Our must-haves for a comfortable winter outing
In collaboration with Claude Roussin and Joey Trudel, respectively equipment buyer and outdoor buyer at SAIL.
Experience the joys of winter and venture out on snowy trails without leaving your comfort zone. This winter, follow the advice of two outdoor specialists and enthusiasts to take your getaways to the next level.
Take care of your feet
Don't ignore your extremities, which will take you wherever nature beckons.
Slip your feet into sturdy, insulated, waterproof hiking boots or winter boots, depending on your choice of activity, after putting on merino wool socks. This breathable fiber allows sweat to evaporate efficiently so your feet don't stifle. Everyone knows there's nothing more uncomfortable than damp socks.
Before you head out, be sure to put on leg gaiters for extra protection against the elements. According to Claude Roussin, equipment buyer at SAIL, gaiters keep your feet dry by preventing snow, mud, and rocks from getting into your boots, as they protect the shaft (the top part of the boot). Available in a variety of lengths to suit your needs, they're practical in all seasons, in both cold and warm weather - yes, even when you're not wearing snow pants.
Walk with confidence
To move forward without fear of slipping, you'll want to bring removable cleats (crampons) that you can put on or take off depending on your route and the ground you're walking on. There are several models available, some of which come in a variety of sizes to fit your boots. The more spikes you have, the more stability you’ll gain. Ten spikes are enough for light snow hiking.
Slipping a headlamp - with new batteries! - in your backpack is also a wise choice, as nightfall can come surprisingly fast in winter. With a headlamp, you won't have to fumble around, and your hands will stay free.
Store as much heat as possible
The ultimate luxury? A heated jacket or coat! Simply activate its heating system to curb the chill. But be careful not to use it if you're already doing a high-intensity activity, because too much heat will cause you to sweat more, and your clothes will quickly get soaked. Instead, save the battery power for breaks and times when you’re really cold.
In addition, always be sure to protect your often neglected hands. Before going outside, apply a moisturizing cream. Then, when you stop, insert hand warmers in your mittens to prevent the cold from getting to you while you're standing still.
An essential you won't want to do without? Heated socks, which provide 10 hours of warmth and are activated by remote control. Comfort guaranteed!
Top up on energy
When you reach the top of the mountain or the end of the trail, treat yourself to a little reward to stay strong and warm, all thanks to a few well-chosen accessories.
Joey Trudel, also a member of the SAIL team, suggests carrying a burner designed to withstand extreme conditions and wind, as well as a set of stackable pans. In minutes, you can heat milk for hot chocolate or soup for your lunch.
Foodies will be delighted to learn that there are now several types of freeze-dried foods on the market that are as hearty as they are comforting, including coconut milk soup, mushroom risotto, braised pork, chicken blanquette, and more.
Another tip: pour coffee, tea, or your favourite beverage into a sturdy thermos. Ideal for the cold weather!
Take a well-deserved break
If you're going on a long hike, you'll want to stop and relax your shoulders, back, legs, and feet, which will have traveled many miles while carrying your supplies.
"Bring a well-insulated ground mattress to rest for a few moments on the snow without getting wet," suggests Joey Trudel. Better yet? Spoil yourself with a portable heating pad, recharged the day before you leave.
A break in the great outdoors is the perfect time to turn on the warm-up feature of your accessories and take out your binoculars to peacefully check out the wildlife and natural beauty around you.
Don't forget Fido
When it comes to winter comfort, think of your canine companion too!
Wrap your trusty companion in an insulated dog coat and give yourself a break by equipping your pet with a small backpack. This way, Fido can help carry food, and you won't have to lug everything on your back.
Reward these canine exertions by pouring fresh water and food into a collapsible fabric bowl. This compact accessory will make your four-legged friend's walk more enjoyable, while taking up little space in your bag.
Dog access varies from national park to national park and from season to season, so be sure to check the dog information to plan your day.
Take inspiration from our winter outdoor essentials and add your own to make all your outings a success. Have a great winter!