Frozen streams and snow-covered tree limbs are just a couple of the beautiful sights in the woods in winter. Hiking in the wintertime gives you a chance to see those sights along with the deer, cardinals, owls, and other wildlife braving the elements at this time of year. But as you plan your winter hike, keep these safety tips in mind so you can thoroughly enjoy the experience.
- Hike With a Friend. Cold temperatures and icy trails increase the odds of accidents or injuries. If you or your hiking partner suffer an injury, the other person can administer first aid or go for help. As an additional safeguard, give a family member or friend information on your hiking location and tell them how long you'll be gone. That person will be able to contact the authorities if you don't return home when expected.
- Learn How to Build an Emergency Shelter. If you or your hiking partner find it necessary to stay in the woods overnight, you must build an emergency shelter. This shelter can protect you from the rain, snow, and wind until daylight arrives and you're able to begin hiking again. Even the simplest shelter design can keep you from being exposed to the elements.
- Learn How to Start a Fire. Spending the night in the woods in wintertime means you must find a way to stay warm. One option is to build a fire. When packing for your hike, remember to bring matches and keep them dry in your backpack. Though you can search the area for tinder in the form of dry weeds, moss, and leaves, it's a good idea to pack some newspaper or dryer lint to help you start a fire faster.
- Dress in Layers. This is essential for hiking in the wintertime. Long underwear, a cotton T-shirt, a sweater, and a light fleece jacket or vest are a few ideas for layers you can wear. Be sure to wear a waterproof jacket and pants to protect against snowfall, light rain, and even the drips coming from tree branches above you. Dressing in layers gives you the option of removing garments if they become wet or too hot.
- Stay Hydrated. You can get dehydrated on a hike even in the cold. Hiking over uneven, frozen ground can be very strenuous, so keep a bottle of water handy and drink from it on a regular basis, even if you don't feel thirsty. Drink water before beginning your hike, too, so you start out on the right foot. It's also not a bad idea to get a waterproof jacket with pockets specially designed to hold water bottles.
- Invest in Quality Boots. Waterproof boots are a must-have for a winter hike. You never know when you'll encounter a thin covering of ice along the trail that's hiding a hole filled with slush! Waterproof boots can keep your socks dry, which means you can walk in comfort. Nobody wants to hike in soggy socks, right?
- Pack Easy-to-Eat Snacks. If you want to reach a landmark or sight by a particular time, you don't want to have to stop to eat. There are many snacks that are easy to eat as you walk, like granola, nuts, peanut butter and crackers, trail mix, and beef jerky. These items are easy to hold with gloves on and have protein and fat to keep your energy up for the hike.
Enjoy the peacefulness of the woods in the wintertime, and thanks for reading. - Alan