Visiting the great outdoors and seeking out of the way locations that allow you to experience the backcountry in the best way possible is a popular activity among novice and seasoned hikers alike. Planning a snowshoe or winter hiking trip presents safety concerns that may not be an issue during warmer seasonal conditions. Following a few basic safety tips can ensure that your next snowshoe or winter hike is as fun AND safe as possible.
1: Hiking with a Partner and Alerting Others to Your Plans
Being unable to contact help can turn even a minor problem or issue into a potentially life-threatening crisis. Hiking with a partner, especially a more experienced one, offers greater safety and the means to more easily address any problems that may be encountered on the trail. Ensuring that others know of your plans and timetables is another safety measure that should not be taken lightly as hikers who have encountered a problem in the wilderness may be unable to call for assistance on their own.
2: Plan Shorter Hikes and Get an Early Start
Winter weather means less daylight and more abrupt darkness after sunset, a concern that novice hikers may easily overlook. Planning a lengthy hike that may be undertaken with ease during warmer months may find you still on the trail when darkness and temperatures begin to fall. Starting as early as possible, and planning hikes that are more modest in scope could make a big difference in ensuring your winter outing can be as safe and enjoyable as possible.
3: Selecting Proper Clothing and Gear
Choosing the right clothing is of paramount importance when it comes to hiking in cold temperatures. Dressing in layers, selecting outer garments that can better resist moisture and donning undergarments that will retain the most heat are all essential for staying warm and dry. While snowshoes and crampons may be required for more extreme environments, trekking poles can offer the added stability needed to avoid slips and falls that are common even over level terrain and make a valuable addition to any gear selection.
4: Emergency Supplies
Proper preparation always pays off especially, in crisis situations and circumstances that may be potentially dangerous. Packing a properly stocked first aid kit can make a life-saving difference in the event that you encounter a problem in a location where help may be hours or even days away. When hiking in winter conditions, packing more than one compass, multi-tool or other basic survival item is often a prudent move. The old adage of “two is one, one is none” is important to remember as overlooking the importance of redundancy can turn out to be nothing short of a disaster.
5: Check the Weather and Be Prepared
Severe storms, frontal systems and other weather changes can often develop very quickly, leaving those who are out on the trail unable to properly prepare themselves. Checking the weather, early and often, is a wise idea during any season but should be of paramount concern during the cooler months of winter. With proper planning and preparation, weathering a snowstorm or blizzard can be done more safely and comfortable. Hikers who fail to keep track of weather predictions and information could be placing themselves at much greater risk than they might imagine.
6: Eat and Drink Frequently
Dehydration can speed the process of hypothermia, a potentially life-threatening condition that may be very hard to address when alone in the wilderness. The amount of calories burned on a winter hike may come as a surprise, meaning hikers would do well to take food and snacks that are high in protein, fats and complex carbohydrates. Eating and drinking frequently will ensure that your body is able to function more efficiently, allowing you to make the most out of your winter hikes and outdoor experiences.