10 Tips for Spring Hiking
Spring brings the warmer temperatures we’ve all been craving during those chilly winter days. Spring also brings the appearance of green back into the landscape. Backpackers and hikers alike come out of hibernation to finally enjoy winter’s end.
Hiking in the spring could mean the first hike of the season for you or it could mean you are finally trekking without those snowshoes. Whatever kind of hiker you might be, these tips will keep you prepared for all the obstacles spring hiking conditions tend to bring.
1. Check Your Gear List (Then Check it Again)
Before you venture out on your first spring hiking trip, make sure you have all your gear in check. You might be a little rusty from taking the winter off. You don’t want to get out on the trail just to forget your rain jacket or water filter. Take your gear out of its hiding place and examine all your equipment. Check for any damages and make repairs if needed. Create a list to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything. Make this hiking trip the perfect start to the season.
2. Check Weather
This tip might seem obvious but too many times day hikers forget to check the weather only to find themselves stuck in a torrential downpour. Checking the forecast before you head out, no matter if it’s a day-hike or multi-day trip, will determine what you put in your pack.
3. Snow is a Possibility
Depending on where you live, snow could still be a major possibility in the higher elevations. Prepare for this. Take trekking poles and crampons to combat any icy or snowy passages. Some snow and ice will melt during the warm spring days so do take into account the time of day you hike through snow or ice; the mornings might have more ice and slush than later in the day.
4. Expect Mud
In the spring, snow melts and spring showers roll-in, causing muddy conditions on the trail. If mud is a major concern, stick to valley trails, which will most likely be drier. If you do come across some gnarly mud, resist the urge to skirt the side of the trail. Walk straight through the muddy path. This reduces the risk of erosion and damage to vegetation along the trail.
Getting into a sleeping bag with muddy calves is not so amazing. To stay (somewhat) clean from the mud, invest in some gaiters. Gaiters attach to your shoe or boot and can rise to your ankle or knee, taking the mud splashes so your calves don’t have to.
5. Prepare for Rain
Rain is a common weather concern for spring time hikers. First and foremost, bring a rain jacket (or poncho) treated with DWR (Durable Water Repellent). Rain pants are a personal preference. However, if the temperatures are chilly, lightweight rain pants will be beneficial. Second, you want to keep your gear dry. Invest in a great waterproof stuff sack for your sleeping bag. Bring a pack cover for further protection.
If you expect a great deal of precipitation on your hike, before you leave you should treat all your gear with a water-repellent sealant or wash. Treat your boots/shoes, tent, backpack, stuff sacks, etc.
6. Prepare for Bugs
Depending on where you live, bugs will be nonexistent or out in droves. You don’t want massive swarms of bugs to ruin your trip. You could bring Deet but remember to use this bug-repellent sparingly. For a chemical-free solution to your bug problem, consider a bug net.
7. Bring Layers
Some spring days make you think winter will never end while others make you question if it’s summer. Bring layers on your hike. Higher elevations and nighttime temperatures could get chilly. Don’t hesitate to pack gloves, beanie, and an insulating layer like a down or fleece jacket.
8. Be Aware of Rushing Waters
With snow melting and rain falling, running water sources are at a maximum. Some trails might require you to ford a river. Fording rivers can be extremely dangerous, especially during the spring. Do turn around if the water’s current seems treacherous. Your life isn’t worth your hike.
9. Don’t Expect a Well-Groomed Trail
The trail might not be as pristine as you are used to in the summer time months. Months of inactivity on some trails demand trail maintenance. Some trails might still be covered in snow or impassable from a snow-melt filled river. Check trail conditions before you head out to avoid any of these sticky situations while spring hiking.
10. Enjoy Your Surroundings
Walking with spring is a lovely experience. Plants are just starting to grow and the environment is starting to get a lot more color. Enjoy full and thriving waterfalls and the active nature of wildlife.
Spring hiking brings sun to our skin, mud to our boots, and life to our eyes. To make the most out of the season, prepare before you head out. Always remember to treat nature with respect, especially during the growth period of spring.
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