Hiking year-round, even in winter, isn’t impossible. In fact, the solitude of a hiking trail in January and February offers its own kind of restorative perks — but being prepared is key.
As an avid winter hiker and runner, there are a few things that I don’t leave home without: a head lamp, microspikes, a paper map, water bottle, hat and gloves. It’s a winter survival kit that can all be tucked away easily in a small backpack or water pack.
Here’s why: Conditions can change rapidly in winter, especially with altitude. Light fades quickly this time of year, and smartphones die. And sometimes even familiarity with a trail can leave you in a perilous position.
While on a trail run one winter, for instance, I realized that the sun was setting a lot faster than I was running. I watched the sky turn all sorts of colors, like a bruise that is both beautiful and haunting. As I glanced at my phone to look at the time, I saw my battery was at 10 percent and I had 3 miles to go. It started getting a grey dark and then a brown dark, and just as my phone died and shut itself off, it became a deep dark. Fortunately I knew the trail, because I foolishly had no headlamp or flashlight on my phone to help me make out the contours of the ground.
Now? I pack all the essentials for winter hikes, and leave the micro spikes and a headlamp in the glove compartment of my car to grab if conditions warrant, just in case.
Microspikes offer extra grip on trails in icy and light snow conditions and easily slip on over hiking boots or running shoes. They’ll prevent sliding on a sheet of ice or on slippery rocks, and will make you feel like you have super powers that enable you to safely walk across any slick-coated trail or crunchy top layer of snow. Collapsible trekking poles are another smart piece of equipment to invest in to keep your footing on any hike, but especially those tackled in winter.
If you like to take your time on a hike, stop and have a snack, or even pivot to a different trail, a map is …….