Winter hiking can be a tranquil even surreal experience when done properly. The peace of walking through cold and wintry scenes captured in the outdoors is considered by many to be a great way to spend a day. Additional precautions are needed when hiking in the winter, however, as winter weather can create a number of issues not typically a problem in the summer. It is important to protect yourself from both colder temperatures and potential winter hazards this time of year. Making sure that you have the right equipment for your hike and taking extra time planning so that you can avoid many potentially dangerous situations are important to winter hiking safety.
Proper equipment is a winter hiking essential. Your biggest priorities are going to be making sure that you have light and warmth when you need it, as well as food and water to keep you from becoming dehydrated or hungry. A basic multipurpose tool or a pocket knife is important for any hiking situation. A small first aid kit is too. LED flashlights are the smartest choice for a light source. They use very little energy (batteries) and therefore will last much longer than a standard light. Pack both thermal blankets and chemical heat packs to ensure that you and your companions will be able to stay warm enough if caught out in unexpected bad weather. If you'll be camping during your hike, invest in a sleeping bag that's designed to keep you warm in low temperatures. Make sure that you pack all of the necessary equipment that you would bring in warmer weather, and be sure that you put an extra emphasis on safety and first aid.
When you're planning your hiking trip, take extra time to plan out your route. Do your research and see if you can find out about any safety advisories in the area where you want to hike, and adjust your equipment list as needed to accommodate for any special circumstances that you might encounter based on these warnings. If you're planning a multi-day hiking trip, you might want to have an LED flashlight that has a lantern function as well so that you can illuminate larger areas with it. Begin watching weather reports several days in advance of when your trip is planned for so that you can make any necessary adjustments to your plans. Once your plan is set, make sure you notify two to three people of your expected route and plans for return so they can alert the proper authorities if you do not return as scheduled.
Being Mindful of Temperature
Temperatures often drop quickly during the winter, and it can be very easy to underestimate the effects of these temperature shifts. You must also be mindful of the amount of sweat that your body can produce even in cold weather, as it can not only lead to you having wet clothes and skin in cold weather but you can also be in danger of dehydration. Quickly dropping temperatures can increase your likelihood of becoming sick and can also put you at risk for hypothermia. Because of this, in addition to any blankets or heat packs that you bring, it's important that you dress appropriately for the projected temperatures on the day or days that you'll be hiking. Dress in layers and bring extra shirts, jackets, pants, or other clothing that can be added with relative ease if necessary.
~Ben Anton, 2008
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