How To Prepare For A Winter Trek In Snow

The Himalayas in winter don’t seem very welcoming. Trekkers are naturally worried about how to prepare for the fierce cold they’re bound to face. But it’s not that hard says Arjun Majumdar, who talks about how to tackle the snowy conditions.

First, stop thinking that extreme cold is unbearable. Even a harsh winter is not difficult to beat if you are prepared. Your preparation for a winter trek starts with your warm clothes. For temperatures that go down to -15°C or lower, the rule of thumb is to be in six layers. With every subsequent increase in temperature by 10 degrees (say from -15°C to -5°C), you can strip off one layer. But never strip off to less than 3 layers.

What are the layers that you need?

An example of a typical six layer clothing for -15°C would be:
1 thermal inner
2 T-shirts
2 full sweaters
1 hollow-fill jacket

But you can make your own variations of this. For example, I wear one sweater with a fleece jacket and then add a hollow-fill jacket over it. It keeps me warm for any situation. For your legs, one thermal inner, with two synthetic track/trek pants is usually more than enough to tackle the worst. Keep an extra track pant in hand for an additional layer. But the parts that need more protection are your fingers, toes, ears and nose. You need to see that they stay warm and dry at all times.

Here are the accessories you need: 

1 woollen cap
1 pair of water proof gloves
2-3 pairs of woollen socks
1 scarf (that can cover the neck and some bit of the face)
1 pair of sun-glasses to protect your eyes from harsh sunlight reflecting on snow

A scarf is something a lot of people ignore, but it is a lifesaver. A scarf can protect your neck, your nose or work as an extra glove. This multi-utility gear is a must for a winter trek.

Keep in mind. During the day when the sun is out and you are trekking, it actually gets very warm with the layers of clothes you have on. So be prepared to peel off layers depending on the heat. At times you’ll sweat — so it makes sense to wear quick dry synthetic T-shirts rather than cotton as your first layers (which retains water longer).

The next important equipment to keep in mind is your shoe. You need a shoe that protects you from all elements and gives you grip on snow. Watch this video for a guideline on how to buy your shoe.

Next, get your body ready for a winter trek. A fit body overcomes cold much easier than an unfit one. It is easy to get fit. Start with small intense brisk walks and move them up to slow jogs. Increase the length of your jogging time until you can jog for 20-25 minutes at a stretch. Try to get to a distance of 4 km. This usually takes about 20 days. Do not get to your trek base camp without a physical preparation for the trek.

Questions trekkers ask me often:

Gaiters
Gaiters

1. Do we need gaiters?

Gaiters are synthetic wrap-around garments worn over the shoe and lower pant leg. When walking on snow that comes up to your knee, they are very useful. They do not allow snow to enter your shoes and thus prevent frost bites. On most snow trails in India, gaiters are not required. However, in winter, gaiters are useful accessories to carry.

2. Do we need trekking poles?

Trekking poles reduce stress and fatigue by over 40%. They act as extra legs by sharing your body weight, thus lifting some weight off your own legs. A trekker without a trekking pole is half equipped for a trek.

For any more questions about winter trekking, use the comments box below to ask them, and our team will get in touch.

Arjun Majumdar

Arjun Majumdar

An entrepreneur by profession and a trekker by passion, Arjun started Indiahikes in 2008. With a vision to explore and document new trails, solve problems in the mountains and implement sustainable ways of trekking. Arjun leads Indiahikes, a community that has changed the face of trekking in India. He has written extensively for Discover India magazine and is a TedX speaker. He frequently talks at institutions about his entrepreneurial journey, but his favourite topic is always the impact of trekking on the mind, body and spirit. Read Arjun's other articles. Watch Arjun's TedX talk. Watch Arjun speak about our trekking trails. Learn from Arjun about what it's like to work at Indiahikes.