When the weather is warm and the sun is shining, hiking can be a remarkably simple affair: get a pair of good boots (or even a pair of running shoes), make sure you have plenty of water, and… you’re basically set. For a day hike on a prepared trail, at any rate.
Hiking in the winter, especially in the snow, is a dramatically different undertaking than fair weather trekking. (Though to many of us winter weather is in fact our definition of fair weather.) There are multiple factors to be weighed, from the varying safety considerations merited by snow, wind, and the temperature, to the amount of food and water you’ll need, to the time it will take during a snowy winter’s day to complete that same route you jogged with ease last summer. Does your footwear offer the traction and ankle support you need on ice? Are your boots waterproofed? Your body blazes through calories trying to keep you warm, so did you remember to bring along way more food than you would bring for a warm weather trek? Did you inform people of your planned route and approximate schedule? All things to think about, sir…
You’ll need to carefully assess your own fitness and experience level and choose winter hikes appropriate for you and partners (oh yeah, never hike alone if you can avoid it), but today we’re going to discuss a few products that will give you an edge, keep you safe, and keep you comfortable when you head out for a hike in that glorious season we call winter.
Treat Your Feet to Great Boots – Asolo TPS 535 V Hiking Boots
You don’t need fancy Gortex this or polyurethane that to make a great hiking boot, you need great design. Solo hiking boots are so comfortable you will forget you’re not wearing a worn pair of sneakers, and that’s true right out of the box. They are largely made of full grain leather but are reliably water resistant, and their “dual density” outsole and soft, anatomic footbed will both protect and cradle your foot for hours on end. These boots keep you warm, they keep you dry, and they support your foot and ankles. That’s what you need during a winter hike. Trust me: mine have been up Mt. Rainier, Mt. Whitney (four times), San Gorgonio…
Keep Your Fingers Warm. You Need Them – Zippo Hand Warmer
This is your father’s hand warmer! Or perhaps even your grandfather’s! Or at least, this is the same type of simple, reliable hand warmer men have relied on for decades. Zippo’s basic, rugged, reliable hand warmer uses a little bit of safe, internal flame to keep your hands warm for hours on end. When the hand warmer is topped off with fluid, it will give off heat for as long as twelve hours. Slip one into a pocket, snuggle one down into your sleeping bag, or tuck it under your cap. Warm hands are yours for about fifteen bucks. And as these things are made by Zippo, you know they’ll last a lifetime. Maybe your grandson will use yours on a winter hike someday…
Get a Grip, Even On Ice or Snow – Petzl Vasak Crampons
You don’t need to be headed out for a momentous mountaineering adventure to consider a pair of crampons. Hell, they might be a good idea to use for navigating your driveway if it’s snowy enough. And if you’re going for an overland trek that involves any elevation changes, you’ll be wise and well-served to bring a pair of crampons along. Not only will they help you gain traction as you ascend a frosty peak, but they’ll help you plant your steps with care as you make your way down through the snow, gravity and a low coefficient of friction be damned. The Petzl Vasak Crampons offer plenty of size adjustment and will attach to most boots (and even to some shoes) with ease, so you can remove them or attach them as the terrain changes.
Give Your Feet a Hand – York Nordic Hiking Poles
If you think hiking poles are superfluous, then you’re just the right person to be reading this article! Because… you don’t know what yer talkin’ about, mister. Hiking poles might not be needed for a pleasant stroll along a graded trail in the merry month of May, but when you’re making your way over snow and/or ice, they are essential. Not only do hiking poles offer you additional points of contact with the ground, crucial for preventing slips, sprains, and falls, especially in icy conditions, but they also take some of the load off your feet. Make your arms do some of the work of carrying your pack and your person instead of just lazily swinging along! Lazy… lazy arms…. These aircraft0grader aluminum York Nordic Hiking Poles collapse for travel or storage, feature good grips, loops that help prevent losing them, and the all-important snow baskets you’ll need to use when hiking in the winter.
You’re Never Alone With an Avy Beacon – Pieps DSP Sport Avalanche Transceiver
Even if you’re not hiking (or climbing or snowboarding or cross-country skiing) alone, it’s a good idea of have an avalanche beacon (AKA “avy beacon”). If you ARE heading out alone in winter, you’d be nuts to do it without one. Avalanche beacons, like Pieps DSP Sport Avalanche Transceiver, send out a signal that will help vector search and rescue teams to you, even in the unlikely and unfortunate even you become buried in snow. You can also consider one of the many GPS beacons on the market, though many of those require a line of sight to the sky which, when buried, you will lack.
Take It Off. And Put It On – Champion Men’s Double Dry Long Sleeve Tee
Staying warm in the winter time is all about layers. Even when it’s bitingly cold, if you are moving along with vigor, you are going to warm up and likely sweat. When that happens, you’ll want to be wearing a moisture-wicking shirt like this 100% polyester garment from Champion; a shirt like this should be one of several layers If you start getting too warm, take off a layer. If you’re too cold, add a layer. But whatever you do, make sure the layer of clothing touching your skin won’t hold moisture (cotton is a bad idea, for example) and can be easily removed if it gets wet or you get too warm.