Winter hiking or snowshoeing can be a fantastic experience. You’ll see beautiful landscapes and snow-filled scenes that you just can’t see during any other season. Fewer people are out so you’ll have many of the trails to yourself. It’s a rare opportunity to appreciate the great outdoors.
The biggest worry when you’re out in the cold is to avoid getting wet. Wetness and cold weather can lead to hypothermia. Even if things don’t get that bad, being damp and cold is a miserable combination.Avoid it by following these handy winter hiking tips on how to stay/keep warm hiking in the winter.
1. Warm Up Inside
Before you start off, give yourself a warming head start with a hot, healthy breakfast. Freshly made oatmeal with berries and nuts is a great choice. It will keep your belly full and warm and give you an extended, slow release of healthy carbs that keep you fueled.
2. Layer Up
The most important part of your stay-warm strategy while hiking in the winter is to dress in layers. Ideally, you’ll have three layers of clothing. The first layer will keep you comfortable by keeping moisture off your skin. The second will insulate you, and the third will waterproof you.
How does that work in reality? We thought you’d never ask.
- Start with lightweight thermal underwear made from silk, nylon, merino wool, polypropylene or Lycra.
- Wear a middle layer that provides warmth. This can be a heavy fleece pullover, a down jacket or synthetic down jacket.
- Your outer layer should be a waterproof shell or windbreaker. Look for one with a hood for added protection against wetness.
Use similar layering techniques for your legs and invest in some pants for cold weather hiking.
Don’t forget to treat your feet:
- Wear one layer of lightweight socks in a moisture-wicking fabric.
- Over them, put on a pair of thick socks.
- Top everything off with insulated hiking boots treated with waterproofing.
3. Pack Some Heat
As you travel, you’ll be grateful to have a hot beverage to take the edge off any chill. A lightweight thermos filled with your favorite hot drink will be a welcome companion. Fill it with warm cocoa, coffee, tea or lemon water.
4. Pack a Snack
Walking or snowshoeing in the cold can sap your energy, so bring snacks. Choose something easy to carry and easy to reach while you’re hiking. You don’t want to stand still for too long in the cold. Fill a small bag with nuts, granola bars, a peanut butter sandwich or trail mix (be sure to check out our tips for DIY trail mix & bars!). Make sure it’s small enough to stash inside your pocket or backpack within easy reach.
5. Carry Extras
Bring along an extra pair of socks and mittens or gloves. Dry sets will allow you to warm up quickly. Also, if you lose a glove, carrying an extra pair ensures you’ll have a spare. Carry your extra gloves close to your body so that they’ll stay warm.
PRO TIP: Mittens will keep your hands warmer than gloves.
6. Stuff Your Socks
Hand warmers are a lifesaver when you’re walking or hiking in cold weather. These air-activated packets are available in most outdoor stores and outfitters and provide hours of warmth. In winter, you can often find them at convenience stores as well.
They’re lightweight and easy to carry, so bring extras as a backup in case your route ends up taking longer than you expected or you encounter some other delays. You’ll be glad you have them.
7. Stay on the Sunny Side
When you’re outdoors, stay in the sun as much as possible. This may not always be possible but be on the lookout for sunny trails. Try to avoid walking in dark areas or on heavily forested trails. If you take a break at any time during your hike, try to make it in a sunny spot.
8. Stay on the Move
The best way to stay warm while hiking in the winter is to keep moving. Your body generates heat. Your layers are just there to keep it close to you. If you start to feel cold, try to pick up the pace so that your body can heat up. If you take breaks, make them short. Always remember to keep moving steadily.
Exercising in cold weather can dehydrate you almost as quickly as it can in warm weather. You may not notice that you’re getting dehydrated, but your body does. Carry water with you and remind yourself to sip some frequently.
10. Remember to Have Fun
Don’t let worries about the cold keep you trapped inside. With the right layering and preparation, you can enjoy all that winter has to offer.
Getting outside in nature is a great way to experience fresh air, nature, and exercise. Follow these tips on how to stay/keep warm in winter, and you’ll enjoy a whole winter’s worth of hiking, snowshoeing, and other outdoor fun.