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CCarr518 03-14-2013 10:23 AM

Winter Hike Advice
Hi All,

This weekend my friend and I are going on our first winter hike. We are fairly experienced summer hikers, but have never attempted a hike in the winter season. We are going to attempt Whiteface and Esther via the Wilmington Trail at the reservoir. Any tips, warnings, or suggestions on the difference between a summer hike and a winter hike?

rdl 03-14-2013 02:03 PM

A few things...

Depending on temperature you may need to move your water supply closer to your body to stay thawed. Especially if you use a camelbak the hose can freeze pretty easily. If the temp is borderline freezing, and you do use a camelbak blow the water back into the bladder after taking a drink, that will minimize the water left in the hose.

Also regarding water, the tendency is to avoid drinking cold water when you're already cold but you need to hydrate just as much in the winter as any other time of the year.

Some type of traction device is advisable and depending on where you're hiking required by law. The last bit of the Whiteface summit approach can be pretty icy, the stairway especially so -- I've been up there where I wouldn't climb that without crampons, also been up there in the winter when it's been bare rock.

Any navigation devices that you may rely on will need to stay warm to retain battery life.

Clothing is very much a personal choice, only recommendation is to have something dry to change into, along with a good windbreak. Whiteface gets very windy.

Hope this helps...


Bob K 03-14-2013 04:45 PM

When I head for a summit in winter in addition to normal cold weather gear, I also take goggles and face protection (balaclava or neoprene). I've used both on Whiteface. I assume you'll have poles. Drink water even if not thirsty,

CCarr518 03-14-2013 08:35 PM

Great advice so far, thanks!

I have rented crampons and snow shoes from my universities outing club, and have a pair of trekking poles from my own gear stash. I do not, however, have the "snow baskets" for my poles that I have read about. Can anyone shed some light on the usefulness of these larger baskets; are they necessary or will my normal summer trekking poles be okay? Specifically, I have a set of the Black Diamond Z-Poles.

woj 03-15-2013 10:35 AM

I'm making an assumption that you have done some reading about cold weather hiking / backpacking, so I'll be brief...

Remember to layer properly. This will help keep you warm, but not too warm. Layers should be wool and/or sythetics. Cotton kills in the winter. Too much clothing will cause sweating which will dehydrate you, along with making you all wet and eventually cold (especially when you stop moving).

If you get wet, wool/synthetics will at least keep you warm. If you choose to hike in a pair of jeans and a cut-off t-shirt, well that is of course a personal choice, although you may end up frozen like a popsicle before day's end. Extra clothes in a bag to keep them dry is advisable as well.

Also, use care with the crampons if you have never used them before. The sister forum to this forum has multiple reports of those using crampons saying that on occasion that inexperience with crampons can almost be more dangerous than not having crampons at all. Make sure that the crampons will fit your boot before you start your hike, no point in carrying something that won't work for you in the end.

If you plan on taking on more winter hiking, I started using Hillsound Trail Crampons this year, which are more like microspikes and was very pleased with them. I would pick up some type of microspikes for the future.

As far as snow baskets go, I wouldn't get too concerned. I haven't sprung for trekking poles yet, but I use downhill ski poles in the winter time to hike with, and the smaller baskets on these poles has not greatly affected my hiking experience. I would consider this a more minor detail at this point.

Depending on conditions, remember that traveling in winter is slower going than summer hiking so plan accordingly. Start early, rather than later. It may be colder/darker earlier in the morning, but it is better than being faced with oncoming darkness as night falls.

Lastly, lots more information is available on the sister forum at

Enjoy your hike...

rdl 03-15-2013 11:35 AM


Can anyone shed some light on the usefulness of these larger baskets; are they necessary or will my normal summer trekking poles be okay?
When I use poles in the winter I use the same adjustable poles that I use for skiing, no large basket. I use the poles for getting some bite in ice/hard snow when climbing/descending, if I'm on the flats I'll pack my poles away.

CCarr518 03-19-2013 01:09 AM

Thank you all for the great advice! We had great weather for the hike and were happy to find a clear view on the summit of whiteface. All of your suggestions were more than helpful; the only issue I ran into was a very painful hip flexor sprain of some sort. Not entirely sure how it happened, but stretching seems to be putting it at ease. Thanks again.

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