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Winter Hiking 101

Although the snow isn't falling here in Denver quite yet, it certainly is at higher elevations.

If you plan on getting into winter hiking this year, or have dabbled in it in the past, there's a few things to know first.

1. Clothing

Choose clothes that will continue to keep you warm, such as merino wool, fleece, down, synthetic insulation, and nylon. Nylon is often used for base and mid-layers. Merino wool socks are the bees knees for toasty toes. And, obviously, you're not going to be wearing a down base layer 🤪, but this would be a good choice for an outer layer.

2. Weather

CHECK THE WEATHER. I can't emphasize this enough. Two of my most recent hikes have been cancelled (by me) because the predicted gusts were 60-90 mph. Woof. Hard pass. You don't want to get caught in that. Plus, you know how quickly the weather can change in the high country.

If you're going somewhere where there is risk of avalanches, check that report as well.

Where I check the weather: OpenSummit and/or

Where I check the Colorado avalanche report: CAIC

3. Gear

Make sure you have the proper gear with you or in your pack including clothing (hat, gloves, extra pair of socks), poles, spikes, med kit, sunscreen, and satellite communication device.

Poles I use: Black Diamond Distance Z Poles

Spikes I use: Yak Trax

Med kit I have: My Medic

Satellite communication device I use: Garmin inReach is now discontinued, but the Garmin inReach Mini is just as excellent! (It's on sale at REI thru 11/22)

4. Fuel & Hydration

It's easy to forget about eating and drinking while hiking in the winter. You don't *feel* like you're sweating, so it's not as obvious when you're thirsty or hungry. Stay on top of this by keeping an eye on the clock. Drink water every 15 minutes, or eat every 1-1.5 hours, etc. depending on your duration, distance, and intensity.

It can be harder to keep your water from freezing in the winter, so I'd recommend an insulated tube for your hydration bladder.

5. Safety

As always, let someone know where you're going and when you plan to return.

Weather and avalanche awareness fall into this category, too.

I'd also recommend keeping the solo hikes to a minimum during the winter season, particularly in the high country. Try to go with at least one other person, as winter conditions can quickly change.

6. Health

Winter brings potential health risks, such as hypothermia and frostbite. Be aware of the early warning signs and know how to respond accordingly. No need to lose a finger over a hike! 😅


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