winter hiking the Bruce Trail
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Winter Hiking: Your Essential Gear List

If you’ve seen our hiking videos, then you know we love to hike our local trails in the winter. Winter hiking can be a magical experience, providing a serene and enchanting experience of wild spaces. However, in order to ensure a successful excursion, you need to be prepared. Here is our essential winter hiking gear list: 

Clothing:

  • Base Layer: Long-sleeved thermal shirt and thermal leggings that have moisture-wicking properties
  • Insulating Layer: Fleece sweater or vest and insulated pants
  • Waterproof and Windproof Outer Layer: Breathable jacket and waterproof/windproof pants
    • PRO Tip: Use Velcro® straps or gaiters to layer over pant legs where they meet your boots to keep snow out
  • Head and Hand Protection: Lightweight gloves for hiking and insulated warmer gloves or mittens for break stops
    • Warm hat or tuque and neck gaiter or balaclava
  • Footwear: Insulated, waterproof hiking boots with moisture-wicking socks (wool or synthetic)

Gear:

  • Backpack: Large enough to carry extra layers, food, and emergency essentials
    • Bring a pack cover to protect against snow and moisture. This doubles as an extra layer for snow covered places when stopping for a break
  • Traction Devices: Micro-spikes for icy or slippery terrain
    • We like using “Yaktrax” as they’re easy to put on and take off and are comfortable to walk in
    • Snowshoes can be necessary for deep snow to prevent postholing. I typically don’t use these, but for places where snow can easily get above your knee, they would be handy
  • Trekking Poles: These provide stability while walking and reduce strain on joints
      • These can also be used to test snow drifts in uneven terrain, helping to avoid ankle and foot injuries

Navigation and Safety:

  • Maps and Smartphone: Even if you use a GPS on your smartphone, a map is an essential backup.
  • Ensure all electronics are fully charged
    • PRO Tip: Bring a small battery bank and extra cords. Cold will drain electronic batteries faster than in warm weather 
  • Headlamp or Flashlight: There are fewer daylight hours in winter, be prepared in case you misjudged how long your hike will take or in case of injury
  • First Aid Kit: Include additional cold-weather specific items like hand warmers and an emergency blanket.

Food and Water: 

  • Lots of calories: You will burn more calories on winter hikes, so be prepared with extra snacks
    • Consider packing a warm soup in a thermos or a camping stove and dehydrated meal to help you warm up when stopping for a break
  • Water Storage: Ensure you have water stored in a way where it will not freeze
    • PRO Tip: If using a hydration bag with a tube, feed the tube under your outer layer of clothing closer to your skin. Your body heat will prevent the water in the tube from freezing
  • Water Filtration: Always bring a way to safely treat and drink water from wild sources. If using a water filter, ensure it’s dry or, if wet, place in a plastic bag and store inside your outer layer to prevent freezing

Sun Protection:

  • Sunscreen: Yes, you heard that right! Even on cloudy days and in the winter, you can get sun burns. Be sure to protect your exposed skin with an SPF cream
  • Sunglasses: Sunlight reflecting of snow can often be more intense than regular sunlight. Make sure you’re prepared with appropriate eye protection

Remember to customize this winter hiking gear list based on the specific conditions of your winter hike and the duration of your adventure. Regularly check the weather forecast and trail conditions to make any necessary adjustments to your gear. Stay warm, stay safe, and enjoy the winter wonderland!

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