Winter is fast approaching and if we’ve learned anything from the outdoor gear sales in Calgary it’s that the folks of YYC found a new enthusiasm for the outdoors. Here are some tips to help carry the hiking trend through the colder months.
Dress is crucial for keeping safe and warm, whether you’re headed to Fish Creek for a stroll or to Chester Lake in Spray Valley check the weather report as close to your time of arrival as you can. We know that the weather can change on a dime here in Alberta. Toque or something to cover the ears and a buff for your face will protect those frostbite sensitive areas. Your first layer should be close to your skin and breathe well, if you know you sweat a lot during activity something made of merino wool will dry quickly and many brands use this material for base layers.
A second and third layer can be a light sweater or insulator then a waterproof shell or your ski jacket - hopefully it’s vented at the armpit if you’ve chosen a trail with a lot of elevation gain. If you start to heat up you can always unzip! Legs can be layered up in a similar fashion, if you know the snow will be deep then a pair of gaiters will be your best friend. These can be used year round for a muddy trail or a small stream crossing.
Hands and feet can make or break an outdoor adventure. Glove up! On your feet a great pair of smart wools go a long way. Boots are your preference. I hike year round with waterproof backpacking boots and they have never done me wrong. Wear boots you’re comfortable in and you know won’t blister your feet.
To yak track or to snowshoe? That is the question. When there is a fresh layer of deep snow or if you plan on off trail adventuring snowshoes all the way! They change your gait slightly so expect to feel muscles in your legs you didn’t know you had. If you’re on a trail that has been packed down and may be icy yak tracks are a great way to be confident in your step. I’ve used them in shoulder seasons and they work great for mud as well. Keeping them in your backpack most of the year is always a good idea!
Water and snacks! If you are used to your camelbak bladder for the warmer months beware freezing hose! You can get insulated hoses or just carry a bottle in your bag to avoid this issue. Hot Tip! You may not be as thirsty in the cold but you still need to drink!
Light weight and calorie dense food is ideal for a longer trek. I love trail mix and granola bars. A thermos of hot chocolate, tea or broth can be really satisfying on a cold day hike. Anything that doesn’t need a lot of preparation and can be easily carried. I’ve been known to pack in my jetboil and make fresh coffee while taking shelter in some trees.
Safety. Eye protection is important. The sun beaming off the snow can cause the eyes to burn just as much as a direct sunlight. The same goes for your skin, SPF in the winter will help you avoid that winter glasses tan.
The gear and the food and water are a big part of being safe on your adventure. Please always let someone know what your plan is for the day. Give them the trail location and an approximate time they should expect a call from you when you’re back in service or home safely. Especially if you’re a solo adventurer.
It’s a good idea to read up on the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. It’s possible that you might be working hard as you walk your chosen trail and while you might feel “hot” from your activity your face might be catching a cold wind.
Overall, going into the day with an attitude of anything can happen will ensure a good time. I’ve learned to turn my slips, trips and falls during my hike from a scary thing that makes me go “AH!” into a fun thing that makes me say “WOO!”