Winter Hiking Tips

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With temperatures dropping, daylight hours dwindling and the ground covered in snow and ice, many shun the hiking trails in favor of the ski slopes.  Winter hiking is an awesome way to hit the trail, get out the door and find some amazing winer wonderland views.  Here are some great tips to continue enjoying hiking all winter long.

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Start off easy.

Depending upon the conditions, your winter hiking rate may be slower than on a warm summer day.  Plan a shorter hike, test out your winter setup and learn what is enough on a snow covered trail.

Plan for an early sunset.

With shorter daylight hours it’s a good idea to start your hike earlier in the day than you might normally in the summer.  Plan to be back to the trail head before sun down, though just in case, bring a flashlight or headlamp.  Even if you make it out before sundown, many canyons will put you into shadows long before official sundown time.

Check the weather.

Check the weather forecast, avalanche forecast, and road conditions before heading out.  Be prepared for the conditions forecasted, and know that in the mountains conditions can change quickly.

Layer up.  

Layer your clothing appropriately.  A wicking base layer, insulating mid layer and hardshell outer layer are key to successful winter hiking.  Remember that the term “cotton kills” is never more true than in the winter. De-layer as you heat up, and layer back up as you get chilled.

Use hand warmers.

Chemical, electric or catalytic hand warmers are a great stand-by to ensure your fingers and toes stay warm.  Also a great way to ensure your water bottles don’t freeze.

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Pack it up.  

Carry a bigger pack.  You’ll need a bigger pack to ensure you can carry your layers as you de-layer while warming up.  Toss in some freezer bags to store your phone and other things that need to stay dry should the snow get deep  or wet.

Stay Hydrated.

Drink plenty of water, and stay hydrated.  It’s easy to forget to stay hydrated when the weather is cooler.  Keep your water bottles insulated in your pack, stored upside down to avoid freezing, and drink up often.

Wear the right footware.  

Don tall waterproof hiking boots.  A pair of nice mesh trail runners may cut it in the summer, though in the winter you never know what conditions you’ll find on the trail.  Ice, deep snow and puddles are all handled better by tall waterproof hiking boots.  Microspikes, Yakthax, gaiters and snowshoes are all tools that work best when combined with a pair of tall waterproof boots.