Winter is an austere, yet beautiful, season. Getting outside and embracing the great north wind and all the conditions that it brings is a special pleasure looked forward to by winter hikers all over the country. The proper footwear is a must for safety and comfort (you can ask our little friend, above). Slipping on slick trails or getting cold, wet feet while snowshoeing are challenges to be met so that the winter season can be fully enjoyed.
>When winter sets in, trails harden and get slick. Temperatures drop creating the conditions for frozen icy trails and wet boots that can freeze. For day hiking, you can often use your regular hiking boots because you will not be staying overnight and can come in from the cold, when the hike is done. You may want to invest in traction devices though, due to black ice conditions that freezing rain and melting snow can create. You can check out the Kahtoola Microspikes or the 32 North STABILicers. Yaktrax Pro Traction Device or 32 North STABILicers Lite.
For deeper snow over ice, a crampon is your best choice. Crampon points are long, to extend into deeper packed snow and ice. Crampons are often used above tree line on mountains that have deep-crusted snow conditions where the crampon points sink in and provide great traction and control. There are generally two types of crampons; ice climbing crampons that have stiff, non-flexible base plates and walking crampons that hinge to allow you to walk with a normal gait. Walking in ice climbing crampons would be similar to walking like a stiff legged robot, not very comfortable to hike in. For above tree line treks look for a walking crampon.
Wearing the correct kind of socks is certainly an important part of winterizing your footwear and feet for cold weather hiking. Boots are designed to provide a bit more warmth than the average shoe. This said, the longer you are outside, the more the cold will penetrate the boot to your foot. The use of heavier thermal socks can provide the additional protection needed to stay comfortable in cold weather. Take a look at trekking and deep winter socks.
For deep winter overnight trips, boots with removable liners are a good choice. Snowshoeing and mountaineering both have activity-appropriate boots. Mountaineers use a double plastic boot while deep winter snowshoers will choose pack boots or insulated hiking boots. When sleeping out in these conditions, if your boot has a removable liner, sleep with the liner in your sleeping bag . In the morning, it will be a pleasure to slip your feet into liners that your body has kept warm overnight. They will keep your feet warm as you break camp.
One practice to avoid when camping in the winter is to put your boots near a fire in an attempt to warm or dry them. This will damage your boots and potentially make for a very uncomfortable hike out, with heat-crusted boots that were damaged by a fire.
The main reason people are apt to rest their boots by a fire is because their boots are wet and cold, not realizing that they risk damaging, or even ruining their investment. A waterproof boot will keep your foot dry. Hiking in snow and wet winter conditions will soak a boot. A boot with a waterproof membrane like Gore-Tex or other proprietary membranes will keep your foot dry even if your boots get wet.
There are several different brands and types of insulated hiking boots to choose from, including different variations of the Lowa Trident GTX. This popular waterproof hiking boot is lined with Gore-Tex for guaranteed dryness. This waterproof boot is designed for all forms of snow, but for warmer temperatures than one might find in a bitterly cold Alaskan winter. Lowa Trident GTX also comes in two women’s insulated styles. Very similar to the men’s versions of the Lowa Trident, the women’s have a Crystal outsole that offers superior traction and durability.
One of our highest-rated winter boots is the Salomon Men’s Snowtrip TS Waterproof Winter Boot, which is perfect for temperatures around zero degrees Fahrenheit. The outsoles offer excellent winter grip, easy snow release and deep lugs.
By buying the best type of boots and taking some steps to winterize your equipment to help improve its performance in cold wintery conditions, even a hike in blustery, snowy conditions can be a great time.
What’s worked for you in keeping you feet nice and toasty? Let us know in the comments below!