Destination Recreation: Winter Hiking - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Destination Recreation: Winter Hiking

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Winter hiking is a growing sport. But before you head out, experts say it's important to dress like an onion and know your layers.

"You have a base layer which is the closest to your skin, you have an insulation layer to help trap heat, and then you have an outer layer, which is your wind-proof, waterproof layer," explains Pete Antos-Ketcham with the Green Mountain Club.

Avoid cotton, which traps water, and stick with wool or synthetic material. And Antos-Ketcham says it's best to bring extra layers in case your clothing gets wet.

"Getting wet when you're cold is particularly dangerous, whether that's from your sweat or rain," he says.

And the cold can also make hydrating out on the trails a challenge, but it's essential because dehyration can speed up hypothermia. Experts recommend bringing a thermos with a warm, non-caffeinated drink and a widemouthed bottle of lukewarm water in a insulated thermos.

"Water freezes from the top down. So you want to keep your water bottle upside down," says Antos-Ketcham.

Reporter: "So what's the most common mistake that people make when they try to do winter hiking and they find themselves in trouble?"

Antos-Ketcham: "Well, there's a couple things that people do. They misjudge how slow travel can be, particularly if you have new snow and you're breaking trail. They misjudge the ability to follow trails in the wintertime."

So in case you do get lost, or stay out past sunset, he says it's also important to have a headlamp, batteries that you keep in your jacket, and navigation tools, plus a first aid kit. Poles are also good to help with balance, and spikes for your boots will keep you from slipping. The Green Mountain Club recommends newcomers start with group hikes on easy trails while they get used to their gear.

"Camel's Hump State Forest and State Park have a wonderful mix of both short and sweet and more difficult," he says. "This one here, the Forest City trail, is kind-of intermediate. It's got some nice low, gradual elevation gain and then you've got some more steep stuff, so it's a good place to learn."

But even a familiar trail is a completely new experience in the winter.

"If it's a trail that you hike a lot in the summertime, just remember that it's going to be completely different in the winter," Antos-Ketcham says. "It's going to look different, it's going to feel different."

He says when there's a good ground cover, all the dips and roots may get covered up, making a bumpy summer trail smooth sailing in the winter -- if you're ready.

If you're looking for a list of recommended winter hikes, the Green Mountain Club also has a new book with trail listings.

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