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Winter Hiking Safety

A close-up of hiking boots with snow on them.
Hiking boots with good traction will help you navigate snowy trails.

Since the Philadelphia area has finally broken through its snow deficit, I thought it would be a good time to post about simple ways to be safe while hiking in the winter. I absolutely love winter hiking, but I am getting the feeling I might be in the minority. I grew up in the tundra, er the Pocono Mountains, and winters were downright bitter. Philadelphia winters tend to be pretty mild, unless a polar vortex sweeps through. Here are some quick tips on winter hiking safety. (Note: This post contains affiliate links and I may make a commission if you purchase an item I recommend at no additional cost to you.)


Here are some quick tips about how to stay safe if you want to go hiking in the winter in the Philadelphia area. Just a quick reminder that these are just my personal opinions and hiking is always an inherently dangerous activity. But one of the best ways to stay safe is to always prepare for the weather and terrain.


This article from the American Hiking Society goes pretty in-depth about winter hiking. My list is a bit shorter.


  • Check the weather conditions. I know this might sound like a no-brainer, but always check the weather before heading out. Precipitation like rain or snow can cause dangerous conditions, as can wind. Remember, you will likely be hiking around lots of trees. And if there are strong wind gusts, tree limbs and falling trees are always a threat. The best winter days to hike are sunny days with temps above freezing.

  • Dress in layers. Let’s face it, the weather is downright wacky these days. Dressing in layers is my advice regardless of the time of year, because if you’ve got layers, you can control your comfort and protection must more easily. Remember that you will be hiking, which means you will be generating heat. Dressing in layers allows you to stay warm, or shed a layer if you start to overheat. Layered dressing also helps insulate your body from frostbite, which can happen pretty quickly when temps dip below freezing.

  • Bring water. You should always bring water when you hike, no matter the season. However, colder temps dehydrate your body more quickly, so it’s super important to hydrate while hiking in the cold. If you are opposed to drinking cold water in the cold outdoors, consider warming your water a bit before filling your water bottle.

  • Wear traction on your shoes. A good pair of Yaktrax or ice cleats will help you keep your balance and help you keep yourself steady when walking on icy trails. A good pair of hiking books will certainly help, but the Yaktrax and/or ice cleats really help you dig into each step and stay steady.

  • Pack extra handwarmers. Handwarmers are an easy thing to stock up on and toss in your backpack for when a need arises. Meeting up with friends and someone forgot their gloves? Give ‘em some handwarmers. I also really love toe warmers for those days when I know I’m going to be out long enough to chill my feet. Toe warmers keep your piggies toasty.

There are so many more tips to take depending on where you are hiking in the winter and for how long. If you want to learn more, check out this National Park Service post or this one from REI.

Happy hiking!




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