Winter camping is a challenging adventure that can be risky, yet thrilling. The skillset required for winter camping is vastly different from camping in the warmer seasons. It’s tricky because daylight hours are shorter, while the nights are long and cold. You will likely encounter snow when hiking in winters. Snow can make hiking even more difficult, which is why winter hiking is also a great way to spend some quiet time in the mountains when most people are back home in their cozy beds.
Pros of Winter Hiking
First, let’s explore some advantages of winter hiking:
- Clearer night skies offer stargazing opportunities;
- Cross frozen lakes and explore far beyond what you can’t during summers;
- Nature is completely different in winters with varying animals and day and nightlife;
- It can be satisfying and rewarding when you successfully finish a winter camping trip;
- It is a new and different skill to learn with unique gears and tools that aren’t used during summers;
- You can try winter sports like skiing and snowboarding;
- Dogs love snow! Have a great time with your pet in the mountains;
- And lastly, no bugs! What more can we say to convince you?
Winter Camping with your Dog
There are some things that you should consider before taking your dog on a winter hike. Honestly and objectively, think about these aspects:
- Is your dog too small, old, or short-haired to handle cold weather? It may love hiking in summers, but not all dogs can handle snow.
- Is your dog healthy, obese, or underweight?
- Are your dog’s legs too short to walk comfortably in the snow?
- Is your dog trained well enough to stay by your side when outdoors? Does it listen to commands?
Leave your dog behind if it’s not ready or physically capable of a winter hiking trip.
How to Camp in Winter?
Now that you’re ready and excited, here are some quick tips to get you started on prepping for your trip:
- Invest in winter gear. You can borrow or rent equipment instead of buying it because winter gear can be expensive.
- Before you go on a long hike for weeks, take shorter daytime trips to a similar but closer location to give you some idea of what to expect and what to pack for your trip.
- If it is your first winter hiking trip, it is wise to tag along with someone experienced. Talk to any friends or guides that frequent snowy mountainous terrains. You can even enroll with a hiking organization.
- Some books that can guide you as you hike in winters include:
- Hypothermia, Frostbite, and Other Cold Injuries: Prevention, Recognition and Pre-Hospital Treatment, by James A. Wilkerson.
- NOLS Winter Camping, by Buck Tilton
- Paradise Below Zero: The Classic Guide to Winter Camping, by Calvin Rutstrum
- Secrets of Warmth for Comfort or Survival, by Hal Weiss
There are numerous other books that you can refer to for some comprehensive guidance.
- Try camping in colder months in the fall or spring so that you get accustomed to the change in gear and develop skills slowly instead of jumping right into extreme weather.
Planning your Winter Hike
Research and proper preparation will make your trip enjoyable and safe. Following are some tips that will help you prepare:
- Research the specific area that you plan on exploring. Search for any blogs that offer information or experiences. If you can’t find much material on the internet, contact a local guide and ask them about the weather conditions and essential gear.
- Guides can also tell you about factors such as seasonal road closures in winters. They will also tell you which areas to stay clear of due to excessive depth of snow.
- Check the weather forecast in advance.
- Bring maps or printed pictures you found online to easily locate various areas because it can be easy to get lost when everything is covered with snow.
- Keep a notebook and take notes whenever you feel like you could have brought something to make things easier or left something at home because you didn’t use it much. This notebook will help you plan future hikes.
- Write down the routes you will take and leave them with at least two contacts along with your expected time of return. If you’re not back by then, they can help begin a search operation at the correct location.
Packing for your Winter Hike
Make sure that you make a last-second checklist to run through right before leaving for the trip so that you don’t leave anything behind.
Here’s a list of some basic items, just as a reminder:
- An extra pair of batteries, toilet paper, cooking fuel, hand cleaners, etc.
- Map and compass (preferably one that doesn’t run on a battery)
- Flashlight or headlamp. Keep one for your dog as well. You hang it around their collar so that you can easily spot them in the dark.
- Extra food in an emergency pack in case you are delayed in bad weather conditions, get lost, get injured and can’t move, etc. Keep carbohydrate-rich snacks because they help ward off hypothermia. Make a special pack for your dog with treats to appreciate their good behavior.
- Snow blindness can be dangerous! Remember to bring a sturdy pair of travel-friendly sunglasses and sunscreen. You can get sunburned in winters too! Snow reflects UV light.
- First aid kit (duh!). Remember to keep essentials for your dog as well!
- Campfires are winter essential. Bring around extra pairs of emergency matches, lighters, or fire-starting kits. Fires can also signal your presence to people in case there is an emergency.
- A kit to repair winter camping equipment.
- A snow shovel, snowshoes, icepicks, etc.
- Consider a sled to carry your weight. It is easier to have your dog drag your sled since it slides easily across the snow.
How to Layer up for Winter Hiking
Layering is the most efficient way to ward off the cold. It is also easy to modify layers with the rise or fall of the temperature. Here’s a quick guide on what each layer should consist of:
- The first layer (base layer) should be absorbent to absorb your sweat or other moisture. Consider wool or synthetic fiber.
- The second layer (mid-layer) should add insulation and keep you warm. This layer should be thicker than the first.
- The third layer should be wind and water repellent.
- The fourth layer is worn when taken rest or sleeping. It provides extra warmth, wind-proofing, and comfort. Usually a jacket, the fourth layer is easy to pull over or remove.
Remember to layer up your head, feet, and hands as well!
Winter hiking can be an exhilarating experience if done right. Plan right and meticulously. Do your research. Take short preparatory trips. Train yourself and your dog. Pack the right gear. Remember to make your trip eco-friendly. And you’re good to go!
by Maria A Davidson
We are in business to provide great products for the outdoorsy hikers, campers and their dogs; and to help clean our parks, rivers and oceans for a better planet earth for hikers and their dogs.
Parks are high-traffic areas in most cities. This means that trash is bound to show up in and around your park and playground.
When discussing ways your family can help clean your local park, don’t overlook a literal cleanup! Picking up trash will make a huge difference in the appearance and vibe of your park. A clean area will encourage others to keep the park pristine. When picking up trash and debris, make sure to wear gloves to protect yourself, and put trash in appropriate receptacles or lawn bags. You can also contact your local trash company to schedule a pickup when you are finished.
The storm drain on your street collects the water from your roof, driveway, and sidewalk and funnels it directly in your local lake or river. Nutrients from grass and leaves, pet waste, and fertilizers “enrich” our lakes and streams — feeding algae blooms and harming fish. Chemicals from washing your car in the drive and household chemical spills add up, taking a nasty toll on our favorite swimming areas and fishing spots. Soil can also be picked up by runoff, reducing the clarity of water and hurting fish.
So as you prepare your lawn and garden, here are a few helpful tips to keep our lakes and rivers beautiful and safe for all of us.
- Use mulch and vegetation to keep soil from washing away.
- Sweep or rake grass and leaves away from street curbs.
- Mulch and compost grass clippings and leaves.
- Keep paved surfaces to a minimum.
- Capture water runoff with a rain garden and rain barrels.
- Wash your car on the grass, where the water will get filtered.
- Keep chemicals away from storm drains.
- Collect your pet’s waste.
- Aim your rain-gutter downspouts onto grass.
Beaches Clean (do it for the ocean)
In 2007, the United States Senate and House of Representatives passed the National Clean Beaches Week Resolution to recognize the value of beaches to the American way of life and the important contributions of beaches to the economy, recreation, and natural environment of the United States.
Clean Beaches Week, celebrated annually July 1-7, offers the perfect opportunity to encourage stewardship and volunteerism along our coastlines. But where do you even begin? Follow these tips to get started.
- Identify a clean-up site. Choose a place that needs some TLC, making sure that volunteers can safely access the site. Get permission, if needed, for your clean-up event, perhaps from the local parks agency.
- Choose a site coordinator. (That might be you!) A beach clean-up takes a lot of work and needs an organized person to keep everything on track before, during, and after the event.
- Visit the site in advance. The coordinator will need to know where to set up a volunteer check-in station, where to leave trash and recyclables, and what area(s) volunteers will clean.
- Gather supplies. Depending on your location, you’ll need supplies such as trash bags, a first aid kit, hand sanitizer, wipes, and large coolers of water. You should also provide (or ask volunteers to bring) items such as reusable work/garden gloves, reusable water bottles, sunscreen, and bug spray.
- Plan how to handle the recyclables. Reach out to recyclers in your area (and perhaps your community’s solid waste departments) to make arrangements for accepting any glass, plastic, and aluminum that you collect.
- Line up event partners. Contact local businesses for donations of drinks, food, and supplies. Ask a local solid waste hauler to donate their services for trash removal.
- Plan for handling hazardous waste. Determine how you’ll dispose of any medical and sewage waste you might find. One solution: A wide-mouth container with a tight-fitting lid, such as an empty laundry detergent bottle. Clearly label that it contains hazardous waste.
- Get volunteers to help. Recruit friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Create an event on Facebook and ask volunteers to sign up online. This will give you an idea of how many people to expect and will help communicate event details.
- Stay safe. Be prepared for a variety of health emergencies, from minor cuts and scrapes to heat stroke.
- Take photos! Post pics online to share the success of your event and recognize volunteers for their hard work.