Winter Hiking

Traction for hiking ice
Microspikes traction system
Winter (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

You may be thinking spring, but it’s still winter up here in New England. One of the rewards of winter hiking is losing weight. While hiking in winter, however, body weight should not be lost by eating normal nutritious meals. One must eat extra carbohydrates and fats. What’s more, don’t stop for lunch–keep moving and snack, snack, snack.

Proteins take days to metabolize and fats take hours, but simple carbs metabolize quickly. Energy bars, gorp with candy, cookies and crackers, all give quick energy. This is what to snack on during the day, after you’ve had a solid fat-filled breakfast of cereals, toast with peanut butter, or bagels and cream cheese, or french toast with syrup, and cheese, nuts, fruits.

Despite the extra food, you will lose weight on a rigorous winter hike because you’ll burn off more than you eat. And because proteins take so much longer to metabolize, you put yourself in danger if you decide to eat “diet” meals. You will tire and get cold faster, which can lead to falls and accidents. Carbs and fats will keep you energized and warmer, especially if you keep moving and don’t stop for lunch.

Here are some more winter hiking pointers:

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) Add Tang or Gatorade to water to reduce the freezing point. You must drink extra liquid to stay hydrated. Drinking water seems counter-intuitive when it’s cold outside, but you will sweat a lot. A flavoring added to water ,keeps it from freezing and adds taste.

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.

5) Don’t eat snow. Always melt it before you consume it. Eating actual snow will make you cold and the amount of energy your body expends to melt it outweighs the benefit.

6) Keep spare batteries covered and in a pocket so that they are warm and ready, if needed.

7) Pack a small container of glasses/goggles anti-fog stuff.

8) Fleece is best for warmth. And if fleece gets wet it still insulates. “Down” is warm, but useless when wet.

In winter conditions, keeping warm is a function of keeping dry. The trick is to keep cool. “If your feet are cold, put a hat on, or pull your hat down over your ears. If you are hot, take off your hat, or pull it up over your ears.” Don’t remain hot or cold, stay cool!

Happy trails!

(Microspikes traction system for ice and snow)

Windbeeches on the Schauinsland in Germany (Bl...
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

Leave a Reply to Ray AndersonCancel reply

%d bloggers like this: