Backpacking is a fantastic summer hobby. During the long winter months most nature enthusiasts pack up their gear and switch to homebody mode, however, with a little extra preparation there is no reason that camping and hiking can’t be done in December to March.
Double Check Trails and Maps in Winter
While it is always a good idea to check the latest conditions for a backpacking route, it is especially important in the winter. Many trails are closed in the winter or have other special conditions that need to be considered. In addition to obtaining the latest topographic map and checking weather conditions for a backpacking trip, call the nearest ranger station to the route to get the latest information on closures and other hazards either the day before or the morning of the start of the trip.
Also try to speak with someone who has already completed the trip in winter, or, if possible, try a trip completed all ready in the summer for a fresh perspective.
Essential Gear for Hiking and Camping in the Cold
As always, layering is key for hikers, whether one is hiking in winter or not. Check the weather forecast and make sure that the sleeping bag is warm enough for the nightly lows. Usually the sleeping bag’s tag will say “0 degrees” or “20 degrees” which indicates the lowest temperature that the bag will keep the hiker warm in.
Also make sure that hiking boots are sturdy and waterproof. Gore-Tex is the preferred waterproof brand among hikers. Most other clothing, like gloves, hats, ear muffs and scarves are only necessary in the below freezing weather or extremely windy weather.
Backpacking and Protection from Rain
Rain ponchos are a cheap way to ensure that backpacks are clothes don’t get drenched in a mid-trail downpour, however, the insulating factor of a rain poncho may lead to uncomfortable sweatiness for the hiker. It is instead best to bring extra clothes to change into when hiking clothes become soaked (especially extra socks and underwear) and to put everything inside the backpack in waterproof bags or even trash bags.
Packing everything into waterproof bags inside the backpack ensures that essential clothing and gear stays dry even if the backpack gets soaked. It is also a good idea to bring extra waterproof bags to put wet clothes and gear into to avoid getting anything else wet.
Building a Fire in Wet or Snowy Weather
No doubt after a long and strenuous day of backpacking in the cold, the first thing a hiker wants to do is curl up next to a warm fire. Too bad the last thing he will want to do is put the effort into gathering wood and paper and starting one. There are several cheap and lightweight alternatives. Check out the local camping gear store for fire starter gel or stove chips that light up easily and instantly in most cases.
With a little extra effort put into mapping out a trail, waterproofing clothes and gear and picking out easy fire starters, backpacking can become a rewarding hobby in the winter as well.
Stay Fit In Backpacking Offseason
In the dead of winter even the keenest backpacker’s enthusiasm wanes with the falling temperatures. Even if you can’t bring yourself to endure the often sub-freezing nights and bitterly brisk winds, there are many things you can do to prepare yourself for an energetic and enjoyable spring, better than playing cashiopeia casino, obviously.
Only 6 miles into the trek your legs begin to feel weak and your neck feels like a twig on the brink of snapping.
The major muscle groups in your legs, back, and neck are the most important for the backpacking, but getting a full body workout is also important to maintaining balance. The most effective way to achieve this is to sign up for a circuit-training program at your local gym. The fitness professionals there ensure that the program is comprehensive and when performed at a moderate pace, can provide a cardio workout as well. Benefits are optimized when training 2-3 times a week, with concentration on repetitions rather than weight.
The enjoyment of any good backpacking trip is often directly correlated with one’s endurance. Therefore it is crucial to stay in shape during the off-season if you intend to enjoy your first outing of the season.
It is always good to make an honest evaluation of your current stamina and your fitness level during the peak of last season. Using this benchmark, you can begin to construct realistic goals for next season. If you were happy with last season’s performance, it would be feasible to do a medium intensity cardio workout 3-4 times a week for about 25-30 minutes per workout. Medium intensity is usually considered about 60-70% of your Target Heart Rate. If you wish to improve your trail endurance, it would be wise to work at 85-100% of your Target Heart Rate, 4-5 times a week at least half an hour per session. If you’ve “taste tested” too many micro-brews this winter and are just wanting to be able to ascend that first bunny hill, aim for a fat burning 50% of your Target Heart Rate for at least 15 minutes, 3-5 days a week. If you are unsure how to calculate your Target Heart Rate, simply go to this website to easily calculate it.
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of any physical activity, yet the most crucial is flexibility. Whether you are a yoga guru or haven’t seen your toes since high school graduation, there is always room to improve in the flexibility department.
Yoga is a time-tested and extremely effective method of providing improved flexibility for anyone. Flexibility training is the one exercise that can (and should) be preformed daily. It will improve one’s balance, strength, and posture. It will also decrease the chance of injuries on and off the trail. While an entire article could be dedicated to this topic, it is especially vital to climbers and backpackers to thoroughly stretch the core muscles and the back and neck.
With these relatively easy workout tips, you can begin the new season with a trim look and more energy. While your buddies are sucking wind before reaching the apex of a phenomenal peak, you’re enjoying an apple with a gorgeous view on a blossoming April day.