This week's article is a long one, but a very important one. As Canadians, we don't believe in hiding and sheltering in place just because the weatherman says it might be a little dangerous to play in this cold. Instead, we bundle up with the great knowledge we have taken in over the years and we get out there and do our thing. But just in case you missed out on some of that knowledge, let's go over it again!
“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.”- hiking is the way to connect with nature. If you are thinking about a healthy lifestyle and enjoy family time in nature then hiking is for you. Hiking can change your perspective about life, people sometimes think it’s hard because of all the perfect picture in social media. But it’s just walking inside nature. If you are planning to hike in the winter then some precaution needs to be taken.
Winter Hiking Tips and Safety
There are a few steps given before you start packing for your winter hiking;
1. Dress in Layers for Winter Safety Dressing in layers is basic for hiking trips in winter. If you are planning to hike all day long then there will be temperature difference. The starting point and the ending point will be completely different. Try a variety of insulated clothes in the wintertime, wear a layer of long underwear, shell jacket, perfect winter hiking pant, and your socks should be winter-weight. Sometime hiker even wears layers of gloves or mittens. All the clothes should be waterproof and try to be a dry whole time of hiking. When you first start the hiking you will feel the cold but when you start walking on the trail you will know what to do with your layered clothes. Three basic layers should be enough- base, insulation, and shell.
2. Prevent Heat Loss From Your Head Sometimes a hiker ignores this step but in winter it’s a necessary step. Your head loses temperature in the time of hiking so it’s important to use a hat or beanie. Pack your hat according to the temperature, even if you feel you don’t need one just carry one for safety.
3. Start Small and Start Early The first hiking in any season should be small and sweet. The first hiking in winter should be a tent and extra cloth free. You will know how much your body can take the weather even a few hours will do. In winter if you go deep in the first day there’s a chance you will find difficulty in the trail, you can run into ice or deep snow. Try to choose a trail that you know, you have been there before. In winter, days are short so the sun sets much earlier. If you want to avoid nighttime in cold then start early in the day, it’s a lot safer option.
4. Winter Safety Gear for Hiking The first hiking in any season should be small and sweet. The first hiking in winter should be a tent and extra cloth free. You will know how much your body can take the weather even a few hours will do. In winter if you go deep in the first day there’s a chance you will find difficulty in the trail, you can run into ice or deep snow. Try to choose a trail that you know, you have been there before. In winter, days are short so the sun sets much earlier. If you want to avoid nighttime in cold then start early in the day, it’s a lot safer option.
5. Check the Weather Before Planning for Winter Hiking In winter nature can be ruthless and disaster can happen anytime so before your hiking research everything. Some hiker just checks the temperature that’s never a good idea. This is one of the most important winter hiking tips and safety concerns to deal for the newbies. Check everything like daylight hours, wind speed and if there’s any prediction about bad weather. In winter weather acts completely different from summer. People die sometimes because of bad weather so before planning your hike check with the weather and if the weather is scary then cancel your hike.
6. Decide if You’ll Be Hiking Solo or With a Friend/Group Before your hiking trip when you are planning to be sure about your trip partner. If you are tracking solo then it’s okay but sometimes it can be dangerous in the trail, a partner can always be a good idea. If you take your other half in the trail then you can bond better. Hiking with a friend is also a good idea. Try to be with someone who has a better experience than you. An experienced friend can even save your life in a life-threatening situation. You can pack lighter and always can borrow stuff from your hiking partner. The most important part is it’s safe to have someone with you in the trail.
7. Have Basic Knowledge of Hypothermia In winter when you hike, your muscle can react to the temperature. In that time, your body’s core temperature drops to a level where your muscle and cerebral function impaired. You need to keep yourself warm. In that time if you don’t take safety measure then life-threatening situation can happen. Keeping feet warm in cold weather hiking is one other thing to look for. It’s sometimes impossible to balance your temperature by adding/removing clothes. It mainly happens when you sweat inside but the outer temperature is freezing. Basic knowledge can save a life here, if you see someone is having hypothermia then you can take some safety measure like warm the person’s trunk first, remove wet clothes and dry them off and wrapping them with blankets. Normally in the time of hypothermia people violently shiver.
8. Bring Snacks You Can Eat without Stopping Your body needs more calories in winter because it’s burning the calorie for staying warm. So in the time of hiking, you will need high protein and if you take a break every time you eat something that can affect your hiking. For better winter hiking, you need to bring snacks with proper food to be in perfect shape. If you stop for a long time in winter then your muscle can have a problem for warming up. So, have snacks that contain high protein and you can eat them on the go. Pack as much you need for a complete hike, they are easy to eat even when you are walking.
9. Stay Hydrated on Winter Hiking Trips In the time of winter, we sometimes forget to drink water because of not feeling thirsty. But our body loses water even at that temperature so drinking water will make your body hydrated. There are few water bottles in the market which don’t freeze even in the extreme condition they can be a choice. But they are expensive, If you don’t want to buy them then use some wool sock r beanie to insulate the water bottle.
10. Bring a Warm Drink in a Thermos Dehydration can happen in hiking trails so drinking water is a must. But in winter hot beverage can do wonder, if you are carrying vacuum-sealed mug then you can have hot cocoa, chai tea or soup in the hiking time. A hot beverage can give you comfort. Hiking should be fun and in winter with all the precaution it can be overwhelming. Hot drinks actually can make the hiking fun and hot cocoa will give you the motivation you need.
11. Sun Protection and Good Sunglasses Sometimes beginners make the mistake by not carrying the sun protection with them. Even in winter, the sun can do damage in your skin and eye, so carrying a good sun protection cream and sunglass will protect your eye and skin. Sun reflects in snow and that makes the situation even worse, so don’t leave for hiking without proper protection.
12. Invest in Good Gear for Hiking in Winter If you hike occasionally then buying some good gear is the best idea. Most people do hiking for a good time and it can be better with better quality gear. There’s some basic item that we use in our every hike so before buying them do some research and invest your money on a good item. Few basic winter hiking items is – crampons or snowshoes, waterproof pants and jacket, knee-high gaiters, waterproof boots, an insulated jacket, a lightweight backpack, hiking poles, a camp stove, hats/gloves, and goggles or wrap-around sunglasses. If you use their cheap version it can cost you comfort and sometimes they stop working before their lifetime and that’s just an extra hassle for you. If you have a budget issue then wait for the sale and buy your desired item.
13. Waterproof Everything for Winter and Rain If something becomes wet in winter then it’s kind of impossible to have them dry again. So, be careful make sure everything is waterproof, if your cloth or any gear gets wet in the time of hiking then the whole trip can get ruined. Sometimes experienced hiker make everything double waterproof so it doesn’t bother them. One of the best winter hiking tips for comfort and protection is to protect your gears with proper camping tarp and other gears.
14. Be Prepared to Turn Around You should be prepared to turn around at every moment of hiking. It’s tempting to be in the top of tracking trails or completing the whole rail but it’s not important. You are doing to hiking to connect with nature so if a situation gets tough or unpredictable then just turn around. Reaching in the top just half the work down, you have to climb down the exact same amount of trail. So, if you feel uncomfortable just turn around.
15. Determine Your Level in Hiking and Camping Even if you hike in summer, in winter it can be different. So try to determine your level in your first hiking. In wild hike around for hours without any plan is an incredibly bad idea. It can affect your health and you can lose your interest in hiking. People sometimes try to be a hero in their first chance they are just incredibly unintelligent and naive.
16. Pick Your Winter Hiking Location Hiking location is important if you are hiking for the first time then ask around your active friend and try to take them with you. In winter there is a hidden danger in snow so before going to hike check the place if it’s safe. If you start your hiking try to stay in the path that will keep you safe for a while. If you are a regular hiker then in winter choose a place you know. Don’t over-complicate the location, just be where you will be safe.
17. Let People Know Where You are Going There’ so many mainstream movies about people getting lost in the wild. Most of them are fictional but before going somewhere letting other people know about your location is the best idea. In case if something goes wrong they will come with help. If you don’t return on time they can let the authority to know and you can get help on time. Don’t give them every little bit of information just where and when.
Last Few Words on Winter Hiking Tips
Like any other hiking tips, winter hiking will guide you to be safe, comfortable and enjoy you next trip. Hiking in winter looks difficult because of all the precaution but if the precaution is taken care then it’s the best time for hiking. Nature looks mysterious and different in the time of winter so in the time of hiking you will get to enjoy that. Just before going make a list, what you need to do and what you need to take. Check the list before going hiking, take a deep breath and start hiking. In the first winter hike you may make a mistake but don’t take that mistake seriously and learn from it and enjoy hiking.
Written by Justin Alexandre for Safariors, published on October 10, 2020
(Sunday, December 4, 2022)
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This past Friday we hike the very beginning of the Bruce Trail. Starting at the Southern Terminus in Queenston Park, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario we trekked 14kms in beautiful weather and sticky mud to get to Woodend Conservation Area. Thank you to those that joined me on this beautiful hike, it's always a pleasure to hike with all of you. Except you! You know who you are! :P 2022 is quickly coming to an end. Niagara Adventure Club has four more events for the 2022 season. As you can find below, we have two more indoor climbing events, one more guided hike, and the annual Festival of Lights walk. Make sure you use the links below to get your spot. Can you believe 2023 is just round the corner? In twenty-seven days, we will be celebrating the beginning of yet another journey around the sun, (for those of you the believe in that sort of thing), and another amazing season of Niagara Adventure Club Adventures! Please consider purchasing a 2023 Season Pass and help keep NAC operating for another season of adventures and memories. You can use the link to purchase a SP for yourself or as a gift for the adventurer in your life. Season Pass sales are a big part of what keep Niagara Adventure Club going, and with all the benefits and discounts that come with being a Season Pass holder, it's basically free!
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That's all the news for this week. As always, stay safe, and happy hiking!