5 Gifts for the Winter Hiker
Perhaps you have someone on your shopping list that is like me and loves to hike in the winter. In fact, it is their favorite season. You may think we are nuts going out when the ground is covered with snow and the temperatures are well below freezing, but we love it. The crunch of snow below our boots, the crisp air, and no bugs. Walking in a winter wonderland is bliss for many of us and we head out well prepared. Here are some gift ideas to get your hiker so they too can be prepared.
Insulated Bottle Holder
One of the most difficult things to do while hiking in temperatures below freezing is keeping your liquids from freezing. This is where my favorite piece of EMS gear comes into play, the H2O Cooler. The H2O Cooler fits a standard wide mouth Nalgene perfectly. It has a small webbing loop to attach a carabiner for travel or you can use the Velcro webbing. I personally use the Velcro webbing to attach the Cooler to the bottom of the shoulder strap. This way, while I am walking the Cooler is down by my hips. If I need a drink I can just pull it up the strap to where I can unzip it and take my Nalgene out. All this can be done without stopping. Since this is so easy I use the H2O Cooler year round. On long hikes I have my hydration bladder filled with water and my Nalgene with Gatorade. For really cold days in the winter I recommend putting a hand warmer in the bottom of the H2O Cooler and keeping your Nalgene upside down in the Cooler to help ward off freezing.
Hiking in the winter often involves snow and ice. If you are hiking along a well traveled trail the snow is often packed down and can be very slippery. To keep from slipping and sliding along the trail and getting hurt it is good to have some sort of traction on the bottom of your shoes. For those hikers going above tree line or on steep, icy trails there are crampons. For the majority of the trails in the Northeast and the recreational hikers who roam them in the winter time, more simple traction such as Yaktrax Pro or Microspikes work great. Both are made of a rubber that is easy to pull on and off your boots. The Yaktrax have steel coils on the bottom for traction while the Microspikes have 3/8in spikes on the bottom to dig into ice.
Just because you are walking around in the snow doesn’t mean you need to have snow pants on. Snow pants can be big and bulky, not what a hiker is looking for. If you aren’t going to wear snow pants but want to keep your regular hiking pants dry that is where Gaiters come in. These velcro sleeves go from your boot up to the top of your shin. This way they protect the top of your boot and bottom of your pants. With these openings covered over you don’t have to worry about snow getting inside. They have either a buckle or strings that go under your boot to help keep the Gaiter from sliding up your leg. For ultimate snow protection some Gaiters are made with Gore-Tex.
Layering up to beat the cold is very important during the winter. A nice long hike in the winter could turn miserable is you can’t warm up. One of the most important things when the temperatures drop is to not wear any cotton. Wet cotton takes a long time to dry. Wet cotton against your body could lead to hypothermia in the winter. The best way to combat this is to wear base layers made of wool or synthetics against your skin. These materials wick sweat away more efficiently keeping your skin dryer. Depending on how cold your hiker gets EMS Techwick offers a variety of thicknesses of their base layers. Hikers that tend to be colder would like the T3 base layers while those that get hot could be comfortable in the T1. The North Face has a great new base layer out that is made with their FlashDry technology that improves drying time of the fabric. My personal favorite in the winter though is SmartWool. Merino Wool wicks away sweat in the vapor stage so you don’t get as wet. Also wool by nature doesn’t hold odors like synthetic fabrics.
Winter Hydration Pack
Hydration bladders are great for hiking. It’s so nice and easy to just bite on that valve and quickly get a sip of liquids while still hiking along. Winter time makes using hydration bladders much harder. The tubes that lead from the bladder freeze very quickly. If you are going to have any success with a hydration bladder below freezing then you will need to find a way to insulate the tube and bite valve. There are two ways to accomplish this. You can get a bladder that is insulated with an insulation tube. The other option is to get a backpack/hydration bag that is meant to be used in the winter. Bags that are meant to be used in the winter often have a place built into one of the shoulder straps for the tube to go. This way, the tube never leaves the bag except when you unzip for a quick drink. Depending on the type of bag you use there may even be enough room in that shoulder strap pocket to put a hand warmer to really help keep the tube from freezing. A friendly tip to help prevent freezing is to also blow the water back into the bladder after you take a drink. If there isn’t water in the tube then the tube cannot freeze up.
Do you have an item you won’t hike without in the winter? Leave a comment and let us know what your go to winter hiking items are.
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