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How to Stay Safe During Your Winter Hike

Winter is here to stay for now — and with the ongoing threat of COVID-19, many of us are hunkering down at home. But even if temperatures are chilly, it’s important to spend time outside. While 86% of people who receive flowers say these bouquets make them feel special, you can still reap the benefits of Mother Nature even when nothing is in bloom.

Arguably, one of the best ways to appreciate the great outdoors is to partake in a hike. Not only does hiking allow you the opportunity to take in the gorgeous scenery, but it can provide a great workout. That said, hiking does come with its hazards. And unless you relish the thought of visiting one of the U.S.’s 6,210 hospitals during a pandemic, you’ll want to do everything possible to stay safe. Here are just a few tips that can keep you protected while you hike this winter.

Always Buddy Up

Regardless of the season, it’s generally not advised that you hike alone. But in winter, it’s especially important to hike with a partner. Although the pandemic might make it more difficult to meet up with your hiking buddies, remember that you can wear masks (which can help keep the cold at bay!) and stay a safe distance apart during your hike. No matter what, you shouldn’t go out alone. You should also get in touch with a family member or friend before you leave to let them know when you’ll be out, when you expect to get back, and which route you’ll be taking.

Wear the Right Shoes and Clothes

Since 22% of slip-and-fall accidents result in more than 31 days of missed work, you might already be familiar with the hazards of improper footwear. When you’re out on the trail, it’s essential to wear waterproof shoes that provide superior traction and insulation. It’s also best to invest in some trekking poles, as this can provide you with more stability if a trail happens to be icy. In addition, make sure to dress in layers. This will make it easy to add or remove items as you need to. In particular, bring along or wear a winter cap, two pairs of gloves, and heavyweight socks, as well as a waterproof jacket with a hood and inner layers made of fleece or merino wool.

Prepare For Inclement Weather

You’ll want to check the forecast before you set out, of course. Generally speaking, you should avoid any snowy or icy trails (especially if you don’t have much experience with winter hiking) altogether. But even if the forecast and trail conditions look good, you should still prepare for the worst. Bring along a map and compass, as you can’t depend on a GPS or a smartphone to operate in cold conditions. You should also bring a headlamp or flashlight, a whistle, a lighter, a knife or multi-tool, sun protection, and a basic first aid kit.

Fuel Your Body Right

Even if you’re going on a very basic hike, you’ll still want to make sure your body has the fuel it needs to stay warm and active. You need to hydrate during winter hikes, so bring along an insulated water bottle. You may also want to bring a thermos with a warm beverage (as long as it doesn’t contain caffeine, which can cause further dehydration). You’ll also want to bring some snacks you can eat on-the-go that will provide you with the protein and carbs your body needs.

Cold weather hiking isn’t for everyone, but it can be a great way to fit in some fitness and appreciate the beauty of nature. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to stay safe on the trail.

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