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November 2022

Changing of Seasons - How to Prepare for Fall/Winter Hiking

Guest Author: Cassie Markham (@cassie.adventuring)

As the leaves begin to change and the rain (and snow) arrives with fury, many of us take this as our cue to pack up our gear and anxiously await the spring. Summer may be over but the hiking season doesn’t have to be, with the proper clothing, gear and knowledge we can enjoy the mountains year round.

Where to Start?

Hiking in the fall (or winter) may seem intimidating, but it’s really not that different from hiking in the summer. Days are shorter and the weather can be less reliable but there are still plenty of great options for getting out.

Choosing the Right Trail

In the fall and winter trail selection becomes a little more technical, you’ll want to ensure you’re familiar with the trail conditions and how the weather has impacted the trail at all elevations. Just because a trailhead is sunny and clear of snow doesn’t mean the entire trail will be.

Before hitting the trail be sure to research the elevation and distance, check the mountain weather forecast and read any current trip reports. I like to check-out apps like AllTrails or local Facebook groups to get up to date info on the trail conditions. If you’re wanting to avoid the snow, your best bet will be to stick to trails with minimal elevation gain or those that start close to sea level.

Note: If you will be in the snow also make sure you are aware of any avalanche risk and have appropriate training and gear. If you’re looking for more info on snow safety and training check out our blog here or reach out to your local Valhalla Pure Outfitters store for recommendations.

Layering Up

If you’re not familiar with layering, it’s essentially the concept of layering your clothing so that you can easily add or subtract items as needed. Being able to adapt to the changing environment is very important, especially in the cooler seasons. When hiking in the fall and winter temperature shifts, precipitation and wind throughout the day become all the more common and your body temperature will also change with your activity level. Layering helps your clothing to keep you warm, dry and protected from the elements.

We like to think of layering as a three-part system: your base layer, mid layer and outer layer; you won’t always need all three layers but the idea is to pack all three so that you can adjust as required through-out the day. There are a ton of different options out there, but here are some things to keep in mind for each:

Baselayer

Your baselayer should fit snug to your skin and is designed to wick sweat away from your body keeping you warm and dry. Avoid cotton which clings to the skin when wet, doesn’t insulate and takes longer to dry.

Base layers come in both natural and synthetic materials and various weights, a lot of this will come down to personal preference and environmental needs. Consider what type of climate you will be hiking in and pick layers rated for that zone.

Shop Men's Baselayers | Shop Men's Baselayers

Midlayer

Your mid layer is the insulation that retains body heat and protects you from the cold. Just like base layers there is a broad range of options, the most common are polyester fleece, down insulated jackets and synthetic insulated jackets. Again this will come down to personal preference and the environment you will be hiking in.

Shop Men's Insulation | Shop Women's Insulation

Outerlayer

Your outer layer is the shield, shielding you from the wind, rain and snow. You generally want something waterproof or water resistant, quick drying, durable and breathable. Most shells these days are designed to let perspiration escape while still having water bead up and roll off the outside of the fabric due to the durable water repellent (DWR) treatment.

Shop Men's Shells | Shop Women's Shells

With so many options to choose from I’ve included some of my favourites in the gear guide at the bottom of this blog, the gearheads at your local VPO store are also always available to help with your selections.

Getting the Gear

Aside from choosing the right clothing some other things to consider are the different types of gear you might need in the fall or winter, such as microspikes or snowshoes, trekking poles, head lamps and snow safety.

Check out our blog on gearing up for winter adventures for more detail.

Cassie's Picks

Baselayers:

Insulation & Midlayers:

Shells:

Other:

Headlamp:

Hiking Crampons:

Snowshoes:

Trekking Poles: