It is winter again! Winter is a great time to hike and experience breathtaking mountain scenery. You get to see more wildlife like deer and elk as they leave the higher elevations and concentrate in the lower pastures. The experience as you hike through fresh snow or blaze a new trail on the mountain is unparalleled.
So, let’s hit the hills and make fresh tracks. Before you do that, you must know HOW TO DRESS FOR A WINTER HIKE so that you will be warm and comfortable in your surroundings. Layering is important as temperature can vary as you climb from the bottom to the the top of the mountain. Sun, wind, and precipitation can quickly heat or cool your body during your hike so layering with water and wind resistant materials is important to prevent rapid changes in body temperature.
Where to go : Mountain trails where you hike in the summer, ski resorts, golf courses, state or local parks can be snow shoe haven.
10 things you will need for hiking or snow shoeing
1. Hats, Beanies and Headbands – A wool or synthetic material headgear combined with the hood from your outerwear will help keep you dry and warm if it rains or snows.
2. Upper Body – Base Layer is worn directly against your skin and helps regulate your body temperature and wicks moisture away keeping you dry and comfortable. I have a few choices deepening on the temperature;
- 40-50F : a tank top or a technical T-shirt is sufficient as a base layer.
- 30F and below : a light synthetic long-sleeve base layer like the Under Armour UA Base 1.0 and 2.0.
3. Upper Body – Mid Layer helps retain body heat. Usually a long -sleeved shirt like a Fleece sweater or Merino wool sweaters. I have the Smartwool Mid-Weight Top and Columbia Fleece Jacket. Choose mid layers with half/full zip to maximize venting and for easy on/off, as you get cold or warm.
4. Upper Body – Outerwear should be wind-proof and water-proof to protect you against wind, rain and snow. Vest, soft-shell jacket, ski jacket or down puffy jacket are great outwear depending on the temperature.
- 40-50F : A vest is sufficient if you wear it with a long sleeve shirt or base layer.
- 30-40F : I have had a Spyder soft-shell jacket for the last 10 years and it is a great jacket to wear to the gym or on an outdoor adventure.
- 20-30F : Wear a down puffy jacket or ski jacket when it is very cold and the temperature is below 30F. A jacket with 700 fill power duck down provides serious warmth and is light weight but it is not water proof and gets wet in snowy conditions. If you have a heavy shell jacket like a ski jacket, it will work better in heavy snow and cold. Ski jackets with a hood are usually fully seam sealed for water proof protection in light rain or snow and keep you warm and dry. North Face has a tri-climate 3-in-1 layering system; that has a ultra-light stretch shell jacket and a zip in PrimaLoft Thermoball jacket. It is on the expensive side, but you can find it on sale at the end of the season.
5. Lower Body – Base Layer Leggings from Smartwool can be worn with/without Skirts. Active wear tights from Lululemon and Athletha that are fleeced lined work very well to keep you warm up to 25F. For temperature lower than 25-30F, you should wear an additional layer like insulated hiking pants or ski pants.
6. Lower Body – Insulated Pants should be light and water-proof.
7. Gloves – Most of the time my hands start to get cold first, called “Cold Hand Syndrome”. Therefore, a good pair of ski mittens or gloves is important to prevent the fingers from going numb and keep our hands dry and warm. Otherwise, it could turn a beautiful and fun day out into a torturous activity.
Ski mittens are a perfect choice if you’re looking to keep your hands really warm. Mittens are warmer than gloves because gloves have more surface area for heat loss. You can keep your fingers together in a mitt but mittens can limit your dexterity, which is a deal-breaker for some outdoor activities. Sometimes, when it is very cold, I use two pairs of gloves: one that is soft, stretchy and breathable and a second ski mitten that is water-proof and made out of gore-tex membrane.
8. Boots, Gaiters & Socks – Boots should be waterproof, comfortable and supportive for long hikes. I have been using Ahnu high cut insulated boots which are water-proof and have a lot of cushioning on the sole and a padded collar. If you are wearing tights, you will have to put on gaiters to prevent snow, rocks and dirt from finding their way into your hiking boots and turning your feet wet and cold.
9. Snowshoes, Yaktrax or Micro-spikes – Maintaining good traction during your hike is extremely important and a variety of options are available for every condition. I would usually wear my boots if there is less than 6 inches of snow on the ground. When more than 6 inches of snow are present or in icy conditions I will normally attach Yaktrax or Micro-spikes to my boots to give more stability. When more than a foot of snow is present snow-shoes would be advised. Usually, snow-shoes come with a back-pack bag that can be brought along in case you hike in varied conditions. I bought my entry-level snow shoes in Costco for less than $80 and they have worked well in almost all snow conditions.
10. Poles – provide you with better balance, traction and endurance in addition to giving your upper body a good workout.
HAPPY HIKING! Get out and adventure more.