Hiking is one of the best and most scenic activities that the Channel Islands has to offer. Whether it is a light stroll through a meadow or country lanes or a coastal hike with stunning views, hiking here is a wonderful way to get outdoors and align to working and living on an island.

The trails here are so plentiful and lovely that you will not want to be stuck inside, even as winter approaches. But it doesn’t have to be snowing or in the dead of winter for cold weather to be a concern for your hiking trip.

While hiking, especially cold weather hiking, has its inherent dangers, there is no cause for alarm as long as you come prepared.

You never know when a hiking trip can end up lasting longer than you had planned, and when you are out in the wilderness, all you have is whatever you brought with you, so it is better to be safe than sorry.

Here are a few things to consider and ways to prepare for your next winter hike on the Channel Islands:

Wear the right clothing

When it comes to hiking, layering is key. Depending on how cold it is outside, a good rule of thumb is to have a base layer to keep the sweat off your skin, a mid-layer for insulation for the cold, and a moisture-wicking layer or shell that keeps out the wind. I always make sure I follow this rule before heading out for a walk here at the Channel Islands. As you get moving, you are sure to warm up, and you want to be able to drop layers as opposed to having to stop and change clothes.

If it is bitterly cold out, you will also want to remember to cover all the critical parts, so remember these five: nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, and toes. You always want to make sure your feet stay dry, so packing an extra pair of wool or synthetic socks is never a bad idea. A pair of lightweight gloves, neck gaiter, and a headband to cover your ears should be enough for most winter days on the islands.

Bring the right gear

You will want at least a 30-liter backpack for winter day hiking because you will have a bit more to bring than you normally would. As far as what to fill your pack with, if you are someone who tends to feel the cold weather most in your fingers and toes, you should always pack toe and hand warmer packets to keep those digits warm.

With fewer daylight hours during winter, you will always want to prepare to hike in the dark.

A headlamp is a lightweight and functional piece of equipment you can bring; just make sure you have new or extra batteries with you too.

This one is easy for many people to disregard in the winter, but sunscreen is always vital. Especially if there is some snow on the ground, the rays from the sun can reflect up at you and cause a sunburn on the exposed parts of your face or neck.

Basic hiking equipment for hiking at Channel Islands

Basic hiking equipment for hiking at Channel Islands

Fuel up

You may not notice how hungry or thirsty you are when out for a hike in the winter, which means you might not stop to eat and drink as much as you would in the warmer months. Because a hydration reservoir can potentially freeze in cold weather, it is best to bring a water bottle with an insulated sleeve when hiking the Channel Islands. If you do decide to stick with your water reservoir backpack, just make sure you sip from it often, so it is less likely to freeze up.

When it comes to hiking snacks, stay away from foods like energy bars that get too tough in cold weather. Nuts and cheese work well as winter hiking snacks, but it is all about finding something that helps you feel full, energized, and healthy.

Pack the essentials

We get that you might not be heading out for a multi-day hiking extravaganza, but it is still critical to bring some essentials on any hike, just in case.

In the hiking world, the ten essential lists breaks down as follows:

      1. Headlamp (with extra batteries)
      2. Navigation (map, compass, or GPS device)
      3. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
      4. Fire (matches, lighter, or stove)
      5. Knife
      6. Shelter (even a small emergency bivy sack)
      7. Extra clothes
      8. Extra water
      9. Extra food
      10. First aid kit

When out for your winter hike, if you notice you are low on food or water but have not yet reached your destination, turn around and head back home.

While there is everything pleasant about the views that the islands have to offer, there is nothing pleasant about getting stuck outside hungry, in the cold.

Also, remember that it is always easier to stay warm than to get warm, so by sticking to the proper gear and layers of clothing you will be all set for your chilly day out, venturing the beautiful Channel Islands.

If you are interested in another sport activities on Channel Islands, then you should not miss this article: Winter Running in the Channel Islands: A Guide for Cold Weather Runners