Do Engage in Some Old Fashioned Spring Cleaning and Gear Prep.Even if you got out adventuring this winter, in all likelihood, some of your go-to gear and apparel has been sitting in your gear closet since the first snow. Cleaning out your gear closet out is a great first step to help you prep for spring trips. Take a look at your waterproof outer layers, wash them, and re-waterproof them if they're in need of a little TLC. Make sure your first aid kit is stocked and your emergency gear is still good to go. Check things like headlamp batteries, stove canister levels, and make sure essentials like your camp stove still function properly.
|Mount Rainier National Park in spring. Snow and mud galore!|
Do Expect High Water, Leftover Snow, and Fallen Trees.If you live and/or adventure in parts of the world that experience heavy snowfall, wind, and ice during colder months, you'll want to be on the lookout for the affects that type of weather has on your hiking destinations. If there are streams or rivers on your route, they'll likely run higher than normal as the snow melts and spring rains fall. Plan any crossings accordingly.
Snow remaining at higher elevations can cause slips, difficulty navigating, and postholing. Stay on top of trail conditions and know what to expect before you go. And fallen trees can be unpredictable, but be aware there's a possibility you'll encounter them. Look for opportunities to help with trail maintenance projects in your area.
Do Dress in Layers.Though layering systems for spring weather might seem less important than layering systems for winter weather, what you wear can significantly impact your comfort level regardless of the season. You're less likely to get hypothermia when the temperatures are warmer, but it's still better to be comfortable than uncomfortable.
For spring hikes, think about synthetic baselayers, mid layers, and outer shells for your upper body. As an example, I'll wear a Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero shirt as my base layer, the Mountain Hardwear Butter Hooded Topper as my mid layer, and bring the Columbia Compounder Shell along in case it rains or gets windy on a spring hike. On the bottom, a layer that will allow you to manage your body temperature is important, as is a good pair of rain pants if you're expecting a drizzle. The Mountain Hardwear Yuma pants are my go-to for dry spring hikes, and Marmot's Precip Pants are great for rainy weather.
Don't Wear the Wrong Footwear.Diving into your closet to pull out sandals as soon as the temperatures start to climb can be exciting, but that doesn't mean your favorite warm weather footwear is spring adventure appropriate. Waterproof boots or shoes are critical during mud season. If you have an old standby pair, try Nikwax to add an extra layer of protection. Finally, though I've always thought of gaiters as a necessity for snowy hikes and ice climbing, they're ideal for keeping your feet dry in spring. A pair like the Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low or Bug Out Gaiters work well to keep water, mud, and dirt out.
|The aptly named Devil's Path, Catskill Mountains.|
Don't Travel on Wet, Muddy Trails (If You Can Help It).Depending on where you're hiking or backpacking, it's likely you'll run into a good bit of mud during the spring season. The snow melts, rain falls, and in general, everything just gets wet. As a beginner mountain biker, one of the first things I learned was how important it is to avoid biking on wet, muddy trails. Tires can do a number on the trails, as can too many footprints. Be aware of trails around you that get particularly muddy during the spring season, and if you can, find alternatives. Land is extremely vulnerable during this time of year, and hiking in wet, muddy conditions can cause damage to the trails.
If You Must Travel on Wet Trails, Don't Sidestep Puddles and Mud Pits.If you're unable to find alternatives to your favorite mud-laden trail, if spring rains pop up unexpectedly, or if you run into puddles or mud pits while you're out exploring, there's still plenty you can do to protect the land. Though this principle applies to all trails under all conditions, stay on the path. If you walk around mud pits or puddles, you're contributing to the widening of the trail, and likely, the widening of the pits and puddles you're trying to avoid.
Instead, follow our tip about footwear preparedness and charge right through any mud you encounter. Use a stick or trekking pole to gauge the depth of puddles if you're unsure, and to help you balance. But most importantly, help keep trails in good condition, help prevent erosion, and protect vegetation by tackling mud pits and puddles head on. Also, an extra pair of shoes to change into and plastic bag or two to put your dirty shoes in for the ride home won't hurt.
What other spring hiking tips do you have that we missed? We'd love to hear from you!