Tips for hiking in winter forest

After months of “black days”, the sun finally begins to look out from the clouds. The end of January is the time of the first amazing sunny days. Fluffy dazzling snow is hanging on trees in the deep blue sky background. It’s the coldest time of year, but the breathtaking views are worth it to insulate yourself and go hiking. The days are still short so you won’t have time to get frozen if you go for a walk in the woods for two-three hours. Enjoy hiking with no mosquitoes, no flies and no ants! However, you should not forget the most important things. Read my tips and let’s go!

Hiking trails in Nuuksio, Finland
Hiking trails in Nuuksio, Finland

Warm clothes

A common tip for winter hiking is to dress in layers. Be prepared for the coldest frost you can imagine, but avoid sweating. Check the weather forecast in advance, but you know, meteorologists adore bad jokes. Even if the temperature does not look low, the wind may cause emergency finish. Probably, you won’t get frozen if you move fast, but then you won’t be able to stop and enjoy the next wonderful landscape. A combination of one-piece snowsuit and a wool sweater is the perfect solution. Your pants should be waterproof when hiking in snow. Remember to remove layers when feeling sweat. Wear as few layers as possible while hiking and save the warm layers for breaks.

Winter road in the forest
Winter road in the forest

Protect your head

The head is your main cooler and, yeah, it accommodates your brain. Even if the rest of your body is nicely wrapped up, if your head is uncovered you’ll lose lots of body heat – potentially up to 50% of it! Frozen head often leads to a headache. Warm beanie is good for most days, but take a trapper hat if the weather is windy. If the temperature is below -20C, trapper hat is a must and the hood is a good idea to protect your neck.

Winter forest
Winter forest

Dry legs

Snow is often deep, so you need proper boots. They don’t have to be waterproof, it is better to use breathíng footwear to keep your legs dry. Always test your boots before the hiking and take spare warm socks with you. It’s not that funny when the snow gets into your boots. Your toes will freeze in minutes, even if you’re moving, and eventually, you won’t feel them at all. Gaiters prevent snow from entering your shoes and adds extra warmth to your legs. When you feel pain in your toes due to the cold, it is still a good sign. But once you don’t feel anything at all in your toes, this is a sign that you might be having frostbite. That’s when you should do some simple exercises by swinging your leg for a few minutes to increase blood circulation.

BBQ in Nuuksio, Finland
BBQ in Nuuksio, Finland

Warm hands

Mittens or gloves? Mittens are warmer and you don’t really need your fingers when hiking. With good mittens you are safe, but if your fingers still got frozen, use the same exercises as above.

Sneaky water

It’s great to test your off-road capabilities in the winter time. You can walk across lakes and rivers without a boat. But be careful! It often happens, when deep snow is laying on thin ice. Remember, the snow is a very good heat insulator and you can find green grass under snow even after weeks of -20C frost. If you dream to walk on water, find a place with no or little snow, where the ice is strong enough after continuous frosts. Or just wait until late February, when the ice is covered with hard snow crust.

Sunset in winter forest
Sunset in winter forest

Plan your route

Days are short in winter and you should plan to return before the sun goes down. Remember, it is usually getting much colder after dusk. If you use a headlamp, remember, that its battery will die very fast on the frost. I would not recommend you to get lost in the forest in the winter time. Estimate your time properly and keep the marked path.

Protect your phone and camera

Phone and camera batteries are not supposed to be used on the frost. Keep them in a warm place. Put your phone in inner pocket and don’t use it. Really, forget about it! You’ll keep your hands in warm, enjoy your walk and your phone will still be alive on the way to home, so you can share your amazing impressions. Most cameras have moving mechanisms inside and you may lose it forever when using on freezing temperatures.

Essential items

  • Thermos flask with warm water
  • High-energy food & snacks
  • Lighter or matches
  • Trail map

I hope these tips can help you to survive and enjoy winter hiking.

Believe me, it worth it!

Want to know more? Read recommended books!

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