So last week we explored the reasons why you might want to go hiking in winter, but for many of us, we feel like we don’t know what to look out for when hiking in winter, or what gear we might need. I put the question to some of our members at Escaping your Comfort Zone, and they came up with some awesome ideas!
Half the battle is getting out there! Cold mornings can make it really difficult to get out of bed in time to drive to the starting point of your hike. One of our leaders suggested organising your bag and clothes the night before, making it easier to get ready and getting rid of some of those excuses. Richelle even suggested sleeping in your nice warm thermal base layers as pyjamas!
You’ll hear us talk a lot about layering your clothing at Escaping your Comfort Zone, but its more important in winter than at any other time. If you can afford it, get some top quality merino thermal base layers, but if not, you can pick up a pair of leggings and a long sleeved top relatively cheaply. Just make sure that the fabric is designed to wick the moisture away from your body. This is essential for keeping warm on the trail. Even when it is bitterly cold, bulky jumpers can cause you to overheat when you’re physically exerting yourself, and you might wish you wore multiple, thinner layers instead. Avoid cotton fabrics in all your layers as this sticks to your skin and doesn’t dry easily, which can result in hypothermia.
Keep your extremities warm with gloves, a beanie, a neck warmer and some good quality socks. Once you’re moving and on the trail, your extremities often warm up quickly – but its nice to be warm when you start out.
Keeping a change of dry clothes, including shoes and socks, in the car is a great idea, so you have something warm to change in on the drive home. A thermos of hot soup or tea was also a popular suggestion to wind up a hike too. Lots of Escaping your Comfort Zone’s hikes end up with lunch or morning tea at a café or restaurant – this is another great way to warm up!
Well, there’s no real guarantee to staying dry in the rain – you’re going to get wet, regardless of what gear you’re wearing, but there are some tried and tested ways of staying drier!
Of course, one of the best ways to stay more dry is to carry a waterproof jacket or poncho. A lightweight waterproof jacket doesn’t need to be expensive, but makes a huge difference to how you feel getting rained on. Protip: wear a peaked hat, like a baseball cap, to keep the rain off your face. You can put a beanie over the top of that if you want to keep your head warm.
Safety and awareness
The trail can be wet and slippery in the cooler months, so you’ll need to be more aware of your surroundings. Your shoes might have lots of grip but if the terrain your walking on is muddy, mossy or covered in wet leaves, you might find yourself falling over. Lots of us find that hiking poles are really useful during winter to stop you slipping over.
While you might not need to carry as much water in the winter, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to carry any! Make sure you stay hydrated, as sometimes its easy to forget to drink water when its cold.
The shorter days mean that you need to check what time the sun is due to set. It can be a big shock to see the light disappearing at 5:00pm, so make sure you plan to be back well before sunset if you don’t want to finish in the dark. Many of our members recommended carrying a small torch or headlamp with you, even if you’re not planning on being out late.
Make sure you are aware of how to identify and treat hypothermia – keep an eye out for clumsiness, slurred speech, apathy and irrational behaviour, as these are telltale signs that someone has gotten too cold. Protect yourself against hypothermia by ensuring you wear the right clothes, and a light and cheap addition to your first aid kit is a ‘space blanket‘ – a foil blanket that radiates 90% of heat back towards the skin. It looks like it couldn’t possibly do any good, but they are surprisingly effective!
It can’t be said enough, that having the commitment to other people to get out on the trail makes a huge difference to our ability to do it ourselves. Winter bushwalking is often about struggling through adversity, and having someone beside you who is sharing your experiences, cheering your through obstacles and rejoicing in your successes is really powerful.
A lot of this is pretty simple, and the good news is for many of us there’s very little extra gear that we need to buy to keep hiking safely right throughout winter. All it takes is a bit of adjustment in our mindset, and we can do anything!
If you buy any of the products linked here from our partners at Wild Earth, they donate a portion of the sale to Escaping your Comfort Zone! We’d love them even if they didn’t do that – they have great prices on a wide range of quality outdoor gear, so check them out!
Have we sold you on just how easy it is to get hiking in winter? Give a hike with Escaping your Comfort Zone a go!
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