Even though the weather has turned colder and the snowflakes are starting to fly, that doesn’t mean that your hiking trips need to wait until spring. Winter is a wonderful time to hike. There are usually no more crowds of people and a lot of trails take on an entirely different look under a blanket of freshly fallen snow.
Wearing layers is the most important thing to remember when hiking in the winter months. Although it feels cold at the trailhead, your body will start to generate heat after just 10 to 15 minutes of walking, especially if you are hiking on a particularly difficult trail. Layering is important to staying warm and maintaining a constant body temperature throughout the hike.
When you layer:
- Start with a base layer to wick moisture off your body.
- A fleece jacket is next for insulation and warmth.
- Finally, a shell keeps you dry and shttps://www.yaktrax.com/tops the wind from penetrating.
- Remember to avoid cotton. Once wet, cotton will no longer insulate you from the cold. Also, it wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk for hypothermia.
Other winter hiking garments include:
Ice flow seen near the bottom of the steps leading up to Hawk Rock.
We are fortunate to live in an area that offers many different opportunities for a day hike. We have the Appalachian Trail which can be accessed from several different trail heads, Fort Hunter Conservancy, Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area, Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area, and Little Buffalo State Park, just to name a few.
Regardless of which area you select for a hike, a successful day hike depends on taking the time to be prepared. Anytime you step on a trail, you should be prepared with the basics, which includes: appropriate clothing, footwear, food, and equipment.
Clothing should protect you from the cold and the rain. In summer time temperatures can be cooler at higher elevations. Avoid cotton clothes which will retain moisture and opt for synthetic fabrics which are more “breathable”.
Shoes should fit well and be broken in. On a day hike, a pair of broken in sneakers can be a better choice than brand new hiking boots.
Food and water are indispensable, even on a day hike. Apples, oranges, energy bars, or whatever foods you like should be part of every hike. Just remember, be sure to pack out all of your garbage, including apple cores and orange peels, and wrappers.
Take a few minutes before you head out on the trails to pack the following items:
- Map and compass (make sure you can use them)
- Water (1 quart minimum per person, 2 or 3 quarts on longer hikes in hot weather)
- First aid kit (with tweezers to remove ticks)
- Whistle (three blasts is the international signal for help)
- Garbage bag (to pack out trash)
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Blaze orange hat (in hunting season)
- Insect repellent
- Trowel, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer
- Cell Phone
Proper planning and preparation will make your trail experience as enjoyable as possible.