Hiking during summer months can be a relaxing activity that is both fun and beneficial to your health. But you don’t need to stop hiking just because the snow starts falling. Even if you aren’t big on the cold winter months, you can still enjoy the advantages of long-distance hiking.
If you’re getting ready to go on a long-distance hike this winter, you’ll want to make sure that your body is prepared both mentally and physically. In deep snow, you may want to wear snowshoes. You’ll need to account for the cold and the fact that it gets dark early. You’ll also need to be prepared for slippery areas, particularly on slopes and narrow pathways.
Winter hikes definitely have more factors to consider than summer walks, so you’ll want to take time to prepare in advance. Here are five tips so that your winter hikes are as fun as your warm weather walks.
One: Know the Weather and the Trail
It’s obvious that you’ll want to know the weather forecast before you head out. Check several different weather services so you can get a clear idea of the conditions that you’ll face. Remember that you can expect different snowfalls at various elevations. Ice and snow not only make hiking difficult, they can also make the trails impassable.
Now is not the time to choose a new trail. You’ll want to know what you’ll be facing, so when you come to that small stream that’s frozen over or the narrow walkway that tends to be overgrown with tree roots, you’ll be prepared.
You’ll also want to find out as much as you can about the trail conditions. Are there any washouts? Have there been heavy snowfalls? Should you expect ice? You can check the park’s website as well as local hiking forums to find out more information about the current trail conditions.
Two: Carry Winter Hiking Essentials
Regardless of the season, you should be prepared when you go hiking. In the winter, you’ll want to include some extra items with your regular hiking essentials. Add some chemical hand warmers to your emergency supply kit. Carry a bright headlamp with extra batteries if you’re going later in the day when there’s a chance nightfall will affect your hike. You’ll also want sunscreen and lip balm, because the snow reflects light and can cause sunburn and chapped lips.
Three: Use Proper Supplements
Long-distance hiking can cause fatigue and stress on the body, which can slow down your recovery time. However, the right daily supplements can support your body and help with restorative processes to get you through long winter hikes.
- Fish or krill oil: While many hikers rely on Ibuprofen for aches and pains caused by hiking, there is another option. If you add a fish oil supplement, which is high in omega 3 fatty acids, it’ll cut down on inflammation and reduce the need for ibuprofen.
- Electrolytes: When you go hiking, you tend to sweat and will drink plenty of water, so you’ll want to add a quality source of electrolytes. Gatorade is not the best choice. Instead, choose electrolytes in either a powder or liquid form, which can be added to the water you’re drinking on the trail.
- K2 and D3: To optimize their performance, it’s best to take these two vitamins together. Vitamin K2 promotes bone and cardiovascular health and is good at fighting calcification of your joints and arteries. Vitamin D3 helps increase the intestinal absorption of the K2. The pair of vitamins are vegan-friendly and free of most allergens.
- Turmeric Curcumin: These supplements are typically found together and help in overall joint health and support. Using these supplements daily will help ease the aches you may feel in your knees, hips, and other joints from walking on long-distance hikes.
Four: Chooses the Right Gear
If you’re hiking in deep snow, snowshoes are ideal. However, if the snow is packed down by other hikers, you don’t really need snowshoes. In that case, you might consider crampons, which grip as you walk, making them ideal for packed snow, icy trails, or when you’re walking on steep slopes.
Be sure to dress in layers, but start out with as little clothing as you can manage. It’s better to be cold when you start out than to sweat and become wet as you are trying to hike, particularly in cold weather. If any article of clothing does become wet from sweat, remove it immediately. Always bring extra gloves, hats, and shirts just in case you do begin to sweat.
Five: Eat and Stay Hydrated
When hiking in the winter months, it’s often uncomfortable to stop for long breaks, but you still need to consume enough calories to offset the energy you’re expending. Try bringing high-calorie snacks like gummy candies, energy chews, jerky, nuts, and chocolate. Keep your food in your jacket pocket next to your body so that it doesn’t freeze up as you hike.
Warm meals are ideal on winter hikes, but often difficult to obtain. Try bringing warm soup in a good thermos. If you know you’ll be able to get out of the wind for a little while, try carrying a backpacking stove and a meal that can be made by adding boiling water, such as oatmeal.
Keeping water from freezing on long winter hikes may seem difficult, but can be done if you are prepared. You can use a hydration bladder, but need to make sure that the hose and mouthpiece don’t freeze up. When you fill it, use warm water and keep the hose inside your pack on your hike. Take small sips of water often to keep water moving through the hose and prevent ice build-up. After each sip, blow into the hose to force the water back into the reservoir. You can also keep a chemical hand warmer next to your mouthpiece to help keep it from freezing in cold, but not freezing temperatures.
In extremely cold temperatures, use an insulated water bottle filled with hot water or other liquid and keep it upside down in your pack to prevent the lid from freezing closed.
Cold weather shouldn’t stop you from doing what you love. If you take the right precautions and properly prepare for your long-distance hike, you can still have an enjoyable time without becoming too cold or injuring yourself. If you follow these tips, you’ll have a safe, fun-filled hike and be able to enjoy the winter scenery.