Seven items to enhance winter hikes

Seven items to enhance winter hikes

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

With more cancelled events and closed cafes, it’s becoming clear that the winter of 2021/2022 in Europe will be far from the norm. Rather than giving in to despair, it’s important to keep moving forward, and not just metaphorically speaking. With the awesome beauty and healing power of nature as your inspiration, lace up those hiking boots and get out into the great outdoors, gray skies and dampness be darned!

When embarking on a winter wander, gearing up properly can make or break a hike. Of course, you need all the cold weather clothing and serious technical equipment if you’re planning to tackle steep heights and snow-covered peaks, but if you’re just looking to get in a few miles of vigorous exercise before darkness sets in, here are seven small and relatively inexpensive items sure to enhance your comfort level. And with Christmas just around the corner, wouldn’t some of these items make for thoughtful gifts or stocking stuffers?

Thermos: Nothing warms from the inside out like a hot drink and a thermos filled with a generous pour of hot water is the ultimate godsend while out on the trail. You can brew up a coffee or tea, or even enjoy a cup of instant soup. A thermos filled with mulled wine is a reliable warmer of spirits too, as long as you know the way home or plan to use public transportation.

Hand warmers: Cold fingers in need of a jolt of warmth will benefit from these reusable plastic devices that when cracked, emit a soothing warmth for half an hour or longer. What’s great about some of these little wonders is they can be used time and time again; if shopping for these in Germany, check to be sure they are “wiederverwendbar,” in other words, reusable. Single-use variations can provide warmth for even longer, sometimes up to ten hours. Pick up either type at your local drugstore.

Insulated insoles: Toes will stay warm throughout the day with a pair of shearling or woolen insoles. The silver ones, made out of the same material as Mylar space blankets, are meant to reduce heat loss into the ground. Be sure to pair them with moisture-wicking woolen or synthetic blend socks, rather than cotton ones.

Cushion: A wet backside is no one’s idea of fun, so a simple plastic, blow-up cushion will make taking a seat a much more pleasant endeavor, wherever you may be.  

Windproof outerwear: In addition to a waterproof jacket, a nice thing to have along on a hike is a pair of wind and element-proof pullover pants. Not only can you pick up a pair in the cyclist’s section of a sporting goods store, discount supermarkets often sell these as part of their ever-rotating selection of weekly bargains.

Energy providing snacks: Keep your body fueled along the way with snacks that aren’t fussy to eat and don’t freeze into a tooth-jarring solid mass. Packets of peanut butter crackers, dried fruits and nuts, trail mix, fig bars and beef jerky are all good bets.

Headlamp: Darkness arrives early in northern Europe and if you don’t time it just right, it’s easy to get caught out on a pitch-black trail, miles from home. A headlamp and the fresh batteries needed to keep it powered could help you find your way out of a tight spot. 


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