I’m an overplanner. In the summer when I’m day hiking I tend to pack extra food, extra water, a rain coat, extra sunscreen and toilet paper. Because… well, you know. Once the temperatures start to drop and the time changes, my day hike packing habits change a bit too.
Here are 5 things that I do when transitioning from summer hiking to fall and winter hiking:
1. Pack warmer clothes.
It may be hard to do when you know it’s going to be a lovely 60 degrees outside on your hike, but you have to think about the nighttime temperatures. If you break an ankle or get lost, chances are you might be out on the trail overnight. Make sure to take an emergency blanket, a puffy coat (they pack down to nothing!) and even gloves and a hat. Even if you don’t have an accident, if the weather changes suddenly you’ll be glad for the extra layers.
2. Start your hike sooner.
Don’t forget that once the time changes the sun begins setting quite a bit earlier. Starting that 6-mile hike at three in the afternoon isn’t such a good idea anymore! (Although really… when was it ever?) Plan to be done hiking and back at your vehicle by 4:30. That way, even if you get turned around, you’ll still make it back… hopefully before it’s fully dark out.
3. Don’t skimp on the water.
Just because it’s colder outside doesn’t mean you don’t need water. If the tips of your fingers and toes start to get extra cold it’s probably because you’re dehydrated. Your body needs plenty of water for hiking in the summer and winter. The same goes for food!
4. Be prepared to start a fire.
A small lighter or flint starter won’t take up much room in your daypack and could make a big difference in your core temperature and mood if you get stuck out overnight. Having a fire just makes you feel better and will help to keep animals away, too.
5. Beware of ice!
If you’re hiking through rocky, shaded areas where it’s snowed recently, beware of slick spots of ice. Make sure to wear good gripping waterproof hiking shoes and pay close attention to where you’re going.
6. Bonus: Take a map.
Really, you should always have a map, but if you’re in unfamiliar terrain the last thing you want is to get lost when the temps are dropping into the 30s (or lower) at night.
Late fall and winter hiking can be beautiful. The weather is just the right balmy temperature, the sky is crystal blue, and a light bit of snow makes everything pretty. Still, it’s important to be realistic too, and be aware of your surroundings at all times.