Winter can provide an unfriendly time to go hiking or camping, but with a little planning and proper preparation, a winter hike can be fun, safe and enjoyable. Keep the following in mind next time you're trekking out in the cold:
For your own safety, never go hiking or camping alone in the winter. The possible variables and potential consequences are too high.
Begin your trip early in the day. Daylight hours are short in the winter with the sun setting early. Also, be prepared with a headlamp, flashlight and batteries. Lithium batteries are more reliable in the cold than alkaline ones, try to keep them on hand.
Leave an itinerary with a friend, inform them when you are expecting to be back and who to contact should you be late/not arrive.
Deep snow may obscure the trail or trail markers. Topographical maps, a compass and knowledge of how to use them is essential. Do not rely on your GPS.
Dress in layers. Be prepared to keep warm with nothing more than what you have on you. Assess whether it's worth bringing along extra clothing or an emergency shelter in your pack.
Understand the dynamics of an avalanche and know hot to safely travel avalanche terrain. If you are traveling on snow, be aware of your surroundings. If this all sounds unfamiliar, take a class locally on winter hiking training so you may practice these skills.
Learn how to build an emergency shelter. Never count on a fire or stove to keep you warm.
Be alert for signs of hypothermia or frostbite. Understand the signs and symptoms and how to treat them. Take a wilderness first aid class to better prepare.
If you are not an overly experienced hiker practice with day trips in areas you are familiar with. Similarly go on trips with experienced hikers who are familiar with the area.
Eat and drink often. Dehydration speeds up the onset of hypothermia. Do not underestimate the amount of food you will need. Winter backpacking requires 4,000-5,000 calories a day.
Use the above information to get started with your preparations and remember you can never be too prepared.