"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Winter Hiking: Magical or Miserable?

By mid-winter, our desire to hibernate can begin to feel constricted quite than comforting. What higher antidote to cooped up indoors than a brisk hike within the fresh air outside?

Winter backgrounds are stark, calm and sometimes spectacular. With fewer people on the trail, yow will discover more creatures out and about. And it's a very important opportunity to have interaction with the seasons around us and our living planet, says Dr. Stuart Harris, chief of the Division of Wilderness Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. But traveling several miles through rough, cold terrain may be very different from mountaineering in hot weather, requiring health and safety considerations. Here's what to know before you go.

Winter Hiking: Safety First

“When the environmental conditions are a bit more challenging, the challenge of hiking on winter days requires a very different approach than on a summer day,” says Dr. Harris. “But it allows us to immerse ourselves in the living world around us. It is our ancient heritage.”

A security-first attitude is particularly vital in the event you're mountaineering with people of various ages and talents—say, with older relatives or young children. Having each the best gear and the best mindset is crucial to creating it fun and secure for everybody involved.

Planning and preparing for winter travel

Prepare well upfront, especially in the event you're mixing participants with different fitness levels. Plan your route rigorously, quite than simply winging it.

People on the extremes of age — very old or very young — are most vulnerable to cold temperatures, and mountaineering in cold weather will be more taxing on the body. “Winter conditions can be more demanding on the heart than a full-temperature day,” says Harris. “Be mindful of the physical abilities of everyone in your group, explain where you're going. This is fun, not a punishing activity.”

Before establishing:

  • Know the space, elevation and distance you'll be mountaineering, advises Dr. Harris, and check the forecast for the realm you'll be mountaineering in, considering wind chill and speed. Especially at high altitudes, the weather can change from hour to hour, so keep abreast of temperature levels and expectations of any precipitation.
  • Know that you simply'll have access to emergency cell coverage if something goes mistaken.
  • Always share plans with someone who is just not in your hike, including the expected route and time of your return. Fill out trailhead registers so park rangers know you're on the trail in case of an emergency.

What to wear for winter travel

Prepare for extreme cold, wind, snow, and even rain to avoid frostbite or hypothermia, when body temperature drops dangerously low.

  • Dress in layers. Several thin layers of clothing are higher than one thick one. Peel off a layer whenever you're feeling hot in the new sun and reapply whenever you're within the shade. Ideally, wear a base layer fabricated from wicking fabric that wicks sweat away from the skin, followed by layers that insulate and protect against wind and moisture. “As they say, there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing,” says Dr. Harris. “Take a day pack or rucksack and throw some extra thermal layers in. I never go on a hike without the ability to change as the weather changes.”
  • Protect head, hands and feet. Wear a wool hat, a thick pair of gloves or mittens, and two pairs of socks. Bring dry spares. Your shoes ought to be waterproof and have a rugged, grippy sole.
  • Wear sunscreen. You can still get a sunburn within the winter, especially in places where the sun's glare reflects off the snow.

Carry the crucial equipment to assist ensure safety

  • Additional food and water. Hiking within the cold takes a whole lot of energy, burning more calories than the identical activity in summer temperatures. Pack nutritious snacks like trail mix and granola bars, which frequently mix nuts, dried fruit and oats to supply essential protein, fat and calories. Staying hydrated can also be vital to maintain your core temperature normal. Bonus points for bringing a hot drink in a thermos to warm your core in the event you're cold.
  • First-aid boxes. Bandages for slipping or scraping on the trail and heat-reflective blankets to cover anyone showing signs of hypothermia are smart. Even in sub-freezing temperatures, hypothermia is feasible. Watch for symptoms resembling tremors, confusion, fatigue, or slurred speech, and seek immediate help.
  • source of sunshine. Time your hike so that you're not on the trail in the dead of night. But in the event you get stuck, bring a light-weight source. “A flashlight or headlamp is quite useful if you're hiking anywhere near the edges of daylight,” says Harris.
  • Phone, map, compass, or GPS device plus extra batteries. Don't depend on your phone for GPS tracking, but keep it fully charged if you want to reach someone quickly. “Make sure you have the technology and skills to be able to navigate on or off-trail,” and that you might have a way of external communication, especially in the event you're a big, mixed-use company. are within the group. “