Cold Play

May 28, 2009

There’s two sides to every story. Consider winter.  Sure it’s darker and chillier but with no bugs or snakes, fewer people, 'tis the season to hit the trails. And with these winter hiking tips from Seth Levy of the American Hiking Society, you’ll be warmed up to this adventure in no time.

1.    Drink and be merry. Winter air is deceivingly dehydrating so bring adequate water.  Or try this tasty winter warmer: 1 liter of diluted green tea with a teaspoon of honey and a quarter-sized chunk of warming ginger root.

2.    Fuel the furnace. Cold weather kicks your metabolism into overdrive.   Satisfy your metabolic furnace with plenty of snacks.

3.    Race the sun.   Winter days are short and even shorter in the mountains. Plan your hike accordingly and aim to be back at the trailhead at least 30 minutes before sunset.

4.    Dress for success.   Dress in layers to regulate your temperature as you go.  Start with a thin, moisture wicking base layer.  Add a fleece and a waterproof/breathable shell and you’re good to go.  Expect to be slightly chilled as you start out. If you’re already toasty before you’ve left the parking lot, you will overheat.

5.    Look out below and around.  Snow or fallen leaves can obscure hazards as well as change the look of even the most familiar trail.  Pay close attention to surroundings, trail markings and signs and be sure to bring a map, compass or even a GPS.

6.    Stand your ground.
 Ice and snow can throw you for a loop so make sure your footwear has good traction.  For extra grip, consider strap-on traction devices, like Kahtoola or YakTrax.

7.    Watch out for those men of prey.  Unlike the perennial bar scene, hunting season takes place in fall and early winter for many areas.  Know local regulations and dress in official blaze orange garments when hiking during hunting season.

8.    Change it up.   Bring an extra change of warm clothing in the event that you get chilled or wet.

9.    Be like the Yeti.  And vanish without a trace by abiding by Leave No Trace principles.

10.    Spreading the love.  American Hiking Society loves the trails as much as you. Check them out for more tips on having a fun and safe experience.