Winter is finally here! And with it, consistently low temps – all day and all night. After my last outing, I realize there a few extra things I should add to my winter hiking pack. Even after using weather-appropriate clothes and gear, I like to pack these items as well in case I get stuck out on the trail longer than expected.
Let’s face it, hypothermia is a risk all year round. But prolonged exposure to the elements in winter can be significantly riskier compared to prolonged exposure in the warmer months.
For example: if you become sick, injured, lost or unable to hike during a summer day hike, you have the leisure to take a long break, a nap, or stay sitting or lying on the ground while waiting for help without having to worry about freezing to death, on top of other injuries.
On a winter day hike, however, if you become sick, injured, or lost, you must be able to keep insulated and warm, possibly for a long period of time while you wait for help and/or during a slow evacuation.
Here are 5 tools to keep you warm in an emergency:
If someone needs to sit or lie down for a while (due to injury) you will want to insulate them as much as you can. A sleeping pad can help insulate them from the cold ground. You don’t need an expensive, fancy one here either, even just a 3/4 length of a foam roll up or egg crate style sleeping pad will do, and it won’t add much weight at all to your pack.
Puffy Down or Synthetic Blanket or Sleeping Bag:
If you are stuck on the trail longer than expected, then the clothes you have on may not be enough to keep you warm if you are just sitting still, waiting for help in the cold. A sleeping bag or a packable down blanket will help keep you warmer while you wait and may just be a life saver.
You know, the individually wrapped kind that heat up when you open them? I love these! Usually, I keep one with me anyway, even in the summer, when I’m backpacking because I’m a cold sleeper. You can throw one in your sleeping bag to warm up quick. These are great to put inside an internal pocket if you have one, closer to your body, then it will really heat up inside your jacket, or pop it in a sleeping bag or blanket.
Pot and Stove:
Consider the what-if scenario of being stuck outside, in winter, for way longer than expected. It’s a good idea to have the ability to heat up water or even a meal. You can heat up water to fill a water bottle, then use that bottle to help keep you warm. Put it inside your jacket, or inside your blanket or sleeping bag.
Consider adding a Jell-O packet to your first aid kit or food bag. Creating a hot, diluted, Jell-O drink can provide a quick jolt of heat and calories to a hypothermic person. Be sure to dilute the Jell-O mix, or it won’t be absorbed properly.
These things won’t add much weight to your pack but can make a huge difference in the face of a winter emergency. What extra gear do you add on to your winter adventures?? Let me know in the comments!
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
* please keep in mind this short, tiny list is not meant to be an all-encompassing winter gear list – these are just a few things I carry in addition to my usual first aid kit, my usual winter layers of hiking clothes, food, snacks, water, etc. etc. *