Are you ready to make hiking into a 4 season experience with some winter hikes? Congratulations; winter hiking is one of life’s most enjoyable experiences even if it is a little intimidating. You might be wondering what you need to know before you embark on your snowy journey. Below are five tips that I learned when I first began hiking in the winter.
1. Feel the need
The desire to hike in the winter is one of the most critical things to have before heading into the snow. This might seem obvious since you probably wouldn’t read this article if you didn’t want to hike in the winter but there is more to this point. Winter presents hikers with a slew of new challenges like nasty weather and plunging temperatures. Things that are easy in the summer, like filtering water or answering nature’s calls, can be much more difficult in the winter. Therefore, actually having the desire to push through these challenges to reap winter’s rewards is the most important step you can take to becoming a winter hiker.
2. Set goals
What do you want to accomplish with your winter hikes? Do you want to take gentle walks in the snowy woods, bag snowy peaks or do multi-day trips? There is no wrong answer here. Setting long and short term goals will give your hikes a sense of purpose and it will help make sure you buy only the gear you need.
3. Buy the gear you need
The right gear can be the difference between life and death in winter. Buy the gear that you need to accomplish your goals and always be prepared for worst case scenarios. The Appalachian Mountain Club’s winter gear list is a good point of reference for what you might need.
4. Stay within your comfort zone
Determine what type of terrain, conditions and distances you are comfortable with; then design trips that stay within these limits. Planning conservatively will increase your safety and allow you to grow as a hiker with each experience.
5. Be prepared
Winter hiking will challenge you more than any other season. Be prepared for these challenges. This is the best way to have fun and avoid dangerous situations. A few examples of being prepared include:
-Carry the right gear to deal with the worst case weather scenario on your route.
-Understand basic first aid.
-Plan a route with backup options. Always let someone know where and when you are hiking.
-Know how to use everything you are carrying.
In my opinion the rewards of winter hiking far outweigh the challenges. There is something unspeakably awesome about breaking trail after a fresh snowstorm and looking out over snow filled valleys and peaks. If you choose to hike in the snow I wish you the safest and most enjoyable hike possible!
What are your tips for aspiring winter hikers?
These five tips helped me safely evolve as a hiker. However I can only speak for myself from my own experience. I do not claim to be an all knowing expert. Also, these tips are in no way an all encompassing check list of what you need to be a winter hiker. Please do your own research and know what you are getting into.
6 thoughts on “5 Tips for New Winter Hikers”
Great post! Having only recently started winter hiking (this is my second year), I know how intimidating it can be. Your tips really help to put things in perspective and plan the big picture…everything else tends to fall into place after that.
My advice — layers and a change of clothes. And microspikes 😉
Thanks Owen! How did you first season of winter hikes go? You are so right, layers and microspikes almost deserve their own post.
Oh man, Grant. I really, really hope I can get some serious miles on my snowshoes this winter. Last year I had two amazing winter hikes, but it wasn't enough. Here's hoping this winter is snowy and there's plenty of free time for walking!
Ryan, I hope you get plenty of chances to put some mileage on those snowshoes! Where do you hope to walk this winter?
Well, it's looking like Southern Vermont, a little bit on Monadnock, and hopefully a bit in the White Mountains. No serious plans yet, but I just want to get on the trail as much as possible. Almost don't care where 🙂
While hiking in winter, make sure that you bring plenty of liquids with you and drink often while on the trail. Dehydration can occur faster in cold weather because the air is much drier. Moreover, dehydration can be dangerous because it can accelerate hypothermia and frostbite.