Winter Walking Advice?

I am a novice hiker who just likes to go on walks and short hikes. I am afraid of slipping on ice or snow. Any winter walking tips?

-Barb, Vermont

robin in snowANSWER: Winter is a great time to take a walk! I am always tempted by delicious baked goods and find it so tough to stay in shape around the holidays. But winter walking is a great way to stay fit, enjoy the beauty of a snowy landscape, and get some fresh air.

Here are some tips for making your winter walks more enjoyable:

  • Make sure you have good boots. This will be the most important factor in helping you avoid slips and falls. Unlike the rest of the year when tennis shoes are fine for walks, in the winter make sure you have lugsoled boots – that means ones with a sturdy sole that have good traction. You’ll need good traction in icy or snowy conditions, and even on that surprising patch of wet leaves that you didn’t notice… Plus, the right boots will be water resistant and will keep your feet dry if you step in a puddle, post hole though the snow, or intentionally walk in the snow. Add a snow seal to your boots if you want to make sure they will keep your feet dry. Remember to wear a liner sock underneath your wool/synthetic socks.
  • Get a pair of YakTraks or Microspikes. If you are in icy conditions and you find that lugsoled boots aren’t enough to keep you from slipping, then you should attach either a pair of YakTraks or Kahtoola Microspikes to your boots. Personally I prefer the Microspikes, but they are pricier than the YakTraks.
  • Dress appropriately. Often times people wear bulky wool sweaters and big car coats for winter walks, but your body will start to adjust to the cold temperatures and you’ll get too hot. Instead, wear thin layers that are wicking. I’ve written a lot about layering and wicking apparel. The bottom line:
    • wear silk or polyester long underwear
    • hiking pants or workout pants (anything that repels moisture)
    • a long sleeved top – a couple of them in really cold conditions
    • a fleece or down jacket to provide some warmth (I love fleece and down vests because they keep your core warm and your arms are free)
    • an outerlayer to block the wind and repel sleet and snow
  • Wear a headband or beanie. The majority of your body heat escapes through your head, so put on a beanie in really cold weather, or a headband if conditions aren’t that cold and just want to keep your ears warm.
  • Wear gloves. Don’t let your hands get cold! Mittens are best because your fingers will stay warmer, and put on a glove liner if it is really cold
  • Don’t forget to drink water. Even when it is cold, you need to stay hydrated!

Have a great time on your winter walks! Remember that the weather can be deceiving, so layering is best!

Charles Dickens described it best:

“It was one of those March days
when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:
when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”


Happy trails!
Hiking Lady

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