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7 things to consider when you go winter hiking

  • Feb 20, 2015

Winter hiking is among the most exciting outdoor activities you can complete, but it can be quite dangerous if you haven't prepared beforehand. Loading up on food, emergency supplies and maps can help you survive in the frosty wilderness, but this sport extends far beyond your conventional outdoor activity.

If you're prepping for a winter hike, you'll want to keep the following essentials in mind before you set off on your journey.

1. Gear is essential
There are various tools you'll need before you can start hiking through the ice, snow and sleet. For starters, you need to get appropriate footwear that can handle extreme outdoor conditions, such as those with cleats or rubber soles that will prevent slippage. Hikes through rugged, icy terrain should also be supplemented by tools that will provide support and assistance when needed, like walking sticks with tips that can manage in the snow. You'll also want to bring along a watch compass, as this can help you guide your way through any paths that may be shrouded or altered by snow.

2. Know your snow
Identifying the difference between patches of black ice and harmless stretches of frozen snow can be the difference between tripping and breaking a limb in the outdoors. Brush up on your basic ice-related facts before your adventure, including tips to identify black ice, how to dig yourself out of deep snow and how to tread to avoid ice.

3. Load up an emergency pack
No adventure calls for an emergency pack quite like winter hiking does. You'll need to bring the basic items that comprise a first-aid kit, like bandages, antibacterial ointment, gauze and disinfectant. But for winter hiking, there are a few more tools to port along that can ensure your safety. Communication devices, like two-way radios and cellphones, are especially important, as injuries may be more common during this activity. You will need a way to contact authorities should any injury or rough patch impede your progress on the trail. 

4. Learn about hypothermia
Hypothermia is one of the greatest risks you face while winter hiking. Chillier temperatures, brisk winds and abundant snow can all cause this life-threatening condition, so before you head out, learn about the causes, symptoms and treatments for hypothermia. Consider bringing along a guidebook or pamphlet with these written down, as you may forget important information when on the trail.

5. Pick your trail with care
Climbing Mt. Everest may be on your bucket list, but if you've never hiked in the snow before, stick with a simpler way to ease yourself into this extreme activity. Areas in the northern U.S., like New England or North Dakota, are replete with winter trails for various abilities, ranging from beginner to advanced. Consult with a guide before selecting the best one to further ensure your safety.

6. Don't forget water
Dehydration is not limited to summer activities. The condition can strike any person at any time if he or she has not taken the proper steps beforehand. Bring along plenty of water on your journey - you may not feel overheated, but staying hydrated can keep your limbs strong, your energy levels high and your hypothermia risk low.

7. Bring a buddy
On more physically taxing routes, bringing a buddy is the best piece of advice you can get from the pros. Cellphones and radios can help you notify authorities if something goes wrong, but nothing beats the comfort of having a friend who can make that call for you and tend to your wounds while you wait for assistance.

Protrek's PRG270-7 is a necessity when it comes to hiking through harsh winter conditions. It's triple sensor version 3 engine comes complete with a compass, barometer, altimeter and let's not forget to mention, thermometer so you can easily prepare for low temperatures.