Hike Smarter in Win­ter

Backpacker - - Skill Set Adventure U -

There’s a rea­son win­ter is the soli­tude sea­son: Cold weather makes back­coun­try travel harder. But it doesn’t have to be un­com­fort­able. Fo­cus less on the shiv­ers and more on the scenery with tips from Shawn “Pep­per” Forry and Justin “Trauma”

Lichter, who in 2015 be­came the first peo­ple to fin­ish a win­ter thru-hike of the PCT.

1) PACK SMART.

In win­ter, ef­fi­ciency is key for two rea­sons: Day­light is pre­cious, and the time you spend fid­dling with your equip­ment is time spent los­ing heat. “I do all my pack­ing and morn­ing chores from my sleep­ing bag, then make sure I have my ex­tra lay­ers ei­ther on my body, in my pock­ets, or eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble in my pack,” Lichter says. Put the day’s food in your toplid or hip­belt pock­ets (in ul­tra­cold temps, snack rather than stop­ping to make lunch), and leave your puffy out of its stuff­sack.

2) START COLD.

“It takes a lot of dis­ci­pline to stop and take off a layer be­fore you start to sweat,” Forry says. Ditch the puffy be­fore you put on your pack.

3) TREAT THE SNOW LIKE LAVA.

Avoid touch­ing it when­ever you can. “Ev­ery time you kneel down, or drop your glove in the snow, you’re slowly get­ting wet,” Forry says. Brush off snow be­fore your body heat melts it, and sit on raingear or a foam sit pad to in­su­late your bot­tom from wet or frozen ground. And keep track of your stuff: Set­ting things in deep snow is a good way to waste time look­ing for them later.

4) BABY YOUR FREEZABLES.

Keep wa­ter liq­uid by stash­ing bot­tles in your sleep­ing bag at night (heat it up first if you’re cold). Liq­uid fuel is more ef­fi­cient in the cold, but if you go with a lighter-weight can­is­ter or al­co­hol stove sys­tem, warm up can­is­ters in your bag or jacket for an hour be­fore cook­ing to im­prove per­for­mance (dur­ing use, set the can­is­ter on a plate or avy shovel to keep it from sink­ing into the snow). Use cold-re­sis­tant lithium bat­ter­ies, and keep gad­gets (or just the bat­ter­ies) in in­ter­nal pock­ets when not in use.

5) DRINK PLENTY OF WA­TER.

Keep­ing your blood thin al­lows it to carry warmth to the small ves­sels in your fin­gers and toes. Forry sug­gests bring­ing hot drinks in an in­su­lated bot­tle or a bot­tle wrapped in a cozy (make one; see right).

6) KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR FEET.

Even pro-level hik­ers can miss symp­toms of cold in­jury, in­clud­ing numb­ness and hard, white, waxy skin. Ex­hibit A: Lichter and Forry both got frost­bite just weeks into their hike (see right). “Be ob­ser­vant of sen­sa­tions in your feet, and take care of them early and quickly,” Lichter says. Avoid over-tight­en­ing boots or wear­ing too-thick socks (poor cir­cu­la­tion means cold toes), and keep your feet dry. Get wet? Wrap socks around hot wa­ter bot­tles and dry them in your sleep­ing bag at night.

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