For the longest time we kept our old four-season tent just in case we ever decided to do a winter backpacking trip. We recently sold it, but that hasn’t stopped me from wanting to take a winter trip.
Why? Why would anyone want to go backpacking in the winter? It’s cold! There are chances of blizzards or freezing to death! Well I suppose that’s true, but…
1. Winter means silence and isolation.
We already like to backpack because it gives you time to unplug from the world and the people in it. During the summer months, though, we might see a few people each day while backpacking. In the winter I have to imagine that number drops to zero, or close to it. Snow seems to make everything so quiet and still… I think that being out in the wilderness in the middle of winter would be very quiet and peaceful.
2. Winter backpacking tests your limits.
I imagine winter backpacking is a little heavier than summer backpacking because you need more layers of clothing, more food and instant hot beverages, and just more cold-weather gear in general. Sure there are down sleeping bags that are fairly light, but I’d still have to take my heaviest long underwear, stocking caps, heavier socks, etc.
Along with that, you’d either have to skin in on backcountry skis, or snowshoe. If the trail isn’t packed, then that adds a whole other dimension to your trip. Suddenly you aren’t just hiking up a trail, you’re snowshoeing up a trail with a foot of snow on it. This would definitely test my limits as a hiker.
3. Cold weather + sunshine is heavenly.
There is nothing like sitting on the deck at a ski resort on a sunny day. It’s 30 degrees out and I’m sitting on a deck in just a long sleeve shirt and ski pants soaking up every ray of sunshine I can. It’s awesome. I imagine that, in the backcountry, this experience would be magnified. Just me and the BF lying on a warm rock surrounded by snow and sun and wilderness… that sounds like an awesome experience!
4. Everything looks different in winter.
I’d love to hike a trail that I’ve been on multiple times, like the Middle Fork of the Cimarron, just so I could see how winter changes it. Do the waterfalls run at all or are they frozen? Are there icicles? What does Coxcomb Peak look like in the winter? Are there elk out grazing or coyotes hunting?
5. Just imagine the photos!
There’s gorgeous scenery to be had on every backpacking trip, but I imagine the scenery and beauty of some places, like Avalanche Lake, is magnified in the winter. To have a picture of that lake, frozen and surrounded by granite, would be priceless. I imagine meadows with nothing but tiny rabbit tracks across them, creeks with little ice sculptures in them, and trees heavy with hoarfrost. I want these photos.
I don’t know when we’ll ever take that trip. A ski hut trip may be the closest I get… and I wouldn’t mind that at all! I do think, though, that a winter backpacking trip would be the ultimate get-away. Especially if there were hot springs nearby…
Your Turn: Have you ever gone on a winter backpacking trip before? How did it go?