Winter hiking can be a different experience than it is the rest of the year. It is peaceful, quiet, and so beautiful in the snow. If you’re like me, then you hate to be cold, so how can you be out in the freezing temperatures and still be safe and comfortable? Read on for everything you need to know about Winter Hiking.
Spikes / Crampons
There are basically two types of winter hiking. The most common is with spikes, also called crampons, micro-spikes, or ice cleats. There are different brands, but basically they are all a criss-cross of metal spikes or chains that attaches to your shoe or boot with a stretchy loop.
I have different brands of spikes. The heavier-duty ones I love are the Cimkiz-Plus Crampons. They have incredible traction and grip. The chains are sturdy and seem like they will really last through a beating. I used them for a couple years on dozens of hikes and they still look good as new. I also have a chain style from Ice Trekkers. These don’t offer quite as much grip, but also work better on icy pavement. I have about seven pairs total, so my friends and family can hike with me. I have tried a cheap pair of Yak-Trax I picked up at Costco. They are okay as long as it isn’t too icy, but not great. I would recommend paying a little more for better quality. They were fine for a while, but then they broke on a hike and I had to slip and slide back to my car.
The other type of winter hiking is with snow shoes. If there is deep new powder then you need to have snow shoes. Otherwise you would sink down into the snow. There is a whole range of snowshoes, between $80-350 or even more expensive.
If the trail is packed snow or ice, then you want to use micro-spikes. I use my spikes more often, but it depends where you plan to hike and how soon after the fresh snow.
Most of the time I hike in the winter with my Columbia boots or Altra Lone Peak boots, but you can use waterproof hiking boots or shoes with gators. (Both Columbia and Altra have great deals at their outlet stores in Lehi where I bought mine). Make sure to wear warm wool socks when winter hiking. Wool will wick away moisture from snow or sweat and keep you warm and dry. I love these Solace’s ones off Amazon.
You’ll be more likely to need hiking poles in the winter, but they may or may not be necessary depending on the hike. I just have hiking poles I picked up at Costco and they’re great. For the winter you’ll want the baskets at the bottom to keep them from sinking to deeply in the snow.
Dressing warm is an important part of winter hiking. My winter coat is Columbia brand and splits into two sections. It doesn’t have to, but it does give me the option to just wear one section. Just make sure that it is a ski jacket or rated for cold temperatures. Some brands to consider are:
Make sure you wear layers so that you can adjust to the temperature or as you warm up from exertion. That blue pullover I am wearing is my all-time favorite to wear year-round! It is BALEAF Women’s Thermal Fleece Half Zip Pullover. I also have the full zip in black! It is so comfortable and versatile. I wear it year round!
Wear gloves and a hat or winter headband that covers your ears. You will probably take them off as you warm up, but they’ll be very nice to start out.
Before you attempt any winter hike, double check if there is a chance of avalanche along your trail.
Here are a few winter hikes to get you started:
This is a great short one to test out winter hiking.
(the actual falls has avalanche danger, so check the forecast)
Red Pine Trail to Gloria Falls (or nearly there when it gets buried)
More options can be found here.
Even though there are lots of supplies you could potentially buy, I wouldn’t let that stop you from getting out anyway. If you live in Utah, you surely have a coat, hat, and gloves. Even if they aren’t premium, take those and some spikes and try winter hiking. You can borrow snowshoe equipment from a friend or rent some at place like REI or most colleges and universities. If you know me, you know I’d be happy to hike with you any time of year!