Monday, January 21, 2019

Preparing for a Winter Hike

by Mike Radomski

Bent tree, an old Native American route marker.
Hiking in the winter is a magical experience with many mind, body and soul benefitsIt is without a doubt different than hiking in the summer.  However, with these simple steps you can make it one of your most enjoyable outdoor experiences. 


The days are shorter in the winter so you need to give yourself more time.  You typically move a little bit slower in wintery terrain.  If you normally hike at a pace of 2mph, plan to possibly cut that in half depending on the snow conditions.  If you are planning a longer hike, it is advisable to start around sun up and be back at your car before sundown to avoid the coldest temperatures.

As with summer hikes, always share your route and itinerary with a friend or relative. If there are problems encountered on the trail, the cold temperatures can escalate the situation quickly.  In addition to the 10 essentials, you will need to take some extra planning for clothing, traction, nutrition and hydration. 

Finally, double check the batteries in your headlamp and GPS.  The cold drains weak batteries very quickly. 

10 Essentials


There is a famous quote by Ranulph Fiennes that says “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”

Layering for winter hikes is the key to success. If you dress too hot, you will sweat and create dangerous moisture in your clothing. If you dress too cold, you got it, you will be cold. You 
will never find the perfect single piece of clothing for each situation.  This is why people say to layer your clothes. 

REI has some great advice on layering basics.  Ideally, you want a base layer that can wick perspiration.  There are a ton of options for a synthetic base layers in nylon and polyester materials or natural material like merino wool.  Your base layer should NEVER be cotton.

For my base layer, I typically wear a wicking tee and a synthetic lightweight or expedition weight long sleeve shirt depending on the temps.

The next layer in winter is your insulating middle layer. Most people choose a synthetic or down jacket or fleece. I, personally, am a fleece person.  

Even in cold Adirondack temperatures, a fleece middle layer is enough.
Unless the temperatures are below 20 degrees, I will start my hike in just my middle layer.  I like to start my winter hikes feeling a little bit cold. Due to the extra exertion in the snow, you warm up quickly.  You want to avoid overheating and sweating.

The final layer is the outer layer. This layer protects you from wind, rain and snow. The performance of this layer highly depends on the temperatures.  If temperatures dictate, this layer might be a heavy shell/parka or just a waterproof rain jacket.  I usually throw this layer on when I stop moving or when the temperatures drop or wind picks up.

What did I miss?  

Right, hat, gloves and maybe a Buff.  I would suggest having a backup of each in case you get any of the items wet.  Another add-on is a few hand warming packets. Gaiters can protect your lower legs from the wet, cold elements of deep snow.

My final suggestion is always take sunglasses.  Although many winter days are gloomy, when the sun peaks out the reflection of the sun on the snow can be intense.

Proper Footwear, Traction Devices and Snowshoes

Proper footwear and traction is the key to an enjoyable winter hike. Warm waterproof hikers or pack boots are recommended. It is a good idea to choose a half-size or whole size up for your winter boots. This allows you room for an extra pair of socks and room to wiggle your toes. Improper fitting boots can restrict blood flow and cause your feet to get prematurely cold and even result in frostbite.

In the winter, you will encounter many different terrains from frozen ground to ice to snow.  This requires specialized gear depending on the terrain. I would suggest that every winter hiker invest in a set of microspikes. Microspikes are used in icy conditions or packed snow, I prefer the Kahtoola Microspikes.

For deeper snow, snowshoes will be needed. Just about any major brand of snowshoe will suffice for most trails in WNY. If you are thinking about hiking in the Adirondack or Catskill Mountains, my go to snowshoe is the MSR EVO or EVO Ascent. I would also suggest using ski poles or trekking sole.  

Before going out and investing in snowshoes, I suggest renting or borrowing a pair.  I bet some of your friends have a pair.  If they don’t, your local gear shop like Gear for Adventure  will rent them very inexpensively.  Many local conservation organizations, like BN Waterkeeper, organize free snowshoe hikes.

Snowshoes at the summit of Mt. Marcy


As you learned in our previous post, we learned that you burn more calories hiking in the winter due to the cold temps and more rugged terrain.  Therefore, you must plan your nutrition appropriately.  I suggest taking 1/3 more calories than you normally would during a summer hike.  My rule of thumb is about 150-200 calories per hour on Adirondack High Peaks OR 100 calories per mile (flat ground) in the Spring, Summer or Fall.  I will increase to 200-250 per hour on Adirondack High Peaks OR 130 calories per mile (flat ground) in the Winter.


There is an increased dehydration danger in winter.  The reason you do not feel thirsty in winter is due to a process called vasoconstriction.  This is your body’s response to the cold by decreasing the amount of blood it sends to your extremities to decrease heat loss. Your brain does not detect this blood volume decrease that normally triggers the “thirsty response”.  On top of that, your kidneys detect the increased blood volume in your core which triggers your “pee reflex”.  Why do you think you always have to pee when it’s cold?

Not feeling thirsty and peeing frequently results in a net water loss in the body.  Remember to drink even when you are not thirsty in the winter.

Also remember, it is cold in the winter and water freezes. Camelbak drink tubes will freeze. You can prevent this by blowing the water back into the bladder, but this will only last for so long.  Nalgene bottles also will freeze.  The best you can do is store them upside down so the cap freezes last.  

My suggestion is using a stainless vacuum bottle like a Hydroflask. For short hikes, cold water or room temperature water will not freeze. For longer hikes, I suggest hot water or non-caffeinated tea.

Remember avoid to avoid caffeine on winter hikes. And absolutely NO alcohol!  Save that for after the hike.

Creek at Erie County Forest

Safety Tips

  • Know the weather forecast, take into account windchill.
  • Be aware of the signs of hypothermia, frostbite and frostnip.
  • Test the ice at any creek or stream crossing. 
Layering, in middle layer and carrying my shell.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Don't Hibernate this Winter, Get Outside and Hike

by Mike Radomski

Woods behind my house

Only skiers like the winter, right?  For most people, winter is that season you sit on the couch, drink warm beverages and binge watch Netflix.  After all it’s cold, dreary, it starts too soon and drags on too long.  Winter and cold weather are not a negatives if you can see the positive aspects of embracing the cold.  You can learn to actually enjoy and maybe even look forward to it.  

Hiking in the winter, however, does take a bit more planning.  The days are shorter so you need to give yourself more time as you typically move a little bit slower in wintery terrain.  You will also need to consider proper layering, food, hydration and safety.

Eternal Flame Falls at Chestnut Ridge
If you only go hiking when it's warm, you will never realize the amazing mind, body and soul transformations that happen when you hike in the winter.

There Are A Lot of “No’s”

  • No bears - Hopefully.  If you do happen to stumble upon one, stay far away, they will be very HANGRY.
  • No mosquitoes or other bugs
  • No mud - The trails are frozen or snow covered.
  • No blazing sun
  • No people - They are all inside binging on Netflix and gaining couch-pounds.
My wife at Franklin Gulf County Park

The Landscape is Transformed.

You will experience the outdoors in a completely different way.  Trails that you are familiar with will suddenly transform in new and exciting ways.  Winter hiking will bring to life:
  • Frozen waterfalls
  • Frozen creeks
  • Clear views with no leaves
  • Snow and ice formations
  • Animal footprints

Good source of vitamin D in winter

Snow reflects tremendous amount of light.  Hiking in the winter is a great way to get all those precious rays.  Sunlight is a great way to boost your vitamin D levels, helping to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  

Think of it as a mood multiplier. Nature+Sunlight=Happy Hikers

Vintage snowshoes at Sprague Brook County Park

Burn a Ton of Calories

Studies have found that you burn 34 percent more calories at temperatures between 15 and 23 degree than in temperatures in the mid-50 degrees. The cold constricts capillaries which will improve cardio performance and capacity more than warm temps. On top of these benefits, snow adds resistance working your muscles even more.

Performing physical actives in the cold have lasting benefits.  You build more muscle by breaking down fat before muscles in colder temps.  Exercising in the cold promotes the production of the hormone Irisin. Irisin helps convert bad, adipose “white” fat into beneficial, healthy, brown fat.

Hot Drinks are More Enjoyable After a Cold Hike

There is no better feeling then finishing a winter hike at a lodge or casino being warmed by a roaring fire. Even better is having a nice hot drink to warm the cockles.  Think about how nice it would be to kick up your feet with a mug of hot cocoa, glass of mulled wine or cup of hot tea. You’ve earned it, you’ve burned the calories, boosted your mood and enjoyed yourself doing something new.

Hiking in the winter is without a doubt different than hiking in the summer.  You need the right clothes and gear to make it enjoyable.  There is a famous quote by Ranulph Fiennes that says “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” So let’s gear up, embrace the winter and get outside.

A future post will talk about:
  • Proper layers for winter hiking
  • Proper footwear, traction devices and snowshoes
  • Nutrition & Hydration for winter hiking
  • Being safe in the outdoors in winter 
Marcy Dam in the Adirondacks

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Outside Activity Preparations

With the arrival of winter it's time to get ready for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Please remember these points when you go out.
1. Leave an itinerary with a family member or trusted friend. 
2. Bring water and food.
3. Bring extra clothes.
4. Check the weather forecast.
5. Make sure your equipment is in good shape.

Expanding on point #2 a bit, let's talk about staying properly hydrated when you're outside engaging in a prolonged physical activity.  Always begin your outings well hydrated. Drink a cup of water or its equivalent 15 minutes before starting out. Once underway, continue drinking fluids at a rate of 1 to 1.5 cups every 20 to 30 minutes. This can change depending on weather, fitness level and intensity of your activity. Drink before you feel thirsty. If you don't need to urinate periodically or, if your urine color becomes unusually dark you aren't drinking enough. Drinks with electrolytes will help maintain hydration when your activity level is high and for an extended period of time. Maintaining good hydration will help keep you healthy. 

If you are looking for some new places to ski or snowshoe, might I suggest Hunters Creek in East Aurora, NY or Sprague Brook Park in Glenwood, NY (just south of Kissing Bridge).
If you have any questions feel free to email me at;

Monday, December 17, 2018


A screen shot of the original TV 21 studio backdrop for "Outdoors".
Welcome to our new blog. We've decided to get back to our roots, honoring the man where it all started.  When Terry Shearn first came up with the idea to become a professional rafting outfitter he also was the host of "Outdoors" on WXXI TV in Rochester, NY. It was a novel concept at the time, exploring all the fun activities found in the Great Outdoors around Western and Central NY, and the show quickly became a favorite with the viewers.    

Terry Shearn, founder of "Adventure Calls" & host of WXXI TV "Outdoors".
Two of our very own ACO Guides, Mike Radomski and Tim Reed have graciously agreed to take up the mantle and share with you their thoughts on being outdoors around the region.  In future posts and videos they will explore parts of Western and Central NY that perhaps you didn't know about or haven't been to in a while as well as bring you along on various fun seasonal activities. They'll give you some tips on how to best prepare for an outing or how to be ready for a "what if" scenario too. 

ACO Raft Guide Mike Radomski

ACO Trip Leader Tim Reed

We also hope to share stories from other members of our staff along the way and maybe even from some of our outfitting friends scattered across the area.  Let's go on some adventures "Outdoors", shall we?

Preparing for a Winter Hike

by Mike Radomski       Bent tree, an old Native American route marker. Hiking in the winter is a magical experience with many mi...