Winter Hiking Tips from our Seasoned Veterans
Looking to extend your hiking season into the winter? Recently 3 of our club’s hike leaders provided some tips to a Meetup audience on Zoom to ensure that your cold weather treks will be safe and enjoyable. Charles Whitlock talked about equipment needs and trail conditions while Wayne Crockett explained how our winter group hikes and the new registration system work. Alina Lin moderated the session.
Charles offered lots of good advice for novice winter hikers. With the colder months, you should be aware that trail conditions are different, he said. It can be easier to get lost or stumble into a hidden crevice. With fewer hours of sunlight, you may not finish before dark if you are not prepared. Walking in snow takes longer to travel the same distance compared to the summer months, he added.
Charles recommends that you avoid hiking alone. “There is safety in numbers. It is also important to let others know where you are going on the trail and when you plan to finish your hike,” he said. Buy a good fitting pair of micro spikes that grab the hard packed snow and ice. Winter boots need to have room for your toes to have adequate circulation and make sure you have a good pair of wool socks to layer with a thin pair of socks, he explained.
Wear your clothing in layers and avoid cotton which absorbs moisture. Have a base layer, mid-layer and a shell outer layer to repel the wind. If you have climbed a big hill or series of hills, stop at the top and shed a layer to avoid overheating. When you are stopping for lunch or a break, put on more clothing because if you are not moving, you’re cooling down, Charles said. “Lunch breaks are needed to keep up your energy and to recharge – – safety and warmth come first.”
Buy a 30-litre backpack that fits well and is comfortable, with a hip belt for extra support. In your pack bring extra socks, clothing, and plenty of water to drink – – and don’t forget sunglasses for sunny days. Carry a thermos for hot drinks such as tea, soup or hot chocolate. Pack a flashlight, a whistle and emergency blanket. Remember that in cold weather, your cell phone battery can be depleted more rapidly so make allowances for this to happen, Charles added.
Snowshoes are good for deep snow and provide a great physical workout, but they are not great for travelling long distances. Make sure you buy a pair based on your weight and size and decide if you want a pair for backcountry or just for recreational use.
Wayne Crockett then talked about how to access the Bruce Trail for winter hikes. You can do a self-guided trip with friends and families, he said, or you can join an organized hike. On self-guided hikes, Wayne says to use the Bruce Trail Reference Guide paper maps as well as the app that you can download on your phone. Use the Guide to plan your trip and understand the trail. The Guide has printed maps, detailed notes, topography, and it highlights points of interest. It also shows where to park (mostly on the roadside) but remember most parking lots are not maintained in the winter, he said.
As to organized group hikes, Wayne noted that our Toronto Club hike leaders are very experienced and have training so they can lead hikes in all seasons. Guided trips provide opportunities for hikers to learn new hike skills and to socialize with others who have similar interests.
Registration for winter coach hikes and day bus hikes opens 1 week in advance of each event. For car hikes and urban hikes, registration begins 2 weeks in advance. For overnight and weekend trips, registration begins 12 weeks in advance of the event departure. You can register for these hikes by going to the Toronto Club’s calendar.