Winter Hiking

Snow shoes for hiking
Snow shoes
Winter hiking and backpacking
Winter boots with crampons

I have a confession to make. Until now, I’ve only been a three-season hiker. I’ve never hiked in winter; I’ve never set out to backpack snow-covered trails. That’s about to change.

This past weekend, I attended a winter hiking workshop hosted by my local Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) chapter. I learned a lot and invite you to learn more with me. If I’m going to blog about hiking, I need to fix this knowledge gap, so I’ll be posting about winter hiking off and on these next few months.

You may ask, as I did, why hike in winter? It’s cold, raw, and icy; it can be dangerous; it seems like a big hassle. All true, but I’m told the rewards are great. The pristine beauty of nature, fewer people, peace and quiet, a superb way to lose weight and toughen up. Proper clothing and equipment will keep one warm and safe.

To start off, here are just a few of the things I learned at the winter workshop:

1) Don’t dress too warmly while you are moving; save your warmest clothing for whenever you stop moving. Your sweat needs to be wicked away. If you are covered in a puffy down jacket while moving, you trap all that moisture. That explains what I saw once when a cross-country skier unbuttoned his thick puffy jacket—the inside was all frozen. Not good.

2) Keep food handy, bite sized, and ready to eat. You will burn an enormous amount of energy, as you can imagine. You need to snack often, and conditions aren’t good for sit-down cooked meals. If you are wearing gloves, and are bundled up, you need food accessible in handy pockets. Pre-open the snacks and put them in baggies or containers that you can open or unscrew with gloves. Cut the food up ahead of time into mouth-sized portions.

3) Store your water bottle upside-down. Water freezes at the top; when you turn the bottle right-side up, you won’t have ice.

4) Fasten pull-ties on those little zipper handles. When you have to void, you can keep your gloves on if you have ties on those tiny zipper handles. Use shoe lace, trash bag ties, anything. When you snack, you can keep your gloves on as you unzip pockets.

There is so much more. We’ll take it a little at a time. Happy trails.

Grey Jay
Image via Wikipedia

Published by Ray Anderson

Hiker and writer. Have hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, The Long Trail (Vermont), and some of the Continental Divide Trail. My trail name is "HAMLET." Have written three hiking novels (thrillers). The first one, "THE TRAIL," was traditionally published in 2015. My second hiking thriller, "SIERRA," released Oct 2016. Book three in my AWOL hiking-thriller series, "THE DIVIDE" releases from Turner Publishing 8/18/2020.

6 thoughts on “Winter Hiking

  1. Welcome to the world of winter hiking. I started snow shoeing about 5 years ago and absolutely love it. Not technically difficult just a great way of getting out into the wilderness in winter. Very peaceful and beautiful.
    You’re right about things needing to be opened with gloves on. On cold days I find two pairs of gloves good – a thin inner pair and then a thick warm outer pair. Then when inevitably you find you can’t re-tie your shoelace, open a muesli bar, etc with your thick pair of gloves on you don’t totally freeze your hands when you take them off.
    Oh and invest in a thermos flask too….
    Happy winter hiking,

  2. Ray, I’m really looking forward to your posts about winter hiking. I’ve always been put off by the reasons you mentioned, so I hope to learn from your beginner’s perspective. Have a wonderful time!

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