Winter is a time for sledding, skating, skiing and snowshoeing! But what about hiking? Hiking might not be the first activity that comes to mind when deciding which winter activity to do with your kids, but it’s actually a lot of fun to do in the winter. So from our family to yours, here are six tips to help you get outside and enjoy the magic of winter hiking. Happy Hiking!
1. Dress in Layers.
Dressing for winter hiking can be a finicky thing. It’s winter so we like to bundle everyone up before stepping out into sub-zero temperatures. But hiking is hard work and generates a lot of body heat. When our bodies get too hot we start to sweat and if sweat can’t evaporate (think: thick winter gear) clothes get wet. Wet clothes are a big problem because as soon as we stop and take a break (think: hiking with kids!) that dampness makes our body cool down quickly. The solution is to dress everyone (parents and kids) in layers! Long john, pants, snow pants or wind-proof pants, long sleeve shirt, fleece, windproof jacket, tuque (winter hat), gloves, warm socks. You get the idea.
2. Take “Layer Breaks”.
When starting on a family winter hike everyone might feel a bit cold. It’s winter after all, but once you start walking it might not be long before everyone begins feeling warm. Remember sweat is not our friend in the winter so stop regularly for a family “layer breaks”. Check in with everyone to see whose gear needs adjusting. Kids, especially younger ones, need help with regulating their temperature. Unzip coats, remove hats or if kids are cold add layers back on.
3. Don’t forget water and snacks.
When it’s cold we can easily forget the need for water but even on a short hike it’s important to bring along. Hiking in the winter is hard work, sometimes even more so with the extra weight of snow gear and deep snow. Without fail someone will be thirsty. Bringing snacks on a hike with kids is also important, it give kids (and adults!) that extra energy boost (and motivation boost!) to continue adventuring. For winter hikes it helps to bring snacks that are easy to eat with gloves on such as dried apples, granola bars or even jerky.
4. Bring a sled.
A sled can make winter hikes go from tolerable to awesome. Younger kids get tired quickly while trudging through snow and carrying kids in the winter is no easy task. A sled is the perfect solution for these problems. I try to encourage my youngest to hike as much as he can before taking a sled break so that he stays warm. A sled is also fun to have if you come across some little hills along the way.
5. Pick a familiar trail.
If winter hiking is a new activity for your family start with a trail that you’re familiar with, or one that’s clearly marked. Snow and ice can transforms trails in amazing ways but it also can cover footpaths making them more difficult to follow.
6. Keep it fun!
Winter transforms trails into magical places. All that snow and ice opens up so many possibilities for fun and adventure. Instead of walking down a trail, try sliding and rolling down (if it’s safe), inspect the ground for fresh animal tracks, admire frozen ponds and waterfalls and enjoy the magic of winter!