Six Additional Essentials for Winter Hiking

Clinton Scollard Camping

Win­ter in the back­coun­try is a mag­i­cal time, the eas­i­est hikes can become adven­tures and your old sum­mer­time stand­bys evolve into unfa­mil­iar worlds of white and wet and won­der. It’s also a time to take a few extra pieces of gear in your pack (as I’m assum­ing you always head out with the ten year-round essen­tials) so if the unex­pect­ed does hap­pen you’re as pre­pared as possible.

Snow Shov­el
Not just for avalanch­es, these stur­dy, light­weight snow dis­place­ment machines are indis­pens­able for build­ing a shel­ter out of snow whether it be a cave, a quinzee or a trench. They’re also handy if you your car is buried in fresh pow­der when you return from a trek. And if you’re head­ed into avalanche ter­ri­to­ry take a bea­con too for Santa’s-sake.

Extra set of lay­ers for all your extremities
Dur­ing the sum­mer tak­ing addi­tion­al lay­ers can seem like a unec­es­sary lux­u­ry, but in the sea­son of sol­stice it’s a bare-bones neces­si­ty. For cold weath­er hik­ing I tend to wear my lighter base lay­ers, includ­ing hat and gloves, so I don’t over­heat and get the lunchtime chills when I stop. For this rea­son I pack my heav­ier lay­ers includ­ing: a light­weight syn­thet­ic puffy (down is fine if you live in a dri­er clime than I), thick wool socks, insu­lat­ed and water­proof gloves, heavy­weight beanie and at least a medi­um weight set of ther­mal top and bottoms.

Sleep­ing Bag
Since you already have an emer­gency shel­ter in your kit, adding a sleep­ing bag is your next best defense against freez­ing dur­ing an unex­pect­ed overnighter. While pack­ing a zero degree or cold­er bag is the ide­al, even a light­weight sum­mer bag will pro­vide poten­tial­ly life-sav­ing warmth if you have to bivouac, espe­cial­ly since you packed your extra set of lay­ers, right?

Butt Pad
These can weigh as lit­tle as an ounce and will keep your seat warm and dry mak­ing your lunch break much more palat­able. They can also dou­ble as an emer­gency pillow.

Pres­sur­ized Butane Lighter
Why not just take the trusty old bic? They just don’t light as well in the cold as a pres­sur­ized lighter which will flame with­out hes­i­ta­tion. Tak­ing a few extra water­proof match­es won’t hurt either. And if you do end up in cold weath­er dis­tress with your sum­mer­time lighter, warm it up in your armpit.

If you are snow­shoe­ing you can skip this one and if you’re moun­taineer­ing you’ve already packed some gnarly cram­pons, but as I found out last win­ter just a stroll of a hike, like Eagle Creek in the Ore­gon’s Colum­bia Gorge, can turn into a slip­pery slope. A set of eas­i­ly attached trac­tion devices will pro­vide plen­ty of grip on an icy trail, so I’ve added them to my win­ter arse­nal of safe­ty equipment.

Ther­mos of hot goodness
Fill it with your pre­ferred bev­er­age whether it be cof­fee, hot choco­late or one of my cold day favorites; matcha green tea with hon­ey, lemon and ginger.

Stay toasty my friends.