Backpacking in the winter is invigorating. The views can be amazing as well, since the leaves and foliage are off the trees and brush. You can gain access to areas that you can’t get to in summer. And there are no bugs!
There are some specific preparations that need to be made for a successful backpacking trip in winter. Here are some things to keep in mind, and a handy checklist for your trip.
- Dress in layers. Yes, this gets repeated a lot but it’s important. It’s a mistake to think you can just bundle up and keep hiking no matter how hot you get. If you sweat a lot in cold weather, it makes your body more susceptible to hypothermia. So make sure you have layers on that can be easily removed (say tied around your waist) and easily put back on when you cool off.
- Start the day with a hot drink or hot instant soup to keep everyone warm while breakfast cooks.
- Make a one-pot meal for dinner to save fuel and time. (As you know it gets dark early in the winter.)
- Check the weather report before you go.
- Be realistic about how much ground you can cover and how many activities you can engage in. Winter days are short, and travel is slow in winter.
- Plan your route ahead and try to find one that does not involve crossing bodies of water. Water may or may not be frozen in the winter, and thin ice is very dangerous.
- Keep snacks on hand throughout the hiking trip. Nibbling high-calorie foods through the day will keep everyone warm and energetic. Trail mix or gorp is good – a mix of whole grain granola, nuts, dried fruits, chocolate, and cereal.
- Long underwear
- Wool or fleece hats, gloves, socks and scarves – pack extra in case of moisture
- Waterproof boots
- Waterproof socks
- Wool or fleece shirts and sweaters
- Wool or fleece pants
- Tuna or salmon in slim vacuum pouches
- Granola bars
- Chocolate bits or candy with nuts
- Baked goods like cookies and brownies
- Freeze-dried vegetables and fruits
- Dry, whole-grain foods like oatmeal, pasta, rice, and cereal
- Meats like jerky, pepperoni, and “summer” sausage
- Powdered milk
- Instant soup
- Tea, hot chocolate, and/or instant coffee
- Sleeping pad or inflatable mattress and air pump
- Wool blankets
- Insulated sleeping bags appropriate for the night temperatures
- Flashlight (this is especially important in winter when darkness sets in early)
- Whistle (for safety – if you get lost, your party can locate you more easily)
- Chapstick or lip balm
- Deep moisturizing lotion
- Camp stove
- 2 tarps
- Cooking pots
- Thermoses for hot drinks and to carry water without it freezing