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Winter Hiking in the North East – Getting Started and Gear Selection

Winter Hiking has changed the way I view winter here in the north east. Just a couple years ago October would roll in and my depression would set in. Soon I’d be scraping my cars windshield and shoveling my driveway with a grimace on my face. While I still dread shoveling and scraping, the winter season has also brought me my favorite hobby… Winter hiking! You receive a mixture of reactions when you tell people that you’re going to venture out on a sub zero day to climb to the top of a 5000 foot peak that would expose you to a windchill plummeting to 20 below zero. People are either fascinated or confused why you would ever want to torture yourself like this. I’ve had a lot of 3 Season hikers ask me about my winter hiking experiences. How to get started? What do I wear? What do I bring? How do you stay warm? etc… I’m hoping to answer some of these questions in the following. It’s important to remember that just because this system works for me… it may not work for your. The gear and advice I have is only my opinion and what I’ve determined works best for me and my needs. It’s also important to remember that I mainly hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and other areas in the North East. Terrain, climate and location all play in a roll in what kind of gear you’ll need to carry.So lets get started.

2014 AMC Winter Hiking Series Course

When I first got into hiking I was mainly a fair weather hiker always looking for ideal weather days to head out into the woods. If the weather didn’t cooperate I’d call it off and stay home. As many locals know, weather here in the north east doesn’t always co-operate. This lead me to start heading out on the trail regardless of the conditions in the summer, spring and fall. This year I decided to take it a step further and start hiking through the winter season. When I mentioned this to my wife and friends everyone seemed to think I was crazy.  Why on earth would you want to hike through the extreme cold, snow, and wind?! Well the answer was pretty obvious to me. It’s a thrill, there’s less traffic on the mountains, and the scenery is incredible during the winter in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I also have a real addiction to gear… and of course winter hiking requires a whole range of addition equipment.I started researching what gear I’d need. I was starting from scratch with no knowledge of traction, insulation types, or emergency equipment. I perused forums like backpacker.com and others to try to absorb as much as I could. I read other more experienced hikers blogs like sectionhiker.com . It became obvious very quick that this hobby would become expensive and the learning curve would be steep.After further research I discovered a course offered by the AMC (Appalachian mountain club), the “Winter Hiking Series” AKA WHS. It was inexpensive at only $90 for members, and also run by volunteers. I was intrigued, but a little concerned as I’m mainly a solo or small group kind of guy. None the less, I broke out of my shell and filled out the application to join the course through the AMC website. The only criteria to join the WHS course was to be an “experienced 3 season hiker” with all the knowledge that brings, and to be able to attend every scheduled event. Shortly after I submitted the application I was contacted by one of the leaders that I had been accepted to the course.