Winter hiking can be both rewarding and dangerous, so it is important to take the necessary precautions before going out. You might be aware of the common dangers of winter hiking, such as hypothermia, frostbite, slips, and falls on icy or snow-covered terrain. Besides this, you might also encounter avalanches, plunging into cold water, getting lost in whiteout conditions, and falling trees or branches due to high winds.
Thus, even if you’re hiking uphill or downhill in the snow, there are a few hacks that you should keep in mind to ensure your safety. From wearing a warm hat to ensuring you’re hydrated, these tips will help ensure that you stay safe during your trip.
So, let’s get to know about the 8 winter hiking and safety tips that you must not ignore.
- Take an avalanche awareness class
Taking an avalanche awareness class can be a great way to prepare for backcountry winter activities. It will teach you how to avoid avalanches, stay safe in your hot tent and learn how to rescue yourself if you do get caught in one.
Avalanches can happen anywhere, on any surface, and can be dry or wet. They move fast, sometimes reaching up to 200 miles per hour in under five seconds, and can be very dangerous.
Moreover, avalanches occur when a weak layer of snow is buried beneath other layers. These layers can include a snowpack, cornices, cliffs, trees, and shallow rocks. These types of calamities can be triggered naturally or triggered on a ski slope or on a hiking trail.
The best winter hiking and safety tip are to avoid avalanche terrain. But, what are the warning signs of an avalanche?
The American Avalanche Association (AAA) recommends that all people traveling in avalanche terrain should take a course. AIARE Level 1 is a three-day course and is considered the minimum recommended training. It covers avalanche terrain recognition, snowpack evaluation, and safe travel techniques. Moreover, it includes a field session each day of the course.
- Always Know the Weather Forecast
Having a good understanding of the weather in your area is a vital aspect of winter hiking and a safety tip. You should be aware of the most common weather patterns in your area and be prepared to postpone or reschedule hikes when the weather turns bad. These are important in planning your trip and ensuring that you are in the right place at the right time.
While it may be a stretch to say that a winter hike is more predictable than an all-day hike in the summer, you should still be aware of the seasonal climate and how it affects your plans. For instance, snowstorms can drastically change the condition of your hike, as can visibility.
- Beware of reduced visibility
Taking the time to beware of reduced visibility when winter hiking helps you enjoy your adventure while staying safe. You’ll also be able to take advantage of less traffic, less crowded trails, and fewer distractions. Keeping track of sunrise and sunset times is a good idea, as the sun sets much earlier in the winter.
Another important rule of thumb to follow is to make sure you’re not alone. You should always keep a buddy handy and let someone know where you’re going. If you do happen to go out in the woods on your own, remember to pack a map. This will also help you keep track of your route should you get lost. Moreover, it’s also a good idea to carry a headlamp, as you’ll need it to navigate through the dark.
- Carry the Essentials
During your winter hiking trip, it’s important to carry camping essentials. These are items designed to be useful in emergency situations, including first aid, navigation, illumination, and emergency shelter. These items can make the difference between a safe trip and an unsuccessful trip that ends in tragedy.
Some of the other items that you need to carry are a flashlight, headlamp, spare batteries, water, food, a fire starter, and shelter. If you’re going on a long hike, you may also want to carry a small emergency blanket.
As part of the winter hiking and safety tip, you also need to carry a compass. Always opt for the one with a baseplate to follow field bearings, and it can also be used to find your way on a map. The best aspect of such a compass is that it provides greater accuracy than a cell phone or GPS.
- Wear a hat
Choosing the right hat for winter hiking and safety tip will help you stay warm and protected. You’ll also be able to keep your eyes shielded from the cold, as well as keep your hair from getting damaged by UV rays. Thus, it gets quite imperative to choose a hat that’s made from the right material.
A hat that’s made from merino wool and acrylic is an ideal choice for winter hiking and safety. Moreover, the wool and acrylic keep you warm while also wicking moisture away from your skin. You’ll also want to choose a hat that’s breathable, to prevent overheating.
Other than this, you also need to choose a hat that has a brim to keep the sun from your face. Moreover, if you hike in freezing weather, you may also want to consider a scarf.
We would suggest getting a hat that covers your ears, as it can reduce the risk of frostbite. Other than this, you’ll also want to choose hats that have foldable ear flaps.
- Dress warmly
Getting the right winter hiking clothing is vital for your comfort on the trail. The wrong clothing can create miserable conditions. You also have to be aware of the dangers of getting soaked in cold weather. If you get wet, you may develop hypothermia, a condition that can be deadly.
So, the best way to dress for winter hiking and safety is to dress in layers. This will allow you to stay dry and warm while also letting you remove layers as you sweat.
If you ask us, then the best layering system is made up of a base layer, mid-layer, and outer layer. Your base layer should be a moisture-wicking material that will wick away perspiration and keep you dry. Moreover, your mid-layer should be a waterproof, windproof, or breathable layer. Lastly, your outer layer should be a water-resistant jacket.
- Wear proper footwear
While hiking in the winter, proper footwear is very important. It is quite understandable that winter hiking can be a lot more tiring than summer hiking, so you want to make sure you have the right gear. Moreover, you will want to wear a pair of boots that are sturdy, but comfortable. You will also want to wear hiking socks, which will help you maintain a high level of comfort while you are out on the trail.
Always wear a pair of socks that is made from wool, as they are extremely tough and will dry quickly. Get waterproof socks, which are great for wet conditions. Furthermore, remember that different weights are meant to provide different levels of warmth. So, act accordingly.
- Bring enough snacks
During a winter hike, you should pack plenty of snacks. This is also an important winter hiking and safety tip. Not only do they provide extra calories, but they can also help you avoid dehydration and hypothermia. You already know that dehydration can be dangerous and can even lead to life-threatening scenarios.
Some of the best hiking snacks include fruit snacks and meat snacks. Fruits are easy to carry and will provide you with a quick energy boost. Try out fruit snacks, these are especially good during the afternoon. Also, fruit leather might look small in size, but it makes a delicious and healthy snack.
For meat, jerky is a great hiking snack. It’s packed with protein and helps rebuild muscles that have been worn down during the day. Another good hiking snack is hummus. It goes well with chips, veggies, and crackers. If you also try outdoor cooking.
You can also make a trail mix from nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate candies. It’s a great way to get a healthy dose of protein and fiber. Moreover, this snack is easy to pack and will help keep you energized on your winter hike.
Winter Hiking and Safety-Never go out alone
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced hiker, there are several other factors to consider for winter hiking and safety tip. One of the first is to be aware of the local wildlife, as discussed earlier. Often, wild animals are put on the defensive by a solo hiker’s presence, so always be cautious about your surrounding. Moreover, you might have heard two is better than one.
Another factor is to have a plan in place. Be sure to notify friends and family of your plans. Also, give them an approximate return time. This way, they know what to expect. You should also research the terrain and trail to be sure you know what you are getting into. Also, you will want to note the length of the route, turnaround options, and landmarks. Lastly, stay safe and enjoy your winter!