Hiking in Snow and Ice

We’ve already had quite an eventful winter! In December, we saw almost a foot of snow. We’ve also had a few icy showers and temperatures that didn’t get above the teens. Staying warm is important while Winter hiking. You can have the best clothes and sleep system and will do fine surviving in the cold. One aspect of Winter hiking that people tend to look over is snow and ice. What is the best way to keep hiking in these harsh conditions and what gear should you use? We are going to talk a little bit about those items you can take with you to help you tackle the Winter weather.

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Shoes
First off, you want to be prepared with the right shoes. This can depend on the person and may take some trial and error to figure out what you are comfortable with in the Winter. I have worn my trail runners, which is my usually shoe of choice, in the cold weather, and I suffered. I’ve learned that anything below freezing, I’m going to want boots. I have a waterproof boot that keeps my feet and toes warm in the Winter.

We currently have some great boots in the store. Oboz is our most popular brand and they won’t disappoint. The men’s Bridger are a waterproof boot that doesn’t need much break in time, and the women’s Phoenix is another waterproof boot that is comfortable and durable. All you need to do is try on a pair of Oboz and you will understand why they are our best seller. We have a bunch of other shoes currently on sale, including Keen, Salomon, La Sportiva, and Salewa. While not all of these are made for Winter hiking, check them out anyways! They are in the store and online here.

Gaiters
Gaiters are designed to keep items on the trail out of your shoes. In the summer, it is usually dirt, small rocks, mud, etc. In the winter, they can protect your feet from the snow and cold rain. If you know it is going to be really cold outside, and there is a chance of snow, I would definitely bring gaiters. They can be waterproof, durable, easy to attach to your shoe and fit around your leg, and they will keep snow from getting in your shoes.

We have the three different kinds of gaiters in our store. The Outdoor Research Stamina gaiters, are the simplest. If you are a trail runner, these are likely what you will want to wear in the winter. They are lightweight and will keep excess ice and snow particles out of your shoes. For those of you that are hikers and not runners, we have more durable options as well. The Outdoor Research Cirque gaiters are still shorter in length, but they are waterproof. Snug-fitting elastic top and bottom edges keep dirt, twigs, scree, and snow out of your footwear; ideal for light-to-midweight hiking. Lastly, for something extra tough, look into the Outdoor Research Crocodile gaiters. They come up to just below the knee, they have Gore-tex nylon uppers are durable and breathable, while lower panels of coated Cordura nylon are lined with packcloth. These are ideal if you our ou in deep snow for a day, or multi-day trip.

Traction
Snow is not as common down in Georgia, but you can see ice frequently in the Winter months.  After a little bit of freezing rain, the trail can become very slick. Even if it does snow a little bit, once people walk on the trail, it compacts the snow down into ice. This can be very treacherous hiking. If you come unprepared, you could risk getting an injury. Even if you decide to hike in these conditions, it can be damaging to the trail because you will inevitable try to walk around the ice on the trail, and trample areas besides the trail.

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Icy Trail

In the store, we have Yaktrax. These are chains that attach to the bottom of your shoe. For Georgia weather, they can usually get the job done. The chains act as an extra metal grip into the ice to prevent you from slipping. Another goot alternative are Microspikes. These are made by Kahtoola and they are spikes that attach to the bottom of your shoes. They are pricier, but they are more sureproof than the Yaktrax because the spikes have the ability to penetrate the ice further than the chains, therefore giving you more traction.

The last option is crampons. I have never even thought about using crampons down in Georgia because they are heavy duty and not necessary for the weather we see down here. They can come in handy if you plan on doing more mountaineering such as ice climbing and glacier walking. Crampons are heavier and need to be attached to boots.

These items will help you on your next snowy/icy Winter hike. I have definitely used all three so far this year to get out there and enjoy the snow. Don’t forget to look at the weather forecast ahead of time so you can prepare for the snow and cold. And always make sure someone knows where you are in case you have a slip and fall. Now get on out there and enjoy some Winter hikes in Southern Appalachia!

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