1. Know the Trail
Knowing the trail is important year round, but especially in winter conditions. With snow covered trails there may be hazards off trail like crevices, depressions and other obstacles that could cause injury. It’s a must to not only know the trail but to stay on it. If you’re heading out snowshoeing be sure to check trail conditions online before you go. Most parks post trail conditions on their website, whether they’re groomed or otherwise. Also note that not all trails are snowshoe friendly.
2. Dress Accordingly
Be sure to check weather conditions in the area you’ll be hiking or snowshoeing. Will it be mild or cold? Will it be snowing or clear? It’s best to know ahead of time so you can dress accordingly. If it’s snowing you’ll want to be sure to wear a water-repellent or waterproof coat to avoid getting wet.
Note: Not all clothing is created equal. Water-resistant means the fabric will resist water penetration to a degree, but not wholly. Whereas water-repellent isn’t easily penetrated by water and because of treated fabric the water will bead off. And waterproof means fluid will not pass through the fabric.
In winter it’s best to layer up. This way if you do warm up you can easily shed a layer. Also, make sure to wear either comfortable waterproof boots, whether they’re winter boots or hiking ones. Another great item to bring with you is packs of hand warmers. These can be used in your gloves, shoes and inner pockets.
3. Don’t Forget to Drink
It seems easy to remember to constantly stay hydrated in the heat of the summer. But in the winter we may forget. So, it’s even more important to remember to drink on winter hikes, so as to avoid dehydration.
4. Bring Snacks
Just as in the mild months, it’s important to bring snacks on winter hikes and snowshoe adventures. Whether its nuts, dried fruit, trail mix or energy bars, be sure to bring snacks with you. You may not realize it but you’ll be, most likely, burning more energy in the winter with your body trying to stay warm and trudging through the snow. So, it’s key to keep your energy up.
5. Know Your Limit
Unless you’re an avid winter hiker it’s best to know your limits – especially when you first begin winter hiking. In frigid, icy cold weather it could be detrimental to be outside for an extended period of time. Know the temperature forecast for the day.
Also remember the same distance in the summer will be much different in the winter. Trudging through snow, whether with hikers or snowshoes, will exert more energy than clear trails in the summer.
If you’re just starting winter hiking/snowshoeing start small. Go on short to moderate length hikes to begin with and build your stamina and ability for longer hikes.
There are a few other things to consider when discussing winter hiking tips. One is to be aware of road conditions. Some roads may be closed in the winter due to blowing snow or poor conditions. It’s best to err on the side of caution.
Another good idea is to not wear your jacket, gloves, hat and other extra warm clothing on your drive to where you’re going to hike. It will feel much cooler getting out of the toasty, warm car and into the cold if you don’t.
Also be aware of parking conditions. Non-operational parks do not plow their parking lots, so you’ll have to park on the side of the road. And, this can be dangerous on main roads that are packed with snow. There may be no safe place to park. Check ahead for parking options before you go.