Don’t let the cold weather keep you cooped up indoors! Winter hiking is rewarding both mentally and physically – the views, sense of quiet calm and workout make it one of the most underrated cold-weather activities around. Here are 10 easy winter hiking tips to keep you safe and help you get the most from your winter hikes.

1. Check the weather.

To be caught in a winter storm or heavy precipitation can have dire consequences. And winter daylight is short. Fourteen kilometres might take a lot longer than planned.

2. Invest in a good backpack.

A properly sized backpack eliminates back pain and the lethargy that comes with it. Make sure there’s a place to put poles, snowshoes, and/or cross-country skis.

3. Bring a decent first aid kit.

Mine includes an emergency blanket, extensor bandage, band-aids, moleskin, lighter, candle, safety pins, tiny scissors, tweezers, emergency pain medication, lavender oil, toilet paper and extra laces. For everything else, there’s duct tape on my water bottle and thermos. Also, bring a headlamp with two sets of batteries.

4. Pack a waterproof coat and pants.

Even if the weather forecast is good, extreme conditions on the summit or windy sides of the mountain can make life miserable. And in case of an emergency, these will keep you warm while you wait for help or descend the mountain, at a slow pace.

Credit: Monique Martel

Credit: Monique Martel

5. Bring a charged cell phone.

Keep it close to the body. Colder weather drains a battery quickly.

6. Perspiration is the enthusiasm killer of winter hiking.

So be proactive by dressing in layers and removing as needed. I carry extra clothing, including mitts, hats and socks, in my backpack.

7. Tell someone where you’re going.

Be clear which trails you plan to use, even if the winter hike is with a group. If you fail to return on time, someone can alert the authorities.

Credit: Monique Martel

Credit: Monique Martel

8. Have a good map and compass handy.

Snow hides trails well, and it’s easy to get turned around when the wind blows sleet or flakes in your face.

9. Eat a good breakfast, and carry more food.

More than might be required during warmer weather. Minimalist Baker has a multitude of recipes for raw granola bars. My personal favourite is her Healthy Brownie Granola Bar.

10. Tuck a camera in a pant pocket.

Some of my most momentous winter hiking memories are uncovering elements of nature or capturing funny hiker moments.

Credit: Monique Martel

Credit: Monique Martel