Tips for Winter Hiking

Stay Hydrated

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it's actually easier to experience dehydration in the winter than in the summer thanks to the dry winter air. This time of year dehydration is especially dangerous because it can accelerate hypothermia and frostbite. Don't just pack a few water bottles, keep these tips in mind for storing them on the trail:

  • If you're storing water bottles in your backpack during a very cold day, you may need to insulate them to prevent them from freezing. An old wool sock will work in this case.
  • Turn the bottle upside down to prevent the water from freezing at the neck. If you plan to be out for several hours, bring a thermos containing a hot drink, or even soup.

More: Use Proper Hydration to Stay Cool on the Trails

Know All Possible Hazards

Hydration and snacking aren't the only winter hiking concerns. You also need to be aware of hiking in steep terrain, which is prone to avalanches, and storms that cover the trail with fresh snow. Both of these make navigation difficult. To avoid such complications:

  • Always check the weather before you leave, even up until the moment you walk out the door.
  • Know the area. Bring someone with you if you plan to explore a new area in the middle of the winter,
  • Always carry a topographical map and a compass; learn how to use both properly before you hit the trail.

Other gear to bring: a first aid kit, firestarter, waterproof matches, a pocket knife, an emergency blanket and even a bivy sack.

Finally, let someone know where you're going, when you'll be back, and who to call if they don't hear back from you at a specified time.

With a little care and preparation up front, anyone can discover the joys of winter hiking.

More: 8 Hiking Safety Tips

RAFind a Campground at

Jeff Doran is author of the Huckleberry Hiker blog and the new hiking website for Glacier National Park,
  • 3
  • of
  • 3

Discuss This Article