what to expect and how to prepare
If you haven’t yet done a snow hike, free up a weekend in the winter and hit the trails! Snow hikes provide a unique set of challenges to a hiker that I feel every outdoors enthusiast should undertake. Generally speaking hiking in the snow isn’t as daunting as you might be expecting. With the proper gear and preparation, you’ll be safe and have an awesome time.
So what should you expect?
Obviously, it’s cold, how cold depends on what part of the world you plan on doing this. Check the weather reports of the area you intend on hiking first to get a good idea of what to expect.
It’s going to be bright, it’s cold but that doesn’t mean the sun isn’t going to be harsh on you, so don’t forget a good pair of sunglasses or ski goggles and sunscreen.
You’re going to get wet; hopefully only the outside of you though, so waterproof gear is important. As soon as anything touches the ground, it’s wet, and out in the snow getting dry is next to impossible. You’re essentially hiking through shallow water.
But what should you pack? We’ve compiled a complete packing list.
First and easily the most important, a large enough hiking pack. There is no exact size that you need as many factors can affect this, but I would recommend a pack around the 75L mark. Things to look for in a good pack are a chest and waist strap. These two straps will greatly increase comfort for the added weight over a day’s typical day pack. If possible, test fit your pack, pack comfort can make or break your hike. Look for a pack that will let you adjust the strap height on your back. The more adjustments available the better, as comfort is key. Weight distribution in your pack is also important, See our guide for packing your pack.
Next is your tent, most good hiking tents are small enough to fit inside the bottom of your pack. Hiking tents are small and lighter than a regular two-man tent but not strictly essential over the other. So if you don’t have a ‘hiking tent’ then worst case strap a standard two-man tent to the outside of your pack. Packing one tent between two obviously greatly reduces how much weight you’re carrying. The extra body heat in your tent would also be a welcomed comfort overnight in the snow.
Food. This one is obvious but what to take? Some good cheap go to are rice and couscous. They’re both lightweight, filling and easy to prepare. Any dehydrated food that simply requires water is a good idea, but ultimately take whatever doesn’t require too much preparation. It’s also important to take plenty of snack food for brief stops along the way, and if possible aim for high-protein snacks, such as protein bars and beef jerky. Make sure to overpack your food if possible, should you be stuck out there (God forbid) you’ll be needing it.
As for clothing, waterproofing is greatly important. For starters a warm waterproof jacket is essential, staying dry is key. wear plenty of layers but keep in mind that even when it’s very cold you be warm while hiking, but trust me, you’ll feel the cold when you stop. over your pants I suggest wearing lightweight waterproof pants, you can get these from most outdoor retailers, they are great for keeping the wind and water off your legs and good for tucking over the top of your boots. for the rest of your clothes, make sure to pack some extras of everything in the event you get wet so you’ll have a dry change of clothes. The two key points to take away regarding your clothing is waterproofing and covering every bit of skin with clothing.
Snow hike gear checklist:
- Waterproof Boots
- The higher the boots go up above your ankles the better, once snow gets into your boots you’re going to have a bad time.
- Hiking pack
- Sleeping Bag
- Sleeping Mat
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Snow Shoes
- Waterproof Pants
- Wind/waterproof jacket
- Snow Gloves
- Face mask
- Sun Glasses or Ski goggles
- Thermals x 2
- Thick socks x 3
- Emergency blanket
- PLB (Personal locating beacon)