Winter hiking is a beautiful, peaceful beast waiting for its unleash into your outdoor life. So many people forget about their natural roots when the darkness grows longer and the temperature drops, but if you’re anything like me, you crave that organic connection to mother nature. There are so many reasons to hike this winter, and we don’t want you to miss out on a single second of the cold, crisp sunshine!
Let me Convince You…
If these three reasons to get outside and hike this winter don’t convince you, nothing will.
1. Trails are often desolate; few people want to brave the cold temperatures or own the proper gear to do so. Some of the busiest landscapes become barren beauties at first snowfall.
2. Your senses will be surprised by new smells and sights on the same ‘old’ trails you usually hike! Snow and biting temperatures vastly change your favorite trails making them seem almost brand new.
3. Bug phobia? Fear of woman-eating animals? Don’t sweat it under winter conditions. Enjoy the lack of bug deterrent, bear spray and bug bites when you hike during this season.
Find the Perfect Outfit
When winter hiking is brought up, especially in the snowy parts of the world, many people’s first response is “But it’s cold.” Although they’re not wrong, proper layering is a beautiful thing that can make or break your adventure. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to apparel.
Let's start from the bottom up.
FEET: Insulated, waterproof winter hiking boots are an absolute must alongside wool socks (pack a spare pair!). I prefer my boots have ample ankle support since I’m often snowshoeing to my destination on winter hikes or worrying about the dreaded sneaky post-hole. And seriously, toe warmers are a woman's best friend. As an individual with terrible circulation, toe warmers have been the key to my winter hiking success.
LEGS: A bottom wicking layer, usually leggings made of synthetic fabric for this chick, help to pull the moisture away from the skin. Depending on the temperature, you may choose to go straight to hard-shell water and windproof pant OR add a soft-shell fleece layer in between. I own a great pair of Eddie Bauer hiking pants that are water and wind resistant and fleece lined; these are my favorite for winter hikes.
TORSO: The top half is very similar to the bottom. A wicking layer first (wool works well on top or any synthetic fabric that pulls moisture from the skin) followed by fleece and finally a wind and waterproof outer layer or shell. I find that for a challenging ascent in decent winter temperatures, a base layer, a fleece, and my Cotopaxi windbreaker do the trick until I descend! I also carry a packable down jacket for extra warmth on the summit or overlook; wearing a vest over your mid-layer (weather dependent) is also an option I fall back on for warmer days but ALWAYS pack a full outer layer just in case.
HANDS: I prefer mittens for my hands so I can put my hand warmers in with my fingers since my circulation is awful. Always pack two pairs of gloves; I wear a lighter pair for the more strenuous part of the hike such as a mountain ascent and save the hard-shelled, warm and toasty pair for the return trip. While you’re working hard your extremities won’t feel as cold but after a few accidental hands in the snow, or hard earned sweaty palms followed by potential downtime on a windy summit you’ll want a quick change.
HEAD: Wear a warm hat as well and be sure to pack an extra for when the original cap gets sweaty. Fleece lined caps with ear flaps can be an absolute lifesaver. Other items I like to wear or bring along include a buff to cover my nose and mouth but still allow for airflow; sunglasses or snow goggles to protect your eyes from wind and the UV rays off the bright white snow are very helpful as well.
Don’t Leave Home Without This Gear!
Camp Blanket/ Emergency Reflective Blanket
First Aid Kit
Snacks, and Lots of Them
Headlamp(s) (Spare Batteries!)
And a Comfortable Pack to Throw it All in!
A Few Additional Tips
Remember to be up to date on weather conditions; as you climb in altitude, the climate completely changes and is often colder, windier and less forgiving.
Always tell someone where you’re going to be and what route you plan to take; check back in with them at the end of your hike, so they know you’re okay! Similarly, make sure to sign into and out of all appropriate trail registers.
Look up and be aware of trail conditions. Water crossing dangers and other less than ideal winter conditions should cause alarm and potential rescheduling. Your favorite trails will look entirely different when they’re barren of leaves and full of snow; be sure to brush up on your navigation skills!
Don’t ever be afraid to turn back! It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
As we slowly but surely begin understanding more about climate change and the environment, and most importantly - the role and impact we as humans play in all of it, it’s important to critically analyze our traditions and behaviors that, albeit mostly innocently, contribute to the adverse effects we have on our planet. Did you know that there are over 25 holidays of a variety of origins that occur between November and January? No matter what holiday you celebrate, there seems to be a consensus that this time of year is a time for gratitude, togetherness, and tradition. However, if you look past the eating, the vacation days, and the gift-giving, there are some very troubling statistics about sustainability this time of year. People typically use 8,000 tons of wrapping paper. The United States wastes 40% of its total food. The EPA has estimated that the U.S. produced 11.9 million tons of plastic packaging and over 90% of this went to a landfill after being used just once.
So as you gear up for this holiday season, think about some slight alterations you can make in your traditions to be more environmentally friendly. From finding the perfect gift to hosting, to travel, there’s something at every step that you can do to reduce your environmental impact.
Because this blog caters to adventurous souls who thrive in the outdoors, it’s especially crucial for us to think about how our actions can set an example for a more sustainable future. When thinking about giving an outdoor-themed gift, look at outdoor companies with eco-friendly agendas. All it takes is a quick google search to learn about what companies intentionally incorporate sustainability into their business plan. What you’ll find is that many of these companies come with a daunting price tag but when you learn why you might be more inclined to shell out the extra cash for your adventurous loved ones. Companies like Patagonia, The North Face, and REI are not shy about their sustainable efforts and how it impacts the quality of their products, hence the scary price tag. Research shows that Gen Z is critical of companies in which they invest their money, and are more likely to spend with companies whose values align with theirs, and this is a perfect example. Many of these companies (and you should too) see their products as a lifelong investment so should something happen to your down jacket on your next ice climbing adventure, they’ll help mend it, so you don’t have to buy a new one. If you want to stay away from more prominent corporations, dig a little deeper to buy local or find smaller companies with sustainable agendas.
If you want to take it to the next level, think about giving the gift of experience. It is true that the value of experiences only increases with time, while the opposite is exact for material goods. Let’s say for whatever holiday you celebrate you get new snow pants and a trip to the top ski resort in Colorado. What’s going to linger in your mind as you age is the experience of the journey and not the pants. The tour is going to accumulate memories which will be stories that you grow more fond of with each time you tell them. Besides, giving experience will almost always be more sustainable than a material good, so try a more unconventional approach this holiday season and give your loved ones an experience that they’ll cherish forever. It can be as simple as a treat to that restaurant they’ve wanted to try or as complex as a promise for a cross-country road trip.
Finally, when wrapping gifts get creative. Use newspapers for a vintage look or spend a few extra bucks on reusable grocery bags that are a present in themselves. I think back to my childhood and how much wrapping paper ended up in the trash just hours after being trashed, and it’s scary. Most wrapping paper is not recyclable due to the shiny finish or glitter. Get creative! Use an old map or decorate a cardboard box. It’s a gift to your loved one and the environment.
Sustainable Changes (Hosting and Travel)
What are some traditions, and possibly stereotypes associated with the holiday season? There’s always been this paradox that it’s a time of community and gratitude paired with overindulging in food, gifts, and waste. We’ve talked about the gift giving so let’s tackle the other two. I wholeheartedly believe that holiday parties are a critical aspect to this time of year. But with many things, when you take a more in-depth look, there is a hefty amount of room for sustainable improvements. It’s common that food is abundant at the end of a holiday event where it is a family gathering, a work potluck or just friends getting together. The sad truth is that while some folks eat leftovers, a good majority of the excess will get tossed. Besides attempting to provide an accurate amount of food for the number of guests, below are some ways to feel right about how you dispose of leftovers.
1. Expect leftovers and take ownership of the situation by coming to the party with Tupperware containers. Make it known that you’d like to put the leftover food to use and recruit some friends to help. I have some friends in New York City that make it a point to evenly distribute food among recycled to go containers into prepared meals and once the celebration is over, and take the food to homeless folks around their neighborhood. Sometimes they even make extra food with good intention in mind.
2. A quick google search will come up with a list of zoos which will happily take your leftovers for their animals. What better way to utilize your leftovers than to feed it to rhinos and penguins?
3. Compost! If you don’t do it at home, again, google is your friend to find somewhere that will.
When you’re hosting, think about using reusable dishes and silverware. I can’t imagine the number of plastic plates, utensils, and even serving utensils that end up trashed after a holiday celebration. If you think about how many offices, families, and sets of friends have parties, that’s an overwhelming amount of plastic finding its way to places it shouldn’t. Again, recruit friends where possible to mitigate the stressfulness of the cleaning process. Plan to leave the dishwasher empty so you can fill it right after. If this is not possible, go the extra step to find recyclable or compostable utensils. (A great stocking stuffer would be reusable utensils for a friend to keep with them all the time.)
For many people, the holidays are an extra exciting time because it's a time for travel. As someone who considers traveling a real passion, I’ve had to take some time to reflect on how my constant air travel negatively impacts my carbon footprint, and unfortunately, it’s a lot. To be transparent, I calculated what the CO₂ emission would be for my upcoming trip to Bogota, Colombia from Denver with a stopover in DC, and it will be 4,800 pounds of CO₂. According to the website where I made the calculation, myclimate, the average amount a person should produce in one year is 4,000 pounds. This number is not by any means to make anyone feel guilty about traveling to see their family, but it is an eye opener of where we are at, and where we theoretically should be. When possible, opt for car travel (which isn’t perfect but certainly better). When not possible, think about buying carbon offsets to balance out your emission. There are several websites, like the one I mentioned before and TerraPass where you can buy offsets that help fund sustainability projects dedicated to reducing CO₂ emissions and greenhouse gases to offset your travel. Whether you’re headed home or to a new place on an exciting adventure if nothing else think about how you will be affecting the planet and what are some possible ways to mitigate your impact elsewhere. I plan on asking for carbon offsets for Christmas to offset my travels. Consider doing the same ;)
The general message here is the holidays should be a time to slow down and simplify. There will always be more value in sharing meaningful experiences with the people around you than anything else. I hope this post was a learning experience and you will challenge yourself and your loved ones to take at least one step towards a sustainable holiday season. Whatever you celebrate, we wish you happy holidays!
I have not received compensation of any kind for mentioning the above websites and brands.
I may be a bit biased because I live here, but Portland, OR is genuinely the greatest city of all time. Move aside San Francisco --- Portland should now be called THE City. From the river running through it to the mountains surrounding it, it is the gem of the Pacific Northwest. If you’re only visiting the city for a week (even though I highly suggest staying longer) this article is a compilation of the top restaurants, hikes, and viewing points of, and around, Portland! All underlined names are links to menus and maps, just so you know where you’re going ahead of time, enjoy!
With 51 state parks and over 200 state recreational areas, Oregon is home to some of the most beautiful hiking in the country, most of it within just a few hours from Portland. And if you’re into the small, hole in the wall restaurants, Portland is the perfect city for a foodie’s getaway! Below is a full week’s itinerary of my absolute favorite places in Portland (and a few outsides of it).
One of the few downsides of living in a big city like Portland is the crowds, but let me tell you that Gravy for breakfast is one of the few places I’d say is 100% worth the wait… but maybe still get there on the early side of the morning. Gravy has some of the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had in my life, and they also make some pretty fantastic mimosas! After breakfast, make your way to the Japanese Gardens on the west side of the river, with over 100 acres of gardens and ponds, it’s the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. After the yards, I suggest making your way to River Pig for lunch and watching whatever football games or whatever sporting events are on that day. River Pig is an awesome hole in the wall kind of bar, with excellent food and plenty of TVs for everyone to watch their favorite team. Once football’s over, I love to make my way over to Council Crest to watch the sunset over the river; you can make it a hike or drive your car all the way up to the top for a gorgeous view. To end the night, grab dinner at Matt’s BBQ food truck off of Mississippi St. and finish the day off with Ruby Jewel’s Ice Cream for a perfect dessert after!
You might be a little tired by this point in the trip. You’ve been doing a lot and need a hearty breakfast sandwich to get you back into the groove of things to power through another active day! Brunch Box in downtown Portland is the perfect place to curve that hunger! With breakfast sandwiches this large, you won’t be hungry for lunch for hours, which is ideal because you have to go hike up to well-known Pittock Mansion today. Pittock Mansion was built in 1909 by a London-born publisher and architect. The family lived in the home only for a few years before turning it into a hospital for soldiers and then a museum after the war. After hiking through Forest Park to Pittock Mansion, you can walk on over to Breakside Brewery for an early dinner. After dinner (and maybe a few beers), head on down to Alberta St. for dessert. Random Order Pie Bar is the best pie I’ve ever had, and I promise that isn’t an over exaggeration.
You spent all of yesterday in the city, I think it’s time for a quick road trip! The Oregon Coast isn’t known for its warm waters, but the dramatic coastline and quaint beach towns are beautiful. Grab a quick coffee and bagel to go at one of Portland’s tiniest coffee shops called TwentySix Café and hit the road for Cape Kiwanda State Park! Cape Kiwanda is located in Pacific City, Oregon and is on the Three Capes Scenic Route, which also includes Cape Meares and Cape Lookout. Hiking up the dunes is a bit difficult, especially on a windy day, but getting to see this view from the top is worth it. For lunch, I highly suggest Pelican Brewery on the beach, where you can have lunch in the sand and have a gorgeous view of Haystack Rock and maybe a few whales while you eat. When you get back into the city, you need to try one of Portland’s Top 10 Most Underrated restaurants according to Yelp. City Thai is a small Thai restaurant right outside of the city that has the best chicken pad Thai I’ve ever had, and pretty strong cocktails if I say so myself.
Because it’s getting close to the weekend, let’s stop by a few more places that’ll get packed once it hits Friday again. Mother’s Bistro & Bar is Portland’s idea of where a tea party meets comfort food. With delicious homemade pastries and hearty meals, Mother’s is a perfect place to start your day downtown. With your fancy coffee to-go, it’s now time to spend a few hours in the world’s largest independent chain bookstore Powell’s Books. Powell’s is a three-story building that takes up an entire city block. Let’s say I’ve gotten lost in there more than a few times. There are hundreds of thousands of books with organized rooms depending on the topic, along with an excellent coffee shop and gift store as well! Since you’re already downtown, and in Portland, you have to head to 10 Barrel Brewing Co for dinner. With great food and an excellent rooftop atmosphere, people will think you’re crazy if they hear you visited Portland and didn’t eat/drink at 10 Barrel. If you think you have room for something sweet after dinner, head to Moonstruck Chocolate Café for drinking chocolate and maybe a few truffles to end the night.
Today’s the day to throw it back a few decades! Cadillac Cafe is the perfect place to do this! With comfort food for breakfast at this fantastic diner, you’ll be ready for a drive the opposite direction of the coast towards Trillium Lake. Trillium Lake has an easy 2-mile loop that you can hike in any season. I’ve done it in the hottest time of the summer and jumped in for a swim after, but I’ve also snowshoed around it while having a gorgeous view of the frozen lake at the base of the mountain. After your hike, stop in Government Camp at the Huckleberry Inn for lunch; they have some of the warmest pancakes and thickest milkshakes this side of the Mississippi (I think so at least…). When you get back into town and maybe after you’ve relaxed a bit for the day, head down to 23rd street for dinner at Southland Whiskey Kitchen for some fantastic BBQ, 23rd Street is well known around Portland for having Christmas lights hung up all year round, which is gorgeous to walk around and look at after a good meal. With plenty of little shops and hole in the wall bars, you can easily spend all day there.
Sadly it’s your last day in Portland, but that means you’ve got to make it worth it! Tin Shed is the perfect place for your final breakfast in the world’s best city, with mimosas and the best potato cakes you’ve ever had. After food, it’s time to make it down to the Saturday Market on the waterfront, which happens every single Saturday in Portland. It’s full of food trucks, craft shows, and usually a ton of live music as well. If you have time and the money for one last fancy meal, Portland City Grill is the place to go. PCG is one of the most elegant restaurants in the city and is on the 34th floor of a skyscraper looking over the river and the rest of the city.
Well, that’s all I’ve got folks! I hope that if you end up visiting Portland, you fall in love with this city just as much as I have! The town indeed has some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met, and you really can never run out of places to eat or see (obviously), so visit ASAP!
Sunday: Gravy, Japanese Gardens, River Pig, Council Crest, Matt's BBQ, Ruby Jewel's
Monday: Jam on Hawthorne, Multnomah Falls, Eagle's Creek, Thunder Island Brewing, Interurban, Blue Star
Tuesday: Brunch Box, Pittock Mansion, Breakside Brewery, Random Order Pie Bar
Wednesday: TwentySix Cafe, Cape Kiwanda State Park, Pelican Brewery, City Thai
Thursday: Mother's Bistro & Bar, Powell's Books, 10 Barrel Brewing Co, Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe
Friday: Cadillac Cafe, Trillium Lake, Huckleberry Inn, Southland Whisky Kitchen
Saturday: Tin Shed, Saturday Market, Portland City Grill