Story and Photos by Ngaio Hotte  (IG: @creeks.and.peaks)


Temperatures are falling, days are getting shorter and last weekend, the clocks clicked back an hour, so sunset is even earlier. The combination of these factors means that folks heading out to the mountains need to be extra prepared. Don’t get caught out there freezing in the dark!


Here are a few extra gear items I stash in my pack for my adventures this time of year:


  1. A headlamp with NON-rechargeable batteries (plus extra batteries). I learned this one the hard way recently. Rechargeable batteries are great for the planet, but bad for the cold! (Luckily, I had a spare mini flashlight.) Swap out your rechargeables this time of year and bring an extra set of batteries in case your headlamp turns on in your pack and you take it out, only to find that it’s dead. (P.S. this hand-cranked solar lantern plus radio will also do the trick.)
  2. An emergency bivvy. This is optional in the summer, but in the winter, I keep an emergency bivvy in my pack at all times. It gets COLD at night, and if you find yourself stuck outdoors, the extra few ounces in your bag will have been worth it.
  3. Spikes for traction. Almost every day, I see someone on an online forum asking, “do I need spikes?” for this trail or that trail. I just keep spikes in my pack anytime I go for a hike, because you never know when or where you’ll encounter a patch of ice. Slips and falls in the backcountry can have serious consequences. If you’re buying spikes, make sure you get ones that will be heavy duty enough to hold up in the mountains. (Explore included these crampons in last year's winter gear box.)
  4. Hand warmers. A little extra heat goes a long way when you’re cold! I like to keep a couple of disposable hand warmers in my emergency kit. I hardly ever use them, but when I do, I’m glad they’re there!
  5. Winter hat and mittens. It sucks when you get to the trailhead only to find that you forgot your hat or mittens at home. I always keep a spare set of both in my pack just to make sure I don’t forget them. As a bonus, you can be a total hero to your friends when THEY forget their hat or mittens.


Of course, these are just the extra things I pack when it gets cold, in addition to the usual essentials. What extras do you bring?

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