By Cameron Ownbey


Always count on needing more fuel than usual to melt snow, get warm in case of an emergency and boil water for hot food. You’ll be glad you brought the extra canisters. A couple of Hot water-bottles in your sleeping bag can turn a 20 degree rated bag into a zero degree bag, and a hot meal or drink can bring a warm smile to your face on a cold winter night. In fact, one of the first things SAR volunteers are instructed to do after finding a victim is to start some water boiling; if for nothing more than the psychological effect it has on the victim. The presence of a stove or fire and the prospect of a hot drink in hand gives them a sense of comfort and a feeling of home even in the wilderness under dire circumstances.


The weather has to be your primary concern. With winter weather come hazards such as avalanches, deadly temperatures and whiteouts. Poor visibility can make getting lost much easier and harsh temperatures mean that losing your way can have extremely serious consequences. Be sure to check and then double-check the weather, storm systems, and avalanche danger alerts in the area your planning to explore. Be sure to check the conditions for a few days after you expect to be back as you never know how long you may be out. Winter weather can change rapidly so don’t just check for updates the night before your trip but also in the morning before you leave the warmth and safety of your home. And please use your common sense and give a second thought to taking a weekend trip when the “worst storm of all time” is set to hit the region on Monday.


Winter travel is always at least twice as slow as summer travel. Trekking through the snow is twice as hard as hiking up a dry trail on a summer, fall or spring day and will almost certainly require more energy. This means you’ll have to stop more often to adjust layers to maintain a comfortable temperature and to eat more snacks to regain the calories you’ll need to keep up your strength. You should also consider that driving times to and from the trailhead will be greater in the winter and that putting all your gear on when you reach the trail will only compound the amount of time you spend in preparation rather than on the trail.

So this winter, plan on doing your research and being well prepared for the weather, bring twice the fuel you’d bring in summer and give yourself twice as much time to make the trek.

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