Let’s face it: it takes a bit of grit to get out and enjoy the winter season. Cold temps, blowing wind, and inclement weather often makes Netflix and chill sound like a far better option during the winter months. But you’ll be missing out on pristine landscapes, quiet trails, and a magic that summer just can’t capture. Here’s how you can stay warm and fall in love with winter.
1) Layer Appropriately
The entirety of your comfort outside hinges on your layering system, so choose wisely. A good base system will utilize merino or synthetic base layers on top and bottom, a fleece or merino top, a reliable puffy layer, and a wind/precipitation layer. Top it all off with a hat, gloves and liners, thick socks and a neck gaiter and you’re good to go. Remember: Don’t wear any cotton!
2) Gear Up
If you plan on winter camping, be sure to buy an appropriate tent and sleeping bag. A four-season tent is a must in winter. Be sure your bag is rated for lower temps too, by checking the rating. You also may want to consider using two sleeping pads, one foam pad on the bottom, with an air pad on top, giving you extra insulation from the snowy ground.
3) Move Your Body
When you’re stopped on the trail and start to feel a chill, swing your legs and arms around to keep the blood flowing. This action generates internal body heat, keeping your warmth in and the cold at bay.
4) Walk Comfortably
Don’t wear all your layers if you don’t need them. The object is to not allow yourself to sweat too much. Sweating is a cooling mechanism, so when you stop all of that evaporating sweat will leave you with a chill that’s tough to shake. If you’re sweating a lot, shed a layer to cool off. It’s totally normal to be in a t-shirt while hiking and bundle all the way up to your puffy layer when stopping to rest.
5) Pay Attention to the Weather
Whether you’re setting up camp or taking a quick five-minute rest, pay attention to your environment. Find shelter from the wind, even if it’s just turning your back to it (sometimes, you don’t have options). When pitching a tent, try to find a sheltered site that isn’t in danger of avalanches, falling trees or heavy snowfall off of branches. Weather often changes fast in the winter, so always be on the lookout for an unexpected storm.
6) Bring on the Heat!
Every hiker loves a good trail meal. Hot food and drink can go a long way to boost morale while traveling in winter. Pack your favorite soup or chili in a thermos. Or bring your stove and make some hot cocoa. The extra weight is well worth a warm belly.
7) Carry Extra Stuff
Always bring extra layers, even if it seems a bit ridiculous. An extra pair of gloves and socks can come in handy if you accidentally post hole through a creek. Pack an emergency bivvy just in case something happens and you’re stuck waiting for help. You won’t be complaining about the extra weight if something doesn’t go to plan!
8) Cushion Your Behind
When you break for that tasty hot meal, be sure not to sit on the cold ground. The easy choice is to use your backpack as a seat. Alternatively, you can carry a small foam pad to insulate you from the ground.
9) Stay Dry
This may be obvious, but getting wet in cold weather is never a good time. Keep your toes warm and dry by investing in high-quality waterproof boots. Don’t stand around in fluffy snow with your feet covered, stop down a little area to stand. Carry waterproof pants and jacket so you can shed water should it snow.
10) BONUS: Think Warm Thoughts
If you find yourself really struggling smile and picture a warm sun. It sounds silly, but paying small tricks with your mind can go a long way to keep you going in winter. Smiling through a difficult task helps your brain focus on positive aspects of your situation. So go ahead, crack a big toothy grin for winter!
Now you’re ready to tackle winter’s chill and enjoy some pristine outdoor magic. So go on, layer up and get out there!