Mainers know that hiking isn’t just for the summer months. Sometimes you want to hit the trails even when it’s below-freezing. BDN outdoors and features reporter Aislinn Sarnacki walks us through her favorite winter gear for those who want to spend December in the great outdoors.
1. Aislinn’s top recommendation for spending time in nature: a warm winter hat. Aislinn recommends a fleece-lined hat that covers your ears for most cold winter days. Luckily, warm hats are not hard to come by in Maine, so find your favorite style and get outside.
2. From your driveway to the trails, ice cleats are another must-have this winter. If you find yourself in some rugged terrain, it’s time to upgrade to heavy-duty spikes. Whatever variety of ice cleats you choose, you’ll be happy you have them when you find yourself staying upright on a patch of ice.
3. Although much of Maine is without snow right now, those snowy winter days are probably far from over. If you want to hit the trails, you’ll probably need some snowshoes to help you out. Make sure you get the right size and attachments for your winter trail needs. Some people even prefer wooden snowshoes. Who would have thought?
4. It’s only going to get colder, but that doesn’t mean you should stay inside. Get a face mask to protect your nose and cheeks on those bone-chilling days. Aislinn recommends a fleece-lined neck warmer or a full face mask, whatever you prefer.
5. With the sun setting around 4 p.m. this week, light isn’t always plentiful. That’s why a headlamp is next on the list. “It’s really important that you have a source of light on you, so you’re not racing the sun out of the woods and worried if you’re going to be able to see your way back,” Aislinn said. She also recommends to bring extra batteries along, too.
6. To continue with the theme of staying nice and warm, mittens and gloves are the next must-have. For warmth, go with mittens, but if you want to more mobility or want to use your phone, get some gloves. Take it up a notch and add heat packs to your gloves or mittens and stay extra warm.
7. As mentioned above, heat packs can be your best friend in winter. Chilly fingers and toes are no fun, so use heat packs to keep warm from head to toe. These little packets just need to be shaken up, and they’ll produce heat in no time. Keep them stockpiled in your backpack for a little extra heat when you need it.
8. Wear lots of layers, but make sure they’re wool or synthetic. When you’re active outside in winter, you’re probably going to sweat a bit, or at least run into snow or rain. If you wear the right materials, they will dry quickly and you won’t be stuck with cold, wet layers. Stay away from cotton though, it stays wet.
9. Even if you’re not the most outdoorsy in the bunch, you could still use an emergency kit. Aislinn recommends keeping it in your car or backpack. You can amend an existing first aid kit with other survival tools such as a fire starter, or buy a survival kit already made (if you can find it).
10. If snow has completely covered a trail or there are downed trees, a GPS could come in handy to help with navigation. Get a traditional GPS or a satellite tracker where you can notify rescue personnel if you get stuck. These work when cell phone reception isn’t always working. And don’t forget the original Maine GPS: “ The Delorme Maine Atlas & Gazetteer.”