Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Happy Trails to You!

Hiking is one of my favorite activities – even more so in the winter than in the summer.  It gets me out of the house a bit, throws some variety into my days, and allows me to explore new places and see new things – even if I’ve been on a trail dozens of times.  Nothing is ever quite the same. 

There are several great places around Arkansas, and the country, to take advantage of beautiful views and the level of hiking at each varies from easy/medium to strenuous. 

Rim Trail - Mt. Nebo, AR - Fall 2012
One of the best bonuses of cold-weather hiking?  Less traffic on the trails – you can stop and enjoy the views, take pictures and not feel rushed for “holding up the trail”.  Cooler temps tend to scare of the masses, but with a few small tips from you can have a fun, safe, winter hike to cure that cabin fever.  

1:  Dress in layers. (Sound familiar?)  Choose a number of clothing articles you can take off and put back on independently. Wear a pair of long johns made from polypropylene over which you wear a pair of pants made of a lightweight, water proof and breathable material. On top, start out with a short sleeved t-shirt---also made of polypropylene--top it with long sleeved thin fleece shirt, add a turtleneck sweater and finish up with a jacket or windbreak made of a  material.

2:  Remember to dress the head.   Over 50% of heat escapes your head – remember this from our previous post?  If you are out braving the rain and snow you might want pick out a balaclava since it is perfect for keeping nose and ears protected from wind, snow and rain. It also prevents the heat loss from the head, which is a danger during longer winter hikes.   Be sure you wear sunglass to shield your eyes from the sun, and goggles if you are out in the extreme elements. 

3:  Choose a backpack made of breathable material.  Avoid the sweaty back and the sore shoulders by investing in an all-weather backpack made of breathable material, or a Camelback hydration pack with plenty of pockets and storage for snacks, extra socks, extra gloves and assorted odds and ends (I always have a snake bite kit and chap stick!)

4:  Wear cold weather hiking boots and vapor barrier socks. Choose an insulated, water proof boot that is not made from leather but is instead made of a plastic and rubber combination. Leather freezes in winter weather, while plastic and rubber will not.  Take it from me – there is nothing worse than cold feet on a hike.  You can make your already broken in leather boots work by waterproofing them with spray-on chemicals, but you might want to add plastic gaiters to add moisture resistance to your footwear. Dress your foot in vapor barrier socks to prevent excessive sweating that makes the inside of your boot slippery and uncomfortable.   I wear Merino wool socks when I hike.  Love them! 

5:  Bring food and water. Remember that during a winter hike your body burns more calories and requires more nourishment and water than it might during a summer hike. Bring plenty of food and plan on stopping frequently and replenishing your energy by eating moderately sized snacks. Plan on bringing along a gallon of drinking water; depending on the length of your hike, you might even drink more than that. If you keep a canteen in addition to the water supply in your backpack, carry the canteen upside down.

Happy Hiking! 

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