Hiking Essentials for Winter and Summer Trails
The lure of the outdoors and hitting the trails draws people in the Winter and Summer seasons. Each season offers varied and exhilarating advantages including, sight lines pronouncing new views not visible during summer when trees block the way. You experience wildlife which are more visible in certain environments. And many hikers wait for the cooler fall and even winter temperatures.
This article is geared toward day hikes, but each section is important if you are on your own, with a hiking buddy or an experienced hike leader.
Preparation is essential and includes more than staying warm or cool. The first of the bare essentials are looked at by most hike leaders or experienced hikers who plan for the mileage, elevation, and the in and out time of the hike. But there are plenty of ways to prepare for a day hike that are common to both seasons.
· Stretch – Cold stretch is not always recommended, but you must warm up the muscles ahead of going out on the trail.
· Know your personal limitations – We all want to keep a good, healthy pace but attempting to climb elevations too fast or descend quickly can cause injury. And there’s no need to keep up with the rest of the group unless you are driven to be at the head of the pack. Stay at a speed you know will keep you fresh for the entire length of the hike.
· Know the trail and conditions – If on a group hike, even though it is the responsibility of the leader to have scouted the trail before- hand, you should have a map and a good idea where the trail starts, finishes and landmarks along the trail.
· Backpack essentials: Trail map, first-aid supplies, flashlight or headlamp, compass, knife, water (try a hydration pack) and a supply of healthy snacks.
Many day hikes that I have led, people fail to realize how to prepare for the seasonal conditions. If you are planning your first hike or are in a hiking club, find out from the leader or a local camping or hiking sport store the type of conditions you may encounter, When gearing up for a winter hike (depending on conditions: ex: snow) you will need the following: footwear, layering of clothing and traction aids that will aid in the different conditions including ice, wind speeds, temperature changes and trail conditions.
When preparing for a hike with the weather in the thirties, bright sun and no wind, we all know that once you get going, the body will burn more calories trying to keep warm. Which means if you overdress based on standing in a freezing cold parking lot waiting for others to show, then you better have plenty of room in your backpack to cram in the extra unnecessary layers you’ll shed once you walk a few miles.
Below are the essentials. For more details and to view the selection, I recommend the REI site.
· Water – yes, that’s obvious, but in cold weather you don’t feel as thirsty. And that’s when dehydration sneaks in. You still sweat and your body needs hydration.
· Boots – Leather, synthetic leather (lighter) waterproof, heavy mid-souls if hiking rocks. Gloves – waterproof, lightweight fleece. Hat – Merino Wool dries fast, retains insulation when wet and will wick sweat away from your skin.
· Dress in layers: Mid-layer (fleece pullover or insulated vest) Base Layer (long sleeve pullover) Jacket (Waterproof/Windproof insulated jacket with hood)
· Boot traction: The best value are micro-spikes; stretch over boot and have steel spikes that dig into ice.
· If hiking in snow: High Gaiters and you must know if snow-shoes are needed or if foot traction protection is enough.
· Sunglasses – Check the selection of Oakley outdoor sunglasses. UV protection is a must to battle blue light, but polarized lenses are needed for glare. The lens needs to be polycarbonate (glass lens can break) and wrap around frames stay on the face.
· Backpack – I recommend a large day pack with hydration bladder and room for storing layers that you may shed.
The same theme exists for summer hiking as does winter – prepare for the season with the proper gear and logistics. First, as always, health and staying healthy is the goal. With summer comes humidity. Dehydration, skin protection and strenuous elevations need consideration before hitting the trail head.
· Sunscreen – needed year-round in low and high sun intensity conditions.
· Hydration bladder – inserts in backpack -you will have a constant water flow – important to hydrate mouth.
· Clothing – Shirts – cotton is best for skin, but holds moisture. This can keep the skin cool, but try moisture wicking materials. Pants – I suggest organic cotton long pants to protect against poison ivy and ticks with zip away feature to wear as shorts. Rain Gear – light material with hood for those summer showers that pop up.
· Boots – day hikes, try low cut models with more flex in the midsole –also, trail runners are not boots, but day hikers are using these for easier trails.
In conclusion, day hiking in any season is great fun and a healthy activity. But most important is health, so you should know the trail conditions, dress for comfort and weather conditions, have enough water, snacks, compass and first aid supplies. Before the hike, try to warm up your muscles with a light stretching exercise.
Article by Tom Kuntzmann.
Tom is a published fiction and non-fiction author living in New York. His blog, Stories Lounge NY contains links to his novel and other published articles. Tom is an outdoorsman with main interests in hiking, biking, golf and white- water rafting. He is a member of the Long Island Writers Guild and Appalachian Mountain Club.