Winter time is coming up. And what better way to celebrate than to have a nice winter hike, rather than plopping your lazy behind on the couch and gain all those christmas pounds, that you then have to spend months losing? Better to get your behind in gear and prevent those pounds from getting on there in the first place. But then again, that’s just me!
I’ve done plenty of winter hikes in the past decade and a half. I like to visit new hike trails all the time. Last year’s winter hike was in Lassen Volcanic National Park in Norhtern California. I’ve spent a number of days plodding through the snow, and counting my blessing because of the fact that I had done this before and knew what I was doing. That was completely different on my first winter hike, which I completely botched, because I simply didn’t have the experience, and I also hadn’t prepared it well.
So which skills do you need in order to give yourself a pleasant winter hike? Let’s have a look, shall we?
Top 5 Winter Hiking Skills
Heating / Drying
In the icey winter, you will want to capture as much heat as you can and hold onto it for dear life. Naturally, your clothes layering (see below) helps a great deal with that. But other than layering, you can rely on a few other techniques to do this. For example, before you hit the sack, you may want to walk around and build up some body heat, which you then trap in your down layer. Also, make sure to bring an extra pair of socks. You can wear these at night if your daylight socks have managed to get wet. The daylight socks can dry while you are sleeping. Speaking of sleep… cuddle up to a water bottle that contains a liter of water. It will warm the bottle up, which then gives you warm water to drink.
When snow is very thick, you can occasionally sink your foot deeper into it than you had anticipated. You won’t realize when to brace your ankle for impact. These types of cave ins can be damaging to your joints. If you’re not wearing snow shoes, it’s a good idea to let your weight fall onto your heel when you are descending. Your heel is going to act like an ice pick and save you from making an unforeseen slide. When ascending, do it the other way around: kick your boot’s toe into the snow to find the ground as fast as possible with every step. If this isn’t working for you in your current situation, you may want to consider walking sideways, like a crab, for as long as necessary to keep your stability.
When the trail is covered in thick snow, it can be difficult to find the path. However, it’s not completely invisible if you know where to look. During summertime, the trail is going to be beaten down by people who walk over it constantly. There’s also a fair bit of animal traffic in most outdoor locations. So you’ve gotta look for a divot that meanders through the trees… a sunken path, which will show you where the actual path is.
Additionally, you can keep an eye out for shear cuts in trees or logs, made by your fellow hikers in the past. Sometimes, you’ll also get clear trail markers. These are usually brightly colored. They come in handy, so be sure to keep an eye out.
Always keep in mind that you can get off the trail, even when you think you’re paying good attention. When that happens, just stop and think. Look around you, and simply get back on track as soon as you possibly can.
Knowing The Ice
There’s many different kinds of ice, and you’ll have to get to know them through experience. One of the most dangerous types of ice is ice beneath the shadows of trees. These parts usually have very slick layers of ice. When walking on ice, always make sure that you use your ankle to rotate your center of mass around. This gives you traction.
If you want to protect yourself from the ravages of the icey cold that mother nature is sure to throw at you, then you will have to learn the concept of layering your clothing. There are basically 3 layers for you to keep in mind. You need a base layer, a down layer and a shell layer.
The base layer sits tight to your body and gets rid of sweat quickly.
The down layer is a jacket, preferably a puffy one, which will insulate you from the cold.
The shell layer has to be windproof and waterproof. This one protects your down layer from getting wet.
If you get warm, you can simply take off one layer. If you get cold, you can put one back on. Many hikers hike with a single layer when they are active. But when they sit still, they’ll put on an extra layer, in order to trap the heat and keep it with them.