Hiking in the snow, best practices for saving energy

Hiking in the snow requires the right gear

Knowing the best way to efficiently traverse terrain while hiking in the snow will make your winter hike more enjoyable. Especially if you’re hiking from low (non snowy) to high (more snowy) altitudes, it’s important to bring the most useful type of gear for the snow cover that you’ll encounter.

Before you set out, research what snow cover is likely before you go, and only bring what you need. It’s even more important to keep your pack weight down while hiking in the snow since winter hiking can take more energy than summer hiking.

Here are some basic tips from the US Army’s survival manual, FM 21-76(Department of the Army Field Manual). Excerpts are indicated in italics.

If you possess some previous training in cross-country skiing and equipment is available, travel on skis is recommended. In most snow conditions and over most types of terrain, skies provide the speediest and most energy-saving mode of travel. Use of snow shoes requires hardly any previous training, but your speed will be much slower and travel more exhausting.

Prevailing snow conditions

In deep, loose snow, skiing is exhausting and, if you have the choice of equipment, snowshoes are recommended. Even a light crust on the surface of the snow prevents skis from sinking and provides for speedy and easy skiing. A crust hard enough to support a person, makes travel on foot feasible, but even then, if equipment is available and you possess the necessary proficiency, travel on skis is recommended.

Improvise equipment for travel if snow is loose and deep. Make snowshoes of willow or other green wood, using a wood separator and thong, wire, cord, or shroud.

If you’ve been hiking in the snow and have some tips, leave them below. There’s surely someone reading this article that can benefit from your experience!

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