Cold weather hikes are some of the most beautiful, but they can also be the most dangerous. Low temperatures and icy terrains make for a more challenging adventure — even to experienced hikers.
That’s not to say they can’t also be some of the most fun and scenic hikes you take in your life, you just need to exercise caution and plan ahead. So before you head out on an overnight trek, here’s what you need to know to stay safe.
Stay hydrated — and well-fed
One of the most important things you need before you head out for an overnight, cold-weather hike is plenty of water and food.
While you might not feel thirsty, cold air can contribute to dehydration fast and put you at an increased risk for hypothermia. Pack plenty of water, Pedialyte and broth to keep your electrolyte levels high, and be sure to drink even if you don’t feel parched.
On a similar note, your body will need calories to stay warm and energized. You won’t want to stop and snack like you do on a warm summer hike, so pack food you can easily open and eat while you move.
Pack a solar power charger
If you’re hiking multiple days, you’ll need to keep your devices charged. A solar power charger is an efficient, lightweight way to stay connected and safe. Find a compact model that pairs with foldable, packable panels for ultimate portability and freedom to take your power with you as you go.
Wear the right layers
Dressing for a cold weather hike can be tricky. You want to stay warm, but you don’t want to walk with sweaty fabric sticking to your body. Layers are the simplest solution, but you must choose the correct fabric.
Cotton will maintain moisture and freeze in extreme temperatures, so leave the hoodies at home. Start with moisture-wicking layers and build up from there. Your top jacket and your pants should be water resistant, as well.
Finally, don’t forget about your extremities. Wear gloves that offer enough mobility for you to eat, drink and use ski poles or set up your tent. Pack extra socks to make sure your feet are constantly dry and keep a face mask on you at all times in case wind picks up. A warm hat can also help keep your body temperature in a safe zone.
One of the most difficult aspects of your overnight hike will be sleeping. You’ll have to stay warm enough all night to keep from getting frostbite or hypothermia, so how you set up camp is crucial.
First, find a spot that’s not at risk for an avalanche. Ideally, you’ll have natural wind barriers, like trees or hills, to protect you. Setting up in a spot that faces the sunrise will help you warm up faster in the morning. Then, pack down the snow where you plan to place your tent. Pick a spot that’s sheltered from the wind and free of avalanche danger, then prep your tent site by packing down the snow. Make sure your sleeping bag is intended for freezing temperatures and use your gear to insulate the inside of your tent.
Before you leave in the morning, pack up all your belongings and trash. The best overnight hike is always the one where you leave no trace.