Contributed by Joy Cooper
You love snow-capped mountains, steaming hot cocoa, and cozying up in a lodge after a day of hitting the slopes. Winter travel can be magical… but it can also be treacherous if you’re not prepared.
Before you venture out into the cold this winter, make sure you have these ten essentials covered. From the right gear to the right attitude, we’ll help you make the most of your winter getaway.
1. The Right Clothing
This one seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning because so many people don’t dress appropriately for cold weather travel. You’ll need more than just a heavy coat – you’ll need layers. Clothing made from synthetic materials will keep you warmer than natural fibers like cotton.
Start with a base layer of long underwear (woolor synthetic, not cotton) to wick away moisture. Add a middle layer of insulation – fleece or down – for warmth, and top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Don’t forget gloves, a hat, and a scarf or neck gaiter to keep your extremities warm.
2. The Right Footwear
Your shoes are just as important as the clothes on your back when it comes to winter travel. In addition to being stylish, they need to be functional – able to keep your feet dry and warm in the snow and ice.
Invest in a good pair of waterproof, insulated boots with rubber soles. If you’ll be doing any hiking, make sure they have good traction. And don’t forget to pack a pair of socks made from synthetic materials or wool (again, not cotton).
3. A Good Sleeping Bag
Whether you’re camping in the backcountry or staying in a lodge, a good sleeping bag is essential for winter travel. Down is warmer than synthetic fill, but it’s also more expensive and doesn’t insulate as well when wet. If you plan on doing any camping, opt for a synthetic fill.
Regardless of what type of fill you choose, make sure your sleeping bag is rated for cold weather – below freezing, if possible. And don’t forget a liner to add an extra layer of warmth.
4. Kid-Friendly Gear
If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll need their own gear to stay warm and safe. In addition to the clothing and footwear mentioned above, they might need extra layers like snow pants, boots, hats and gloves.
For a baby, you might also want to invest in a footmuff or bunting bag. These attach to the outside of a stroller or car seat and provide an extra layer of warmth. UppaBaby Ganoosh is a great option that is highly rated by parents.
5. A First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is always a good idea when you’re traveling, but it’s particularly important in the winter. In addition to the standard supplies like bandages and antiseptic, you might want to include items like earplugs (to help prevent frostbite), lip balm (to prevent chapped lips), and hand warmers (to prevent cold-related injuries).
6. A Map and a Compass
If you’re heading into the backcountry, make sure you have a map and a compass – and know how to use them. GPS units can be helpful, but they can also fail in cold weather. When in doubt, trust your old-fashioned map and compass.
7. A Headlamp
A headlamp is a must-have for any winter traveler, whether you’re camping in the backcountry or just taking a walk after dark. It frees up your hands so you can carry other important gear, and it’s less likely to drop and break than a regular flashlight.
8. A Fire Starter
If you’re camping in the backcountry, a fire starter is essential for both warmth and safety. A lighter is the easiest option, but you might also want to pack matches in a waterproof container. If you’re really hardcore, you can even make your own fire starter out of cotton balls and Vaseline.
9. A Multi-Tool
A multi-tool is always handy to have when you’re traveling, and it can be particularly useful in the winter. A good multi-tool will have a knife, pliers, scissors, a file and a saw – all of which can come in handy when you’re dealing with cold weather gear.
10. An Emergency Kit
In addition to a first aid kit, you might also want to pack an emergency kit with items like a whistle, a flare gun, and a space blanket. These can be lifesavers if you get lost or stranded in the cold.
Best Destinations for Winter Travel
Now that you’re prepared for winter travel, it’s time to start planning your trip. Here are a few of the best destinations for winter travel:
- Jackson Hole, Wyoming
- Banff, Alberta
- Whistler, British Columbia
- Aspen, Colorado
- Park City, Utah
- Lake Tahoe, California
- Big Sky, Montana
- Breckenridge, Colorado
- Telluride, Colorado
- Vail, Colorado
Winter travel can be a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But it’s important to be prepared before you go. With the right gear and some careful planning, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip – no matter where you’re headed.