The weather outside may be frightful, but that doesn’t stop the hardcore hikers out there from doing their thing. However, you’ll need more than just a few extra layers over your hands and face when you go out to tromp your favorite place. As you well know, winters outside can be harsh with freezing temps, ice, and snow–and it goes without saying that frostbite and hypothermia suck.
Chances are, you’re bright enough to know how to dress accordingly for a cold winter hike, but there are a few products on the market today that can vastly improve your hike as well as your chances for survival should you get lost–all while fitting efficiently in your pack. Naturally, you’re going to want to invest in a higher-capacity pack for your winter hikes (even day hikes), but extra gear doesn’t have to weigh a ton or clean out your savings account. Here are five lightweight, inexpensive suggestions that will make winter hiking trips an even greater experience.
GSI 9” Steel Frypan
For those who plan on being “out there” for awhile, you’re going to need some sustenance above and beyond the gorp and Clif bars that you packed, and food always tastes better when it’s…y’know, cooked. This pan weighs all of 18oz (that’s just over a pound, folks), so it’s not going to weigh you down terribly. It also features a folding handle so that it fits rather ergonomically into your pack. Most importantly, it won’t break the bank, ringing in at a whopping $9.95.
Outdoor Dining Products
Outdoor Dining offers a huge line of awesome food if you can’t get your hands on an MRE (or if you know how inedible an MRE can seem). They have any extensive menu of breakfast, lunches, snacks, entrées, and everything in between. You can find a list of their best-selling offerings here. They’ve got an extensive menu of gluten-free, organic, vegetarian, or vegan meals, as well. Obviously, like most “meals-in-a-bag, their weight will be negligible. Despite the great taste of their food, nothing on their best-sellers list costs more than around $9, with many of the dishes closer to the $5 range. Put that GSI Frypan to use!
SnowClaw Backcountry Snow Shovel
The SnowClaw is an absolute must-have for winter backpackers. This multi-purpose tool is not just a shovel. It can be used as a splint in the event of a medical emergency, a snow anchor, a seat, or even a plate. It is unique because it’s made of a copolymer that gives it the ability to be both a flexible or rigid tool, depending on how it is used. Not only is it extremely lightweight (just over 6oz.), but it also won’t take up room in your pack–it will fasten to the outside of it. At a (suggested) cost of about $20, it’s totally worth a look. It can be purchased at several outdoor retailers in the States, including REI and Cabela’s.
Spot Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger Personal Tracker
Sure, this will set you back a little more than the other products on your list (it’s currently going for around $150), but your life is worth a little extra scratch, right? Spot tracks your progress and sends your location in pre-set time intervals. It has all kinds of bells and whistles, as well. It has a vibration sensor that will send your location every time you start or stop moving, it is capable of sending a pre-recorded message to your contacts along with your GPS position, and it will send your position to GEOS International Response Coordination Center. This little guy weighs all of 4oz., can fit in your pocket, and will keep you on the map.
Equinox Vapor Barrier Sleeping Bag Liner
Vapor barrier bag liners like this offering from Equinox can go miles in terms of staying warm in frigid conditions. Made of non-breathable materials, it does not allow moisture to escape the liner, which exponentially increases the temperature range of your sleeping back. This particular model weighs only 10oz (most other models weigh just about the same), and retails at right around $25. For that price, you really can’t beat the functionality of a properly-used VBL.
So there you have it, folks. If you were to go buy all of this gear, you’ll be able to cook great food, dig a shelter, guarantee you’ll never get lost, and keep toasty warm in winter weather. You’ll have spent less than $250 (depending on how much food you buy), and added only slightly more than 2lbs to your pack (again…depending on the amount of food you bring). Feel free to comment with other helpful winter gear tips below. Then, get out there and tromp!