Essential Gear for Winter Hiking
Last week's rescue of two local hikers from the frigid slopes of Algonquin Mountain provided a happy ending to a potentially tragic tale.
After two nights stranded near the summit of the second-highest mountain in the state, Blake Alois and Madison Popolizio, frost-bitten and shivering, were rescued by forest rangers.
Not too many of us venture onto high mountain summits in the wintertime, when frigid temperatures and icy surfaces add a much greater level of risk to backcountry adventures and test both physical and mental preparedness.
For those who plan to do their hike this winter season, keep in mind to pack the following:
Hand Warmers :
For those of us with extremities sensitive to the cold, hand warmers are an affordable and convenient option.
Toe warmers are also available, as are insoles and slightly larger body warmers (great for tossing in the bottom of a sleeping bag).
Glove Liners :
Glove liners let you shed your mitts to adjust gear or eat a sandwich without exposing your bare skin to the elements. Gloves can get wet with sweat or from pushing snow-laden branches away from your face, so pack at least one extra pair. As with all outdoors clothing, look for wool or synthetic, not cotton.
Emergency/Space Blanket :
These foil sheets cost just a few dollars and are often handed out at the end of marathons and triathlons. They help reflect body heat and work well in a pinch. They may look flimsy, but we've seen one used with two sticks as a stretcher.
Bivvy Sack :
A step up from an emergency blanket, a bivvy sack is a small, lightweight shelter. There's a wide range of options, from basic bags to more elaborate tent-like structures. Emergency versions cost around $20, but more durable ones can run into the hundreds of dollars.
Winter Mountaineering School :
If your ambitious outdoor adventurer decides to head into the mountains, he or she will be safer (and you'll have more peace of mind) with the knowledge to survive harsh winter conditions. The Adirondack Mountain Club offers day classes on winter survival as well as more intensive multi-day day-hike and backpacking programs through the Winter Mountaineering School.
Lists on both sites include extra clothing, map and compass, first aid kit, headlamp, sunglasses, sunscreen and a foam pad. Snowshoes (or skis) are also recommended; they're required in the High Peaks Wilderness Area when there are eight or more inches of snow. They also are encouraged everywhere else to prevent "post-holing," creating deep holes in the snow that can trip up other trail users and cause serious injuries.