6 Tips for Winter Backpacking

Always wanted to get out during winter but worried about being too cold or not having the right gear? With these 6 Tips for Winter Backpacking you might change your mind!

Winter in Australia can be quite varied across our vast country. At the bottom, in Tassie, you can find it's a chilly -13 degrees overnight, while in the top end a winter’s night can be a mild 6 degrees.

The Australian winter is certainly beginning to take hold, with lower temperatures and early snowfalls being seen in the past few weeks. Many overnight hikers have decided it's time to shelve their plans and hang-up their gear for the next few months. 

That being said, winter hiking can be loads of fun and hold new opportunities and challenges for the adventure-seeking junkies among us. The desire to experience the winter snow views and possibly have the trail to yourself can be extremely rewarding.

BUT….. hiking during winter does require a different skill set, being prepared with the right gear, clothing and attitude before heading out can get you on the right track.

These 6 Tips for Winter Backpacking are a great place to start.

  1. Layer up
    Making sure you stay warm AND dry is the ultimate key to winter backpacking. By layering up with thermals, top and bottom, you can maintain a constant body temperature. In the morning when it's freezing, use a lot of layers. Once you get moving and start to warm up, take off a layer or two. By using a 3 layered system you can make sure you can always stay dry and warm. Your base layer keeps sweat away from your body, the second layer is for insulation and the third layer is your protection from wind, rain and snow. Synthetic fabrics are your new best friend, they help wick away moisture and reduce the risk of hypothermia. Cotton is your enemy, when cotton gets wet, it takes a very long time to dry, which can leave you feeling damp, cold and miserable and increase your risk of hypothermia. Keep your gear dry in a roll top dry bag.

  2. Keep your bits warm
    Your extremities like head, hands and feet are where you lose a lot of heat. Using a neck gaiter, gloves and a beanie to keep your bits warm, can help block out the cold and level variations in your core body temperature. A sock liner and a pair of thick winter woolie socks, plus an extra pair or two for bedtime will keep those tootsies nice and warm. Cold feet, which you just can’t seem to warm up, can be the difference between an enjoyable hike and a miserable one. It’s also a good idea to have two layers of gloves or mittens, one for insulation and one for waterproofing as well. When you get up in the morning and your fingernails feel like they are going to fall off, nobody is happy.

  3. Don’t forget to drink
    As the temperature drops you’re less likely to feel thirsty. The thought of drinking that ice cold water from your water bottle or bladder isn’t very inticing but it’s really important you stay hydrated. Your body is working harder than normal in the dry air and colder conditions so drink away. Plus being dehydrated increases your risk of hypothermia. Make sure your water is filtered thru your Sawyer Micro Squeeze!!

  4. Have a good feed
    In lower temperatures your body uses up energy faster so make sure you are fuelled up and ready to go. Having a full breakfast including complex carbs, protein and fats before your leave starts you off on the right foot. Packing out some high energy, sugery snacks keeps your energy up throughout the day. Try to snack and eat your lunch on the move so your body doesn’t get a chance to cool down and get cold. If you do, stop make it a short one and make a hot cuppa to warm your insides.

  5. Check your gear
    There is nothing worse than hiking in the cold all day and looking forward to getting to camp only to find your tent has a big fat hole in it or you’ve forgotten the tent stakes at home. A quick check of your gear before you leave could save you a world of pain. Pack everything in dyneema bags or stuff sacks to keep things protected and dry.

  6. Warm up those batteries
    Batteries when exposed to extreme cold lose charge quickly. It’s best to try and keep your headlamp, GPS, phone and other electronics as warm as you can by placing them in a pocket close to your body or at the bottom of your sleeping bag at night. Lithium holds up to the cold better than alkaline but both suffer losses in charge as the temperature drops.

Winter essentials:

  • spare layers, gloves andwarm socks – stored in a dry bag
  • hand warmers extra magic for when your fingers are freezing
  • cooking stove and gas– so you can make a hot meal & drink
  • waterproof matches/lighter– for the stove or to light a fire
  • emergency blanket– wrap around someone whilst injured to conserve body heat
  • headlamp– just in case your hike takes longer than planned
  • first aid kit– check it is up to date and stocked up
  • knife– never go into the bush without one
  • emergency whistle– never use outside of an emergency situation
  • map– stored in a waterproof pouch
  • compass– know how to use it

Find what you need at ultralighthiker.com.au



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1 comment

First of all there’s a few great tips in this article. But please note when using a Sawyer waterfilter in winter to keep it somewhere close to your body to keep the water inside the filter from freezing. After using the filter put it in a ziplock bag so it doesn’t leak onto your clothes or body.


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