Cross-country skiing and heading south are good alternatives; however, staying inside only leads to frustration and cabin fever.  There is no reason to stop hiking because of the weather.  In fact, some of the best backpacking can be done when snow magically covers the landscape.  Here are seven reasons to keep hiking.

  1. Unlimited source of water – One of the biggest dilemmas in backpacking is a source of water.  Survival experts tell us we can go days without food, but not even one without water.  Snow provides an unlimited supply of water.  Melt the snow and in minutes the canteen is full.
  2. Winter is more beautiful – There is something haunting about the scenery when the trees are fringed with snow.  Think of a  painting done by a competent painter of a scene in the summer.  Then give that painting to Monet, and he will add the snow.  This is comparable to what winter does to a landscape.  Mother Nature turns a beautiful scene into a masterpiece.
  3. Winter weather is perfect for walking – When backpacking in any other season the hiker will perspire and get hot with a 50 pound pack on their shoulders.  When the weather is below freezing it is the perfect weather for walking with only pants, a hat, and a couple of layers on top.  It may take fifteen minutes to warm up, but once that occurs even really cold weather appears mild.
  4. You will have your destination to yourself – Even popular national parks are destitute of visitors during the winter months.  I hiked for three days in the popular Black Elk Wilderness in the Black Hills and saw two people in three days.  For those that love solitude it is a great experience.
  5. No bugs, no spiders, no snakes, no bears – No need to even elaborate here, especially after the brutal mosquito season we witnessed here in the Midwest.
  6. Incredible sense of accomplishment – The end of a hike is always a memorable moment.  It is exhilarating for the backpacker to know they survived a multi day outing with all their materials strapped on their back.  This is magnified when one survives hiking in the winter.
  7. People will look at you as if you are insane – The two people who I ran into while hiking in the Black Hills looked at my backpack and asked in amazement if I was camping out.  When I replied that I was they looked at me as if I was crazy.  It is a victory for the adventure traveler to get that look from people.
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