5 things to think about before hiking in winter


Martin Talač


The majority of people consider hiking rather as a summer than winter activity. But, if it´s colder and snow outside, it doesn´t mean you cannot go to the mountains. The difference is, that the weather is cooler, the days are shorter, the hiking trails are covered with snow and ice and the part of the hiking trails are closed in some of the mountain ranges. For example, in the High Tatras, the winter closure lasts from the 1st November till the 15th June. But not all hiking trails are closed. You can walk to the mountain huts. So if you would like to enjoy a perfect day in the mountains, you should follow my advices, to avoid troubles. hiking in winter

Proper clothing

It is important to be properly clothed. You can be fooled by short period of warm weather in winter. Even if the temperature is higher at lower altitudes and you don´t need to wear gloves and hat, always carry them in a backpack. At the altitude of 1500 to 2000 m the temperature will be 10 to 15 degrees lower and the wind may be much stronger. It is also good to have a spare shirt and T-shirt in the backpack, in case you will get sweat during the hike. But it´s better to walk slowly to avoid sweating.

In the Mala Fatra mountains

Don´t forget to drink

Normally, in winter time, you don´t feel so thirsty and you don´t need as much water as in the summer. But you still need to drink a lot of water during winter hike. So don´t forget to check your water bottle every now and then. After a few hours outdoors the water gets very cold in the backpack. Usually it´s so cold, that I´m not thirsty anymore, as it is almost impossible to drink it. So I´ll give you a simple life hack. If you don´t have enough time to make tea in the morning, or you just lazy as me, pour tap water into your vacuum bottle. It won´t get cold so quickly.

Proper hiking gear

It´s winter. If there is no snow in front of your house, it doesn´t mean, it will be the same in the mountains. Expect the hiking trails at higher altitudes (let´s say more than 1000 m) to be icy and covered with snow. Therefore, you need crampons and poles to come back home safely. If you haven´t got your own, you can always rent the crampons in the outdoor shops. As the days are shorter, it is also recommended to have a flashlight or headlamp, if you would have to walk back in the dark.

Begin early in the morning

The winter day lasts approximately 8 – 10 hrs and it´s getting dark really fast. Keep this in mind when planning your hiking route. It is important to begin as early as possible, to have enough time to come back.

Plan a hike that is suitable for you

Always plan a shorter hike in winter than in summer. It´s because walking in snow is much more demanding and therefore slower. Easy 3 hrs hike may turn into 5-6 hours of wading through the snow, depending on how deep it is.

Don´t overestimate yourself and don´t be afraid to turn around, if you don´t have enough time, the surface is too dangerous or you are just tired.

If you are going to hike alone, always tell somebody the plan of your route. If you decide to change the route, inform the person about it. I don´t want to exaggerate, but the rescue operation would be much more complicated and longer without this information.

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