Winter Hiking Essentials

Winter Hiking Essentials

It is definitely winter time in Ohio. And when you are hiking and camping here any time from October through March, you really need to be prepared for all four seasons to possibly hit over the span of a weekend. But when January and February roll around, you can bet on it being cold with very little warm-up. Here are some things you need to take with you for your winter hiking excursion.


If you are planning on heading down to Mohican for an afternoon, a map or other navigation may not seem like that big of a deal. But when everything is white and most of your usual landmarks are covered, getting lost is very easy.


The first essential item is  a map that has been laminated and or kept in a protective case. As the snow falls you do not want your map falling apart.


Also essential is a compass. This will assist when you are using the map. Get your bearings and move in the appropriate direction.


You may also want to invest in a GPS. If you are using the one on your phone, make sure to keep your phone off unless you need to use it for an emergency call or for the GPS. There is no sense in wasting your battery to text your friends when it could eventually mean life or death. A better idea is to buy a stand-alone GPS system, as opposed to using your phone.

Sun protection

It’s the dead of winter. Do you really need sun protection? Without a doubt! The sun reflecting off the snow can sometimes cause more issues for you than the sun on a hot, sunny day.


The first step to protection from the sun is some basic sunscreen. Any SPF you normally wear in the summer should be fine. But you will need to be very aware of how much you sweat, which would force you to reapply.

Lip balm

Very few things will dry your lips faster than cold, dry air. If you do not properly take care of your lips, it can cause issues for several days after you have returned home.


Take your shades with you. This will help reduce eye strain. After several days trekking across the snow, eye strain becomes more apparent and more of an issue for you.


Layers, layers, layer! Layers are essential on your winter hikes. The issue comes from when you have been hiking for a while and you start to sweat. Ohio and many other locations are cold enough to cause permanent damage or death if you start sweating and that sweat freezes. You will want to have available jackets, vests, pants, gloves, hats, socks, and any other form of clothing that can keep you warm but can also be peeled off if need be.


It is going to get dark. More than that, it will be getting dark early and stay dark for many more hours than you would see in the summertime. You may need to illuminate at any point, so always be ready.


When you are moving about in the wilderness having a headlamp is much more efficient than having to carry a flashlight. You may need both hands to get from one place to another.


Even though a headlamp is best when you are getting from point A to point B, you need to have a flashlight on the ready for something you can turn on quickly if need be when you are stationary.


Batteries do not last as long or work as well in the cold. That means you should have plenty of spares. Do the math based on the milliamp-hours (mAh) listed on the batteries and the output wattage (W) of your illuminating device. Depending on how cold it is, the actual time the batteries last may be as low as 25% of the calculated time.

Example: You have a flashlight with 3 D-Cell batteries. Each D-Cell is 1.5 volts and rated at 18,000 mAh. The light in your flashlight is rated at 3 W. Now the math: 3/1.5 = 2 amps = 2,000 milliamps. 18,000/2,000 = 9 hours.

First-aid supplies

There are first aid kits designed specifically for cold weather. Generally, they do not cost much more than a standard first aid kit. This will take care of minor issues like cuts but should also have something like an emergency thermal blanket to help combat any chances of hypothermia.


Waterproof matches or windproof lighter

Both of these items have benefits and drawbacks. Our suggestion is you take both, just in case. If it too windy for a match or if your lighter got waterlogged, you will want a backup.


You may have an emergency situation which requires a fire to get started quickly. If this is the case, some kind of firestarter is the best way to remedy this. It may come in the form of a liquid or a gel, but in most cases, very little is needed.

Repair kit and tools


A multi-tool like those made by Sheffield are invaluable when trekking into the wilderness. You will undoubtedly find uses for the knive blades, pliers, and the corkscrew upon your return home.

Duct tape

This may sound insane, but you should take some duct tape with you. It is a good temporary fix for rips in clothes, tents or any other vinyl or cloth. You may be surprised how quickly you find yourself needing duct tape.


Of course, you need to take food but this is one of the keys to preparation. If you are planning on living off the land, you will still want to take food, in case other food sources are scarce. If you were planning on taking food anyway, you need to plan on taking more. At least an extra day’s worth of food is recommended.


Hydration system

Hiking any time of year can be excruciating, but it can be doubly so in a cold-weather environment. You need to take some kind of hydration system that is insulated. Some people take small bottles for short hikes into the woods, but if you are doing anything serious, you will need a larger system.

Water filter

If you run out of water, you can find a nearby stream and filter the water being provided to you by nature. Many streams in remote woods and forests would be safe to drink without filtering, but keep in mind that there are a lot of animals out there which may have used that water for other purposes.


A shelter is a requirement for all of us as humans. It is one of the four necessities we have along with food, water, and air. When heading out, you need to make sure you have shelter, even if you are going for a short time. Mother nature can turn on you quickly and you need to be prepared, even if your plan was to only be out for a few hours.


A bivy is designed to go up quickly, be lightweight for your adventure, and keep you protected from the elements. These are the main functions you are looking for.


Reflective Blanket

At the very least, you should have a reflective blanket with you, even on your short hikes. This can save your life when the weather shifts unexpectedly.