Hiking is one of the best ways for us to enjoy nature’s beauty. Each season has its own uniqueness, but most people miss out on winter because they feel unsafe or uncomfortable in such cold weather. Experienced hikers, however, collectively agree on one thing: That if you just dress appropriately and adhere to certain guidelines, you can go out and hike in just about any weather condition.
The important thing to remember when hiking in cold weather is to keep cool and dry. That may sound strange, especially since you’re already cold from the snow that’s all around you. But this applies only when you’re moving. When you’re not moving around a lot, you have to stay warm and dry. Get it? Here are some valuable suggestions for clothing and equipment that you’ll need to keep yourself warm and comfortable during winter hiking.
1. Waterproof Boots – These are absolutely crucial for cold weather hiking. Bring along a pair that’s comfortable, broken-in, and at least calf-height. They could be insulated or not. You can always build insulation layers using socks and sock liners, so don’t worry about it. What’s important is that your boots are able to keep your feet dry. There will be times during your hike when you’re going to be ankle-deep in water, so waterproof footwear is a must.
2. Wick-Away Clothes – The term “Wick-Away” is used in many brands of athletic clothing, all designed to draw out the moisture or perspiration away from your body. Remember that an essential factor in being comfortable in cold weather is staying dry. Get Wick-Away clothes that you wear closest to your skin, like underwear, socks, and sock liners. You can then layer it with woolen clothes, which help draw moisture away from the body and also insulates against cold. Stay away from cotton, though, since it absorbs moisture and holds it like a sponge. Furthermore, wear many layers of light clothing, rather than a single, heavy, bulky layer.
3. Backpacks – Bring a backpack with lots of room for your extra clothing, drinks, food, etc. Make sure that it has lots of stowage straps, too. A fanny pack is not recommended; these are generally more suited to warm weather hiking when you need less to carry. Make sure that your backpack straps in securely but comfortably to your body, in order to avoid constant fidgeting and readjusting your load.
4. A Nylon Shell – Preferably lightweight, with a hood. It’s also called a windbreaker, since it deflects the wind off you. It should also be waterproof, but allows moisture to escape from the body.
5. Gloves, Mittens, Hats – These should be obvious. If possible, bring gloves with separate liners. A lot of hikers I know also like those hand warmers that can be bought at any good outdoors store. For hats, choose one that covers your ears. A good amount of body heat s expelled through the head, you know. Some people might use scarves, but that nylon shell or windbreaker I mentioned earlier will work better at covering your neck as well.
6. Gaiters – Gaiters fit around your legs and cover your feet and boots. They are waterproof, so they can keep your feet from getting squishy and wet and cold by preventing snow or water from getting inside your boots. They also help in keeping your pants legs dry. Knee-high gaiters are the best.
7. Ice Cleats – Remember to get a pair with short cleats. Long cleats are definitely overkill and useless in this country 90% of the time, unless you’re going mountaineering in extreme icy conditions. Even in snowy conditions, you will usually end up hiking on bare ground or along cleared roads, so what’s the use? Long cleats make walking very awkward and tend to fall apart before long.
Generally, you don’t have to spend a lot of money when equipping yourself for hiking in cold weather. With that said, you’d far be better off spending just a little more money in exchange for high quality equipment. And never scrimp on your boots if possible. If you have to, just think about it as an investment or insurance for your health, safety, and fitness. So go ahead; take a hike!
Word count: 701