We are officially to “that” time of year when the weather is unpredictable. But to be perfectly honest, it’s the mountains we are talking about, the weather is ALWAYS unpredictable. There is a lot that you can do to prepare yourself ahead of time. So, just because it’s a sunny day Friday, doesn’t mean that the conditions are still going to be good that day. We will talk about that soon. I do recognize I am the type of person who will literally hike in all weather. Because if we are to be real about it, we aren’t known for a great weather, and I like to hike. So I prepare ahead of time for all four seasons if I need to.

Here are some tips that have worked for me. If you have anything that helps you that we can add, contact me and let me know! I’m happy to share your input.

Check the weather for 7-10 days ahead of the area you plan to hike. This is especially true if you are going to a trail that has water or water crossings. If there has been significant rainfall for the last week, that sunny Friday, you must be prepared for wet rock, wet trails, higher water crossings, and shocking… A LOT of mud. We here in the Adirondacks are KNOWN for our mud. I use the weather channel for the region that I will be hiking in, and I use mountain forecast for peak and higher elevation forecasts. Yes, we would all love to think that taking off work for the day because Friday is going to be sunny will be great, but we need to make sure that the weather ahead of time has led us to safe exploring—high peaks, especially.

Let’s say you have checked the weather, and you can’t quite get a good read on what the trails might be. Most navigation systems/apps have trail reporting, and people are pretty good at posting their recent activities. (Let’s be honest, what hiker do you know who wouldn’t LOVE to tell you about their last adventure?!) The AllTrails app is a great resource to snoop around and see what people report. It also lets you know about seasonal road closures (i.e., hunting season, logging roads closing, etc.) There is a free version that has a tremendous amount of knowledge available. If you want to be able to download maps and use their SOS feature, then you would need the premium version. Lucky for you, you can get a 30% discount if you use this link. (Shameless affiliate plug! I make a tiny revenue when you sign up through that link.)

Online forums and Facebook groups have tons of information. With that being said, it’s not always neutral, and you are getting one person’s account of what their experience was. There is a group of Adirondack Trail Conditions that I check regularly when I am curious as to what trail conditions are.

So the weather either looks great, good, okay, not great, or terrible. If it’s terrible, maybe choose to stay inside and read about future hikes. I love the Fire Tower book and have spent many hours researching my adventures with it. If you are ready to go and you have done your research, let’s go! Here are some useful things to pack per your weather conditions:

Sunny: Sun protection! (Remember my last blog post?) You always want to make sure you have ways to protect your skin and eyes! Pack up those sunglasses, bring a hat, sunscreen, sunshirts, and layers. Whatever you do to keep yourself covered. Now it can be sunny and different temperatures. Maybe it’s 70 at trailhead. Depending on your elevation, it could be 4-12+ degrees cooler up top. Is it windy? Is a front moving in? Have layers so that when you get to the top, you can cover up and actually enjoy the summit you worked so hard for.

Rainy: I pack a coat shell all year round with me. In the Fall to Spring, I also pack a rain pant shell. Keeping yourself as dry as possible is essential to regulating your body temperature throughout the hike. If it’s cold and raining, you want to ensure you have your microspikes with you. Cold, wet rock = ice. I hear many avid hikers say, “October 1st, pack your spikes.” Last year in 2022, my friend and I bought spikes in September after being warned not to go without them on Hurricane Mountain. We were glad we listened.

Snow: Never did I think I would say this… I LOVE TO WINTER HIKE! Like, not a little. It’s a passion of mine, especially since I spent 41 years of my life hating not just the outdoors but winter especially. Never say never. (Don’t worry; I have extra snow shoes if you want to go try it out with me.) My experience in winter hiking mountains is ONLY to lower than 4,000 ft. I cannot speak of hiking high peaks in winter yet. You’ll want to have a bag that is big enough to carry everything you need to be safe. (Remember, 10 essentials.) Yes, it will be heavier, but you’re a beast, and I know you can do it! You will want snowshoes that are appropriate to your climbing conditions. I have these, and I love them. You will also want to make sure to have your spikes if conditions call for them instead. For what you wear, the saying is, “Be bold, and start cold!” Let me attest to this, do it. Get used to starting cold at your car and heading into the trail because, in 5 minutes, you’re likely going to want to take those layers off, and it sucks to take everything off. I typically start with a long-sleeved base layer like this. It’s moisture-wicking, and it’s warm. I tend to run warm. So this may be different for you. But I usually wear my base layer. Have another active top to put over, a fleece, a puffy jacket, and a rain shell. For pants, I will wear a base layer under my active pants and a waterproof pant shell and gators if it’s deep snow to prevent snow in my boots. I could go on and on with this section, but honestly, it’s been a case of trial and error for me. Make sure your “waterproof” layers are waterproof. My puffy coat is NOT waterproof.

Windy: It gets extremely windy up there! Lower and higher peaks. If you are .25 mi from the summit, and you are essentially being pushed off the mountain, what do you do? You turn around. The mountain will be there another day. Sometimes, we have to turn around. It’s a hard move, but if you have that tug in your gut, you won’t lose anything by listening to it. This is where a hiking partner really comes in handy, and having a truly honest conversation can be hard because you have just worked SO hard to get somewhere. But it’s not all just about getting to the summit. It’s about the climb and honoring yourself in hard moments. Wind is a factor that has turned back many people from attaining the summit reward. Just think, now you get to go back and hike it again!

Cold: Layers are your best friend. Find base layers that are comfortable: fleece, coats, shells, hand warmers, hats, gloves, and gators.

Hot: Layers! It may be hot when you start but cooler when you climb. Have the ability to cover up if needed. If it’s hot, hot, hot, make sure to drink enough water and have enough electrolytes and fuel.

This is barely touching the surface of many different issues, which means I will have to write more about them another time. But even if reading this can share just a nugget of helpful knowledge with you, I have done my job. When I first got into hiking, I didn’t care about any of this. But I learned through many situations that could have gone worse how to be better prepared, and I want that for you, too!

Happy trails!

Resources to learn more about keeping safe while hiking
National Park Service (they also have the BEST social media manager EVER!!)
American Hiking Society
Mountain Hiking