What to Pack on Your Winter Hike
Don’t let the winter weather put you off. Winter hikes can be just as fun and rewarding as any other time of the year – as long as you’re prepared. Here’s 10 essentials you should bring with you to make sure you stay safe and comfortable on the trail.
1. Cold-weather clothing
To make sure you stay warm and comfortable on your hike, it’s essential to wear the right type of clothing. You might build up a sweat while you’re walking, but it’s also important to be prepared for cold winds, frosty air and even rain. Dress in layers so that you can remove clothes easily when you’re feeling warm and add on layers when things are chilly.
Start with a base layer that handles any sweat you’re building up, making sure it doesn’t stay on your skin. Then add an insulating mid-layer that keeps the heat in. Finally, finish it off with an outer layer that protects you from wind and moisture.
2. Gloves, beanies and neck gaiters
Don’t forget to protect your fingers, neck and head from the cold weather. Pack some gloves to keep your digits warm and pop on a beanie or hat to protect your head. If you’re hiking in a region where UV levels are still high during winter, a wide brimmed hat is a good option. It’ll keep your face protected from sunburn while also preventing heat loss from your head. A neck gaiter or a scarf is a good option for keeping your neck warm.
3. Waterproof boots
A good pair of boots is essential, no matter what time of the year you’re hiking. In winter when you’re likely to encounter muddy sections of the track or unavoidable puddles, a pair of waterproof boots will be particularly helpful. Keep your feet warm and supported with thick hiking socks. Consider packing an extra pair of socks that you can change into if you get wet. If you’re wearing shorts on the hike, a long pair of gaiters will help prevent moisture getting into your socks and shoes.
4. High energy food
Cold winds and wet weather can tire you out when you’re on the track, so make sure you’ve got plenty of food to keep your energy up. Snacks like trail mix, jerky and energy bars are all great options. If you’re staying overnight on the trail, bring a trangia or hiking stove so you can make some warm meals in the evenings. A hot cup of tea can be a great spirit-lifter if the winter weather is getting you down.
5. Plenty of water
Dehydration is a real risk when hiking, not just in the warmer weather. Bring plenty of water to last your hike, or for longer hikes make sure you know where you can source water on the track. Consider bringing an insulated flask or thermos with a hot beverage inside.
6. Head torch
The days are shorter during winter, so make sure you’ve got a torch to light the path in case you’re still walking after dark. A head torch is a great option because it allows you to have your hands free. Whether you’re cooking, washing the dishes or making a trip to the loo in the dark, having light will make all the difference.
7. First aid kit
A compact first aid kit is essential whether you’re going for a short day hike or will be on the trail for several nights. Accidents and emergencies can happen at any time on the trail and help is not always close by. Having the right first aid gear on hand will make sure you’re ready to deal with minor injuries as well as more serious situations.
Here’s what to put in your first aid kit:
- Wound dressings
- Antiseptic cream
- Cleansing wipes
- Splinter probes
- Burn gel
- Pain relief medication
You don’t want to add too much extra weight to your pack, so be sure to choose a hikers kit softpack that’s small and compact while still having all the necessary items.
8. Emergency blanket
For winter hikes, you should add an emergency blanket such as the Aeroplast thermal blanket to your first aid kit. Hypothermia is a real risk when hiking in winter. In the unlikely event that something goes wrong, a thermal blanket can help you get your body temperature back up and give you that extra protection from the elements.
9. Matches and fire starter
If fires are permitted on the trail at this time of year, having the supplies to start a fire is a good idea. A campfire at night is a good way to stay warm. It’s also a smart safety precaution in the unlikely case you find yourself lost or waiting for help.
10. Trail guide and map
If there’s a trail guide, bring a copy with you. Otherwise, take a map. You might be able to download a PDF map to your phone or snap a picture of a sign at the start of your trail. But also try to bring a physical copy in case your phone battery runs out or can’t handle the cold. For extra safety, especially if you’re going somewhere remote, bring a personal satellite GPS or a personal locator beacon.
Stay safe and enjoy your winter hike
Winter hiking has some added challenges, but it can be just as rewarding and fun as any other time of the year. As with any hike, make sure you do your research beforehand and carefully plan what you’re going to bring with you. Sturdy boots, a reliable first aid kit and wet weather gear will ensure you stay safe and have fun on the trail.
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