Winter Hiking Safety Tips

There is something immensely beautiful about hiking with a blanket of snow around you. It feels so peaceful and helps promote a healthy lifestyle.

However, without preparation, it can be incredibly dangerous. In this article, we will take a look at how to keep yourself safe while hiking during the winter.

Preparation

Arguably, the most crucial part of going for a hike lies in how you prepare. Firstly, plan your route and be realistic about the distance.

Due to low temperatures and the terrain, winter hikes burn more calories. Therefore, it is better to hike for a short distance and then adjust on subsequent days.

Check the weather before embarking and be prepared for it to change. Therefore, pack for different weather conditions.

It takes 3200 times more energy to change the temperature of water than air. Thus, during cold and wet weather conditions, your clothing getting wet can lead to hypothermia.

Consequently, your clothing should always be covered by a waterproof layer. This will make it easier to hike during wet and windy conditions.

It is important to inform others about your route. Experienced hikers share their route with friends and family and provide an estimate of how long it should take.

They also fully charge their phones and carry a charging cable along with a fully charged power bank. In an emergency situation, these actions increase their chances of survival. you would be much easier to find.

Gear

Budget gear can affect one’s ability to finish a hike. This is because they are built for light weather conditions.

With so many different types of hiking gear on the market, it can be difficult to choose. Here are the essential items you need for any winter hike.

Rucksack – This will be carried for much of your hike; therefore, it needs to feel comfortable. Look for rucksacks with padded shoulder straps. Other keen features are waterproofing and capacity.

Warm clothing – When shopping for hiking gear, look out for clothing made out of thinsulate; this is a light material which helps to minimize heat loss.

Walking poles – These don’t just help to maintain balance on challenging terrain but could also save your life. Use your walking poles to prod the path ahead of you. This helps to avoid thin ice which might collapse under your weight.

Food – Hiking during the winter uses up a lot of energy; therefore, you will need to carry enough food. Peanut butter, granola bars, jerky and fruit will provide you with the energy required to beat your personal best.

Water bottle – Due to the water freezes quickly under sub-zero conditions, it is best to store warm water in an insulated bottle. You can also reduce the chance of it freezing by wrapping it in warm weather clothing, such as a spare jacket.

First aid kit – Injuries happen. A first aid kit helps to reduce the long-term effects of injury.

Smartphone – You can use this to get help in an emergency.

Map & Compass – Smartphones aren’t always reliable. Loss of signal can occur in remote areas. A map and compass are reliable navigational tools. However, there is a learning curve. Here is a simple guide for using a map and compass.

Whistle & signal mirror – In an emergency, these inexpensive pieces of kit could save your life.

couple hiking in snow

Benefits of hiking in the winter

Hiking in winter has many health benefits. For instance, the body burns more calories during sub-zero temperatures. This is because the body works harder to keep the internal temperature constant.

Moreover, hiking through the snow requires extra effort. Therefore, you need to burn more calories to cover the same distance.

A study carried out by the National Institute of Health showed that the body produces a different type of fat during the winter months. This ‘brown fat’ is filled with mitochondria which help to burn more calories and produce heat. As a result, we are able to stay warm without shivering.

Hiking is also good for your mental wellbeing. Hiking releases serotonin and endorphins, which help to improve your mood. Endorphins have a similar structure to morphine.

As a result, hiking can produce moments of bliss. You become one with nature, and for a few hours, all of life’s challenges can simply melt away.

Safety

One of the best things about hiking is that you come across a range of challenges. It feels good to make it to the top of a hill which felt impossible just an hour before.

However, you mustn’t take unnecessary risks. It might be quicker to take a shorter, slipperier route; however, this might lead to injury.

You must always ask yourself “What if” and take the less risky option.

Microspikes add grip to footwear, thereby reducing the risk of a fall. They also make your hike feel easier. Slip-on microspikes are incredibly popular because they can be used with any shoe.

Excessive heat loss from the head can lead to drowsiness and even vomiting. Wear a thinsulate hat and cover it with a waterproof cap to limit heat loss.

Even in good weather, a beanie hat is essential because the temperature can drop at any time.

You burn approximately double the calories hiking during winter as compared to hiking during warmer periods. Therefore, you need to carry enough food.

A top reason why enthusiasts fail to complete their trail is due to taking insufficient water and food.

Dry packed food is light and takes up little space in your backpack. Plus, you can eat without stopping.

Sunscreen and goggles might seem like odd items to take with you on a hike. Notably, snow is a good reflector on sunlight. Over time this can affect your eyesight or skin.

Goggles with UV protection make it easier to see further, and also help to protect your eyesight.

Final thoughts

Winter hiking is an exhilarating experience. There is something beautiful about being surrounded by miles of snow and ice.

Plus, it is usually incredibly quiet. It is a fantastic way to bond with friends. The sense of accomplishment can be addictive.

However, you must go out with the right kit and prepared for every eventuality.

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