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M 5 Beginning Concepts for Winter Backpacking

by David Chenault

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Article Summary:

For the modern first-world human, winter is frightening. Our everyday lives are built around spaces and devices that serve to insulate, from swings in mindset and temperature, with remarkable efficiency. As the rest of this article will seek to demonstrate, this unfamiliarity with how to mentally acclimate to such a varied world is the most important thing which must be overcome in order for backpacking in winter to stop being intimidating, and start being fun. Changes in gear, technique, and mindset, which will be discussed below, should be made from a position of knowledge, rather than fear of the unknown.

Therefore, the first thing which a prospective hiker seeking to make the transition from being a 1+ to all season hiker must do is to define what winter will mean for them. Not all winters are created equal. The gear, techniques and mindset required for dry snow and negative 40 (F) are quite distinct from those demanded by lows around 20 (F) with mixed snow and rain. Fortunately, the Internet makes the beginning of this enlightenment rather easy. Trip reports, photos, gear lists, and the knowledge of others traveling in the areas and seasons you might visit will prove invaluable. Of course, it's not at all uncommon for such knowledge to be hard to come by, if not outright absent. One of the joys of winter is experiencing solitude where summer conditions would find madding crowds. Thus, information on conditions may be scant.


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