As a Michigan native, I am no stranger to the cold. While snow and ice are beautiful, most people prefer to avoid being outside during the dreaded winter months. In this inaugural post I will share some perks of winter hiking and my tips to make it even more amazing!
It is hard to argue that hiking in the winter is more enjoyable than hiking on a 70 degree day under clear skies. However, there are many benefits to hitting the trail from December to February.
- Solitude: I have gone on several hikes this winter and have only seen two other people. Hiking in the summer is great but sometimes the crowds can take away from the experience.
- Silence: It seems that snow dampens the normal background noise you tend to find on trails in urban/suburban areas. Huge plus!
- Awesome photo ops: animal tracks, frozen water, snow covered trees. What’s not to love?
- Sense of accomplishment: Voluntarily spending time outside when it’s below freezing takes some will power. By braving the cold you will feel even better about yourself at the end of the hike.
- Easier to find your way back: for out-and-back trails it is nice to have your own footprints to follow back to the trail head. This is especially helpful on technical or unfamiliar terrain.
- Visibility: As long as it’s not actively snowing you will be able to see a lot farther, than during other months, thanks to the lack of leaves.
- Sliding across ice: Many people would not count this as a perk but I personally love the friction-less feeling of sliding across ice. Be careful with this one.
While the perks to winter hiking are great, it is important to follow some basic safety tips to avoid any emergencies.
- Slow your roll: I am a notoriously fast walker and this has caused me to lose my footing on several icy occasions. When it’s below freezing it’s best to walk as if you’re always on ice (because you probably are).
- Layers: Dressing in layers allows you to adjust if you start getting too warm and will protect you from exposure. Here is what I usually wear:
- Scarf: to cover my mouth and keep my neck toasty.
- Gloves: I prefer mine to be lightweight for dexterity.
- Hat: beanie courtesy of Gatorade.
- Boots: You can’t afford to have poor grip during the winter. Be sure you have good tread and nice padding for warmth and comfort.
- Keep your body weight low: I usually bend my knees a little extra to avoid losing my balance on ice. It also helps to have your arms out to stabilize yourself if you begin to slip and catch yourself if you do. Falling is an art form and proper technique is massively helpful. I have learned through experience how to avoid injury, but I am sure you can find some tips online.
- Water: It is commonly overlooked during the winter. Staying hydrated is crucial.
- Basic essentials: always carry the 10 essentials in case something goes wrong.
- Charge your phone: I tend to take photos with my iPhone and it loves to shutdown in the cold. To beat this I always try to have it fully charged before I head out, and I keep it close to my body to keep it warm and save the battery life.
- Tell someone where you will be: This always applies when you are hitting the trail. We all know the story of Aron Ralston (127 Hours). Better safe than sorry.
I sincerely hope that you hit the trail this winter!
Stay safe and keep on crushing it!