Get Outdoors: Winter Day Hiking Supplies and Apparel

Many folks believe that when the cool air comes in it is time to put away your hiking boots for the season and forget about fresh air until spring. However, with the right supplies and clothing you can still enjoy hiking year-around.

This guide is set for winter weather hiking in the PNW, not specifically for snow travel or snow shoeing, though many of these tips apply. Snow travel requires additional avalanche prep and knowledge that will not be covered here.

Firstly, you want to make sure you are dressing in warm layers, with your outermost layer being waterproof, and your inner layers being…NOT COTTON. I cannot stress enough how much you do not want to wear cotton. So much not cotton. Obviously this will very based on the estimated temperature of your area.

  1. Underpants
  2. A base layer (think “long johns”).
  3. An insulating layer or two.
  4. Outer Water Proof Layer.

You will want to make sure you pack your “Ten Essentials Plus“. It is especially important that you carry extra food and water, as water sources may be frozen, and you burn more calories exercising in the cold than you do in the heat.

Finally, make sure you are doing all of your essential “R.A.D Plan” steps. In the winter you may come across unexpected travel impediments or lose your trail due to weather. As the trails will be less populated it will be harder to ask for help from other travelers. Know where you are going and have a plan to get out. Have someone back home who is expecting you and knows where you are going and when you should be home. Be smart and be safe.

Here is a fun video on layering

and a tip sheet from REI


Get Outdoors: R.A.D PLAN

One life experience that I feel so fortunate to have had was the experience to spend two years at Green Mountain College in Vermont, studying, among other things, Adventure Recreation. While I ended up completing my degree elsewhere, the outdoors skills and risk management experience I gained here I will carry with me for the rest of my professional and personal life. One of the tools I learned here was the value of creating a “R.A.D” plan any time I will be outdoors.

The Route And Description plan is a tool outdoors trip leaders use to plan for outdoors educational experiences. This includes lesson plans, travel plans, and risk management plans, and is an important part of being safe out of doors. While the R.A.D Plan has some steps that the casual outdoors-person may not use regularly, there are parts of it that are invaluable and should be incorporated into regular trip planning. In the age of the internet these steps are quick and easy to complete but will save valuable time if a true emergency happens.

I defer to the experts for some great resources on developing a R.A.D plan that will work for you:

My old stomping ground, Green Mountain College, has an outing program that is for students and student led- Green Mountain Adventure Programming- and has made their R.A.D plan worksheet available through their website, and the full template is a good starting point for all of us.

The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) has also published a great guide for expedition planning, that lays out these steps in a different format, and can also be used for shorter day trips and outdoor excursions.

The most important part of the R.A.D plan is that you leave a copy of it with someone you trust. We usually email a copy with our friends or leave one with Vaughn’s parents when we are up in the gorge.

We also let people know what time we should be back, and what time they should alert authorities if we are not back, and with a copy of the form search and rescue crews will be able to find us easier if, god forbid, something goes astray. Hopefully your contact person will never have to use the plan, but if they ever do it could possibly save your life.

Travel Journal: Salida, Colorado

At the beginning of August, I was fortunate to take a short vacation to the beautiful mountain town of Salida, Colorado. With a rich kayaking and rafting culture, this town is quite unique and was a fun place to visit to celebrate the wedding of two dear college friends (Congrats Mr. & Mrs. Graham!).DSC_0306

We were in town for a wedding, so we needed to stay in a hotel. I stayed in the cheapest place in town, which I will not mention here other than to say that it was overpriced and not worth the money. To others coming to town I would suggest staying in one of many nearby campgrounds, the hostel in town, or one of the nicer hotels in town such as the “Hampton Inn”. The $20 savings or so a night is NOT worth it.

Downtown Salida was absolutely stunning, and full of plenty of small businesses, cafes, restaurants, and bars. We particularly enjoyed Sweetie’s, Benson’s, and the ever popular Victoria (The Vic). The Vic had some sort of drink special every night we were there,  which was delightful.DSC_0331 DSC_0334

One thing that I loved about my trip was the ease of access to the great outdoors. Honestly, we didn’t get to do much exploring (I was with a group of friends I hadn’t seen in 5 years, and we preferred to socialize with each other), I did notice constant access to trailheads, hot springs, and other fun excursions I would love to take on another trip.DSC_0378_1 DSC_0381

We did make it up to St. Elmo Colorado to explore the “ghost town”. Not much “ghosting” persay, but the old buildings were beautiful, and we got to enjoy feeding some highly domesticated chipmunks.DSC_0238 DSC_0192 DSC_0160_1 DSC_0122

The wedding was held in the stunning Monarch Park Campground, with the reception being held at the Steamplant Event Center. It was an amazing and intoxicating day, followed by a rafting adventure up the Arkansas River. I am so grateful for Tom, an old college friend, for being an amazing raft guide and keeping my hungover ass in the boat. It was a beautiful day and  the amazing rafting sunburn on my thighs goes to show that you really do need waterproof sunscreen.DSC_0278

Our 3 hour drive back to Denver to catch our flights was punctuated by gorgeous mountain vistas, a stop in South Park, and good conversation. I am so glad I was able to take this trip and reconnect with my friends, and I hope to be able to visit Colorado again soon.