Here are some tips for Winter Hiking and Backpacking. It seems that few hikers or backpackers go out in the winter.

While winter does offer some unique challenges, the scenery, fresh air, animals, and birds that are enjoyed in nicer weather are all still present in the winter.

In fact, in the case of birds, some can be spotted along you regular trails that you won’t see during the summer. The chance to see unique birds that winter in your area is a good enough reason to hike and backpack in the winter.

Here are some basic tips:

  • bevare of the cold
  • check the weather forecast
  • leave the itinerary to someone
  • avoid sweating
  • carry a hiking stick
  • have some survival supplies with you
  • take some extra clothes

Check the weather and leave the itinerary before your hike

The first thing to keep in mind about backpacking and hiking in the winter is that it can get cold. While this seems plainly apparent too many people get caught in blizzards or other sudden weather changes unprepared.

Checking the weather forecast is always a good idea, but be prepared for the worst. In some areas, you might only require a raincoat, but in other areas, you might need crampons and an ice ax.

Leaving an itinerary of your hiking plans and likely camping locations with a trusted friend or local authorities is even more critical during the winter.

Dress properly but avoid sweating your clothes

While a human should have little trouble spending an extra week or two in the woods in August, in January it could be deadly especially for those who are unprepared.

Another key to remember with winter hiking and backpacking is to avoid sweating. If you begin to sweat along the trail, stop or slow down to prevent it.

Sweating your clothes wet is a disaster in winter. While you may stay warm hiking along in sweaty, you can quickly be miserable when you stop.

Hiking gear to use

In areas likely to experience snow, a hiker or backpacker might want to carry along a hiking stick or pole (or two). Backpackers on multi-day trips in the winter are probably more prone to falling due to the substantial weight they are carrying, and hiking poles may reduce this risk.

I personally find hiking poles more of an annoyance than a help in the summer, but in the winter hiking poles can make the difference between a short slide and a laugh and an injury-causing fall.

Even when just going for a day hike in the winter, hikers should have with them some minimal survival supplies.

Tools and equipment to build a fire, some extra food, and an emergency blanket would be a minimum for a winter day hike (along with other supplies you should always carry on a day hike such as a First Aid Kit).

Extra clothes like socks, gloves, and a knit hat or other head covering is a great idea as well in case the ones you are wearing get wet.

With a little planning and preparation, winter hiking and backpacking can be safely enjoyed and can add more time in the outdoors.