I used to dread winter because it meant that I couldn’t go backpacking for 5 months of the year. Then I took some classes in winter backpacking and mountaineering and now I go on trips year round. In fact, winter has become my favorite season for backpacking and I look forward to it each year.
In addition to spectacular scenery, there are no crowds and opportunities for inspirational campsites grow exponentially because much of the ground cover is buried under snow. Trust me. Stargazing from the top of a mountain in winter is unlike anything you’ll experience the rest of the year.
But before you run off into the winter moonscape, I strongly recommend that you get some training for winter camping and backpacking. While there is a lot of skill set carry-over of your 3 season skills to the 4th season, there are many safety and technical skills you need to learn about winter survival.
Seriously, this is not optional. You need to understand how to prevent or cope with hypothermia, frostbite, snow blindness, how to avoid avalanches zones, how to melt water, how to prepare a winter camp site, and depending where you hike, how to use snowshoes, crampons and an ice axe.
While the danger level of winter is very real, acquiring these skills will make you more confident and stronger 4 season backpacker. You can even go beyond them and learn ice climbing, backcountry skiing, and mountaineering techniques. Plus there’s lot’s more gear!
If you live in the New England Area, here are some winter backpacking and mountaineering classes I recommend you check out. Learning the proper techniques for winter survival and enjoyment takes years of practice, so if self-propelled winter camping and sports appeal to you, you best get started learning now.
New England Hiking Club Courses
- Boston AMC Winter Hiking and Backpacking Program
- ADK Winter Mountaineering School
- New Hampshire AMC Winter Hiking Series