I recently attended a presentation on winter hiking by Mat Jobin. Mat is a professional guide (www.reachyoursummit.net) who’s got the experience to back up everything he passes on at his presentations. He’s logged thousands of miles on trails throughout the United States. I didn’t know what to expect from the presentation really. This was my first attendance at a hiking education program. Being as it was hosted by an outdoor store I thought much of the emphasis would be on what to buy before leaving the venue. That wasn’t the case at all. Mat was very objective in his gear recommendations and didn’t endorse any particular brand or product as he introduced categories of gear to the audience. The group gathered to listen to him was diverse in age and evenly split between men and women.
My hiking experience includes hikes completed between April and November. I’ve been out during the other, colder months but only on days that were unseasonably warm. I’ve hiked when the temperature has been in the 30’s but not colder. I haven’t hiked a snow-covered mountain. I signed up for this presentation in anticipation of getting out during the colder months to places I’d normally only go when it was nice and warm outside. I was hoping to gather some additional information on how to prepare for hikes when the environment can literally kill you if you’re not prepared for it.
Overall I left the presentation feeling validated in some areas and gaining information to help me better prepare in others. I was happy to hear that I had considered most of the necessary supplies Mat suggested for day hiking in the winter. I was happy to hear also that the items I typically harp on – adequate footwear and hydration – were Mat’s priorities as well. There were certainly a few suggestions and tips that I can put in to practice. First, he talked about satellite communication. I found that on my Franconia loop hike this past September I had no cell service for most of the trip. I had a great satellite signal for my GPS but no ability to message out on my phone. On many short, local hikes this may not be a big concern but on longer hikes in more remote locations the cost of satellite communication capability is most likely money well spent. Regarding personal gear, I was up to speed on layering but not as much so on water purification in the winter or on accessories such as mitt shells for your hands or the benefits of a backpacking stove, even on shorter trips. I found myself jotting notes on items I need to throw in my pack this time of year that I hadn’t thought of. Mat also provided some information on great winter hiking locations that are reasonably close by. Of particular interest was a great tip on a likely place to spot snowy owls this time of year. With any luck I may be able to check it out this weekend.
Overall this presentation was definitely worth my time. It provided me with the extra confidence I needed to get out a bit more in the colder months and maybe challenge myself in a way I hadn’t previously. I’ll admit that as I left the small meeting room and re-entered the store I had to make a conscious decision to not just walk around and find all of the 6 or 7 things I now feel I must buy! I’m hoping to put some of what I learned to use this coming weekend, so I may be back soon to pick up these items anyway. I’ll keep you posted!