Image by Loren Sjtazer, used under Creative Commons license
Lazy summer afternoons have been subsumed by long, inky nights, and the air is so cold you can make your own cirrus clouds with an exhalation. Although it might be tempting to curl up and hibernate until spring, however, the world is still turning, and even in the icy clasp of winter, a breath of fresh air can do wonders for your health. If you want to sustain your fitness, fire up your circulation and invigorate your senses, read on for a few suggestions to help you forge a path through any wintry terrain. Hiking in winter can be a great way to make winter more than just a lazy season.
Dress the part
In winter, a crisp and beautiful morning can turn into a howling gale and a downpour faster than you can say “gumboots” so make sure you’re ready to brave the elements. Instead of bundling up like the abominable snowman, wear thin but warm layers of walking clothes that you can peel off easily if you get too hot. Good quality, breathable materials will work hard to keep you dry and warm. Always wear gloves if there’s a chill in the air, and try to wear shoes or boots with a deep tread to avoid spending Christmas in traction! Hiking in winter doesn’t have to lead to hypothermia if you dress the part!
If you’re planning to go hiking in winter and tackle mountainous or snowy terrain, never leave home without an insulating safety blanket, a whistle, a topographical map and a compass. Always tell someone where you plan to go before setting off (watch127 Hours if you need further reason to) and, if possible, bring along a GPS location device. Factor in if it will get dark before your return, and bring high-visibility bands and a torch in order to stay seen in areas with traffic.
It’s easy to run out of steam when yyou’vebeen tackling a high altitude hike, so bring along some snacks to keep you running on full. Power bars, sweet chocolate and dextrose tablets are all worthy additions to your pockets, and worth every calorie when you’re feeling defeated. You can still become easily dehydrated when exercising in freezing conditions, so bring water with you on long hikes.
You may find it exhilarating enough to just allow the wind to sift through your hair and revel in the view on a hike, but if things get a little dull, bring along an MP3 player (don’t forget those headphones!) and queue up a favorite audiobook, some Greek lessons, or a motivational playlist. Even better: bring a friend. For safety, fun and encouragement, they tend to be unbeatable.
Just because it’s winter, there’s no need to abandon your horizons for another year. Check the weather forecast, arm yourself against the inevitable and seize the day with both hands as though embarking on the sunniest of summer strolls, and your winter hike will be a breeze. Hiking in winter is not only great for you, but it is a fabulous way to share the love of the outdoors with those around you, so don’t fly solo!