Winter Hiking Is Completely Different

hiker in snow
Hiking in sub-zero weather can be a challenge

With sub-zero weather just around the corner some of you may be wondering about winter hiking. Most people just stay home and dig into the hot chocolate and marshmallows while they wait for spring to appear again. But winter hiking can be the most rewarding way to spend an afternoon or weekend.

You just have to know that winter hiking is different from the other three seasons.

North Shore Rescue, a Vancouver, B.C.-based search and rescue team warns that people need to think about hiking in winter conditions by wearing the proper clothing, having the right gear and, most importantly, knowing the trail.

Here are a few tips and tricks to make your winter hike enjoyable and safe:

  1. Dress in layers. There should be about three layers: an initial layer against your skin, such as long-johns, a layer on over that to insulate, preferably in fleece, and then an outer layer to protect you from wind and rain–your coat, hat, gloves, etc.
  2. A balaclava or toque and scarf across your face will protect your face and ears from wind rash.
  3. Wear one pair of good insulating socks, and take a dry pair with you in your backpack. Too many pairs will constrict your circulation and prevent your feet from staying warm. Some hikers will put a cheap produce bag over each foot before putting on their socks; this keeps foot moisture from wetting the sock and also prevents blisters.
  4. Carry plenty of water to drink.
  5. Invest in instep crampons if you think you will be doing a lot of walking over ice and snow. They’ll keep you from slipping.
  6. Know the trail. Don’t assume you will recognize it because you hiked the trail in summer. Everything looks different in winter. It’s easy to miss a landmark because the snow has covered it. Go with someone who is experienced on that particular trail, or phone your local hiking club for advice and ideas before you leave.
  7. Don’t assume everything will be alright if you go in a group. Going alone is crazy, but going in a group is no guarantee everything will be all right. Know the trail.

Never leave for a hike without taking  someone along who is experienced if you are not…the best thing you can do for search and rescue teams is avoid being lost in the first place.

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