1. Never hike alone.
It may sound like common sense to the intermediate hiker. For beginner and advanced hikers, though, there’s often a temptation to chart your own course. Avoiding this temptation can save your life: Ideally, hikers should travel in groups of four, with each person having a buddy who can focus on his or her partner’s safety.
Bonus tip: Print off this free hike itinerary and leave it behind at home or with an emergency contact. In the event the unthinkable happens, rescuers will know where to search.
2. In snowy terrain, trade in your summer hiking boots for crampons or snowshoes.
Your summer hiking boots aren’t designed for hiking in the snow. Even if they’re waterproof hiking boots (and all winter hiking boots should be, at minimum), they likely lack an outsole that has adequate grip for snowy conditions.
To solve this problem, consider opting for crampons. Steel crampons will give you the traction you need to keep your stance in the densest of ice-capped snow, tundra and powder.
3. Keep hydrated.
Cold conditions can trick you into thinking that you don’t need water. But amid a snowy hike, it’s just as important—if not more so—to stay hydrated. According to the Mayo Clinic, “You can become just as dehydrated in the cold as in the heat from sweating, breathing and increased urine production, but it may be harder to notice during cold weather.”
Pro tip: Keep your water at room temperature, where it’s less likely to freeze but also boils easier if you need to use it to cook food in an emergency.
4. Gear up.
When hiking in the winter, investing in high-quality gear is essential to your safety, and it’s important to plan for worst-case scenarios. Some essential items you should consider purchasing for your hike:
- Goggles for improved visibility.
- Mini-shovel for digging shelters in the snow or out of avalanches.
- Headlamp and extra batteries for navigating darker environments.
5. Check the weather.
By checking conditions ahead of your potential hike, you can often avert emergencies. As conditions can change rapidly, especially in mountainous terrain, it’s important to check the National Weather Service in the hours before your hike. If conditions appear even potentially dicey, don’t risk your life by embarking anyway.
For more information on hiking, check out our hiking tips.
Follow these tips, and live to hike another day.