Winter Hiking: 4 Things to Consider

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Last day of winter March 2012, Mt. Monadnock summit, N.H.

By guest bloggers the Rice family

Winter officially arrived here in the Northeast on December 21st and with that a BIG change in the weather outside. Like me when the new year arrives a lot of folk’s make resolutions to start hiking more and will be headed outside into the cold. I haven’t been much of a ‘cold weather hiker’ in years past, but this year, I intend to get out onto the trails more often. Lately I’ve been researching the topic on the internet and discovered four things I needed to become more educated about in order to protect myself from the colder weather conditions.

1. Wind Burn

2. Snow Blindness

3. Frostbite

4. Hypothermia

Is there such a thing as wind burn? Glad you asked. I’ve read that wind burn is actually a sunburn, but have also read that it’s a result of cold temps & low humidity. During the winter months the cooler temperatures and cloudy sky’s give hikers a sense that there’s no danger from the sun. It’s true the clouds block the suns light, but not the ultraviolet rays! These easily continue to pass through the clouds causing a burn. If cold temperatures combined with low humidity are the culprit the solution remains the same. If your outdoors no matter what time of the year, sunscreen containing a moisturizer is always a good idea. Don’t forget the lip balm!

What is Snow Blindness? Back again to ultraviolet light! Reflection will be the enemy here. Basically UV rays from the sun (even through the clouds) are reflected off the snow potentially causing damage to your eyes. Nothing a good pair of uv rated sunglasses or snow goggles wouldn’t take care of. In fact, I’ve read on Instuctables.com that ‘emergency’ snow goggles could be created by using duct tape.

Now here’s an important one for me personally, Frostbite. Body parts exposed and furthest from the heart are the most bitten. The different degrees of frostbite begin with mild symptoms that most folks have probably experienced already such as reddening of the skin followed by chaffing, itching & pain. If exposure continues one could potentially lose a piece of, or a whole something. In addition to this, certain medical conditions such as diabetes or even medications you may be taking could make you more vulnerable to the condition. For me personally, I take a Beta-Blocker that reduces the blood flow to my extremities. If I’m not paying careful attention this could become a problem.

Lastly Hypothermia is one that I would put higher on the danger list. “Stumbles & Mumbles” often are the first sign of an afflicted person followed by shivering and difficulty using your hands. I’ve experienced some of these mild symptoms after spending too much time shoveling snow. Continued exposure could potentially become life threatening even leading to cardiac arrest. Once a hypothermic person reaches the severe end of the scale, often even moving a victim could cause them to go into shock. For more info CLICK

A new fallen snow brings about it’s own special beauty upon the landscape. So like me if your headed outdoors this winter ensure your hike will be pleasant by taking care to protect yourselves from the elements.

Happy New Year!!!


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