How to Prepare for a Snow Trip

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Preparing for a winter backpacking or hiking trip is similar to preparing for a summer trip, but you will need to bring much more gear, food and equipment, and your itinerary will have to be clearly focused and familiar to each member of your party. If you love the cold, beauty and serenity of a snowy wilderness, a little extra preparation can ensure that you and your party will be safe on your road less traveled. Here are a few things that you will need to know and bring.

Planning

  • Have a written plan of the route that you and your party plan to follow, including where you will spend each night. Allow extra time for trudging through snow, the extra weight of a backpack filled with winter gear, the shorter winter days and the extra exertion of winter hiking.

  • Make a detailed list of how much and what kinds of food, water and fuel you and your party will need for each day of the trip, and pack accordingly. (Bring a few extra rations, in case something should go wrong.)

  • Pay close attention to the weather forecasts for the area in which you plan to hike. If there is a chance of severe weather, postpone the trip for another time.

  • Pack a portable battery-operated or hand cranked weather radio so that you can keep abreast of the latest conditions.

  • Divide the party’s load evenly or according to the physical abilities of each member.

What to Bring

  • The best kind of tent for snow camping is one that is wind resistant, less than 3 lbs., a frame or dome-shaped and has a snow-shedding fly.

  • Down sleeping bags are the warmest and lightest. Make sure to get one that is rated for cold weather, or bring an extra one to place inside the other.

  • Bring a gasoline-fueled, lightweight stove that has a mini-pump. Keep extra gasoline in an aluminum container.

  • Bring high energy and calorie-packed foods that consist of at least 40 percent protein, 40 percent fat and 20 percent carbohydrates. Make sure the food is easy to prepare and will not be spoiled by freezing. Dehydrated foods, such as beef jerky and dried fruits, are great quick snacks while winter hiking. Other ideas are sardines, crackers, cheese, instant potatoes and rice, canned tuna, soup mix, dehydrated eggs and cereal. Bring along instant tea bags, coffee or hot chocolate mix for variety. Of course, if you’re heading for the snowy mountains, there will be plenty of water when you melt the snow over a flame.

  • For clothing, make sure you have several layers, including insulated long johns, undershirts and thermal sweaters and socks. Wearing two pairs of thin socks at a time will keep your feet warmer and more comfortable than one thick pair. Wear a wool shirt and pants, as well as a stocking-style hat or balaclava. Your parka should cover your hips and have a hood, as well as a wind-proof face mask. Wear two-piece mittens that are lined in wool and have an outer nylon shell. The best boots for winter hiking are Double boots--high-top boots with an inner liner made of felt. If you’re planning to wander beyond the timberline, you may need crampons to help you with traction.

  • Bring snowshoes if you’re planning on hiking off-trail in deep snow.

  • Have matches, a lighter or another fire starter. Make sure everything is kept in a water-resistant or water-proof container, such as a plastic zip bag.

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