Winter Hiking Tips |

Winter Hiking Tips

Buck Mountain Buck Mountain | Photo: Neal Estano.

Reid Kisselback
Updated: January 12, 2021 01:25 PM
Created: January 12, 2021 01:00 PM

State and local officials are expecting a noticeable increase of visitors this winter in the Adirondacks and Catskills with folks wanting to get out outside due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Both this past summer and fall saw unprecedented numbers of hikers in the region, and with those increased numbers, came a record number of rescues of lost and injured hikers. Here are some tips if you plan to go on a winter hike.

Hiking in the wintertime is very different from what you would encounter the other three seasons. You can see a variety of conditions from deep snow to severe wind chills. It is important to know your route and the conditions of the trail you are going to take. Not only would this help you if you get lost, but it also helps you figure out what gear to bring. Check the weather forecast for the day of your hike, night and following day in case you have to spend an unexpected night in the woods. Hiking in the snow also takes longer so make sure you go earlier in the day.

Here are 8 Hiking Essentials to carry in your backpack:

1) Navigation Tool

It could be a map, compass, GPS system (bring extra batteries).

2) Light

A headlamp, lanterns, or a flashlight works (pack extra batteries).

3) First Aid Kit

Use either a pre made kit or one of your own.

4) Emergency Kit

Has a whistle, signal mirror, duct tape, pocket knife/ multi-tool, etc.

5) Fire

Could be matches in a waterproof container, lighter, or fire starters

6) Nutrition/Water

For food go for high protein and high calorie items. Pack this in the center of the pack to avoid freezing. For water take at least 2 liters per person as well as a water filtration or purifying system. You can also pack this in the center of the pack to avoid freezing or insulate the hydro tubing. For both food and water pack more than you think you will need.

7) Emergency Shelter

Could be a tent, space blanket, or a tarp.

8) The Right Hiking Layers

Dress Properly. The key to winter hiking is wearing layers that keep you both warn AND dry.  For winter layering, you want a next-to-skin base layer, a mid-weight insulating layer, a fleece or puffy, and a weatherproof shell.  Base layers should be made of synthetic fabric or merino wool that wick moisture and dry quickly. Avoid anything cotton because that stays damp and heavy and loses its insulating properties when it’s wet. Click here for a helpful link with examples of clothing. Waterproof boots are a must and bringing something to help with grip (gaiters, microspikes, snowshoes, etc.) is a good idea too. Be sure to also pack a hat, gloves, goggles, facemask, and  extra socks

For more on winter hiking in the Adirondacks and hiking essentials, see the state Department of Environmental Conservation Hike Smart NY and the Adirondack Back Country Information websites or you can check out this video or this web article, checkout this video, or this web article.

If you are lost or in need of rescue dial 911. For emergency Forest Ranger dispatch in the Adirondacks call 518-891-0235. For emergency Forest Ranger dispatch elsewhere in New York State call 518-408-5850.

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