed full of useful advice, including the latest on weather conditions, closures, potential problem areas and details of the terrain/snowfall. In addition, when you get to the location, you’ll find park rangers on hand should you want any further advice on keeping safe during your hike.
Some colder weather shouldn’t put you off your hiking habit, however, it will be necessary to take extra precautions. As well as packing the regular supplies, you need to be prepared for the cold and the sudden changes in temperatures. This means dressing warmly, ensuring you have proper footwear and a means of shelter, warmth, food, water and accessing prescription medication should the worse happen. Ahead of your hike, don’t take anything to chance, keep up to date on the latest weather conditions and website updates, and never push yourself further than you can go. And listen to the experts: park rangers are always on hand to offer the best advice and to help keep you safe.
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