Wet Winter Hiking, don’t do it. The fact is that when it rains many of our popular trails pay the price when we hike them, muddy trails mean deep ruts from hiking through puddles or wearing down and unnaturally expanding the trails by “going” around the puddles and trampling plants that help prevent further erosion. Water crossing that are usually just a hop skip and a jump can become really hazardous considering everything is going to be wet and slippery. These water crossings can also go from a trickle to a very deep and dangerous situation in the matter of a hike. These water crossings are especially hazardous for kids and pets, especially since they probably didn’t choose to be there in the first place.
So what to do right, well now would be a great time to explore local museums and classes to build on your knowledge and skills (we happen to have a couple HERE). Or just make sure you are hiking on durable surfaces so right now is the time to do some urban hiking or check out the local paved bike trails. But I understand you might still find yourself in the backcountry so here is a couple tips to keep it safe and keep it fun.
Survival Starts at Home: Before you head out make sure you have your ducks in a row, what is the weather forecast, what kind of temps do I need to be prepared for (I will actually look at the next twelve hours or to the next morning based on the idea of be getting stuck out there and what I can prepare for now). What are my park and road closures, this is a thing and a really good thing to check before you drive all the way there just to turn around. In fact the forest district next to us closes a bunch of their gates during wet weather so it doesn’t hurt to check with them so you don’t get locked on the wrong side of a gate.
Maintaining your core temperature: this is a fun and tricky thing at times especially when day hiking. Remember this is winter rules so shorted colder days mean less daylight and less radiant heat from the sun. We also have to worry about convection form wind and cool air, conduction from sitting and laying and evaporation both from perspiration and precipitation. How you dress and pack for this trip can make a world of difference in how you enjoy your trip.
Dress: I’m not going to tell you how to dress but I will make a couple of suggestions. Take a hat, possibly one with a wide brim also consider taking a beanie if you get cold. Torso layers are very important. We are thinking about temp regulation on the move and temp regulation when stopped and that involves layering. A good wicking layer a warming layer and a good jacket of poncho. I wear pants and shorts, mostly shorts and I will say this when it is bad weather the right pants or water proof gaiters are a very important thing to have. I hiked in soaked cold pants last year and had a valuable reminder of why they say “cotton kills” (it absorbs water and that’s bad when you are freezing). Also Check your shoes what is great for nine months of the year might not be the best decision, consider something water proof with good warm socks. Lastly speaking of water proof, that is a lie, on a long enough time line everything will get wet and cold realize that and have a warm change of clothes in the car too.
Snacks and Hydration: Cold burns calories, calories keep you warm, bring calories and enjoy your hike. Hydration is important we tend not to pay as much attention to it especially when we are wet but stay on top of that. I have sweat just as much in the snow as I have in the desert. One suggestion I will make is bringing a small stove and easy quick stuff like, cocoa, powder soup mix, and coffee/tea. These things serve a couple purposes, they get you drinking and replenish electrolytes (what plants crave), it is good for moral and cocoa is awesome!
So this is by no means the end all be all list of Wet Winter Hiking but just a friendly reminder and a way to get the brain working on how you are going to enjoy your next hike. If you have any other suggestions we would love to hear them. As always than you for reading and we hope to see you on the trail Getting The Fox Out There!