25 Newfoundland Hiking and Walking tips – Be a Winter Ninja
March 7, 2019
Our Newfoundland winters (sometimes well into June) can be mentally challenging and oh so long if we stay locked up inside by the woodstove. So after one of my bitter cold walks in gorgeous Chapel’s Cove, I decided to film a video of my tips for hiking and walking here in order to make it easier for anyone to get outside and enjoy the elements…no matter what. And with our island’s temperamental weather, most tips apply year round 🙂 Watch the video here. And below is the list of 25 things:
1.Commit to it. If you skip this step, you might as well light the fire and pour yourself another wine, Mabel. Deciding to get outside is the hardest part. I found setting a walking/hiking schedule helps me stay committed, but every day is a new day so just get out when you can.
2. When it’s nice, get outside. The easiest time to get out the door is when the sun is shining, so don’t wait for a ‘more convenient time’. Who knows when we will see the sun again so take advantage of it and get your Vitamin D.
3. Max the sunshine. On those glorious sunny days, pick a route that maximizes the amount of sunshine. For example, east-facing trails and roads get more morning sun so plan according to the time of day.
4. Sort out your mindset.If you spend your outdoor time thinking that the weather sucks, chances are your walk is going to suck big time. But if you think “I’m doing this and loving it”, it will be a whole different enjoyable experience for you. It’s all about perspective. On those frequent RDF (rain, drizzle, fog) east coast days when the ocean spray is ‘exfoliating’ my face, I could be internally complaining but instead I like to think I’m getting a free spa day – haha! And when I’m out in particularly brutal weather, I just laugh like a lunatic and take it in the face Viking-style 🙂
5. Develop your inner winter ninja. Icy days could make you nervous about falling down. Chances are, if you think you’re going to fall, you probably will. That holds true indoors or outdoors. Be confident and strong, keep your eyes up and don’t focus on your feet or falling. And keep in mind, sh!t happens, but at least you were outside doing something you love. You will recover and get back out there again, so just do it…be a winter ninja!
6. The wind is relentless. The wind blows in all directions here (I’m not kidding) and expect it to always be blowing. Just because there’s little wind when you start your walk does not mean that’s how it’s going to be around the next corner. Adjust accordingly.
7. Walk in the lee of the wind. Try to pick a route that is in the lee of the wind (protected by land), especially if it’s a particularly gusty bitter cold day. Good luck with that one!
8. Find roads and trails that work for you. Once you find routes you love, you’ll be outside all year round. Smaller communities, such as Chapel’s Cove, offer long fairly flat roads along peaceful ponds and wide open ocean vistas, with minimal traffic and they are always nicely plowed. The East Coast Trail and the T’railway are amazing. Google ‘trails’ in your area and you’ll find tons of options. Be adventurous and try a new route each time, then you’ll find your favourites.
Get Good Gear
9. Invest in good gear.Spend the money on good footwear and gear. Once you have it, it’ll last a long time. It’s worth the investment.
10. Keep your hiking gear ready to go in one spot. Keep your outdoor clothes in the same place so you can just slide into them without any thought and head outside. I keep my walking clothes in my bedroom hung behind my door on one of those over-the-door hooks, so I just wake up, and without even opening my eyes, I am dressed for hiking. Then I go to the garage and my boots/sneakers, jackets, hats, etc. are all in the same place. Convenience is key.
11. Wear layers.Wearing layers of thinner clothing is better than big chunky pieces. Since our weather changes on a dime, it’s good to have options. I wear an inner longsleeve workout shirt and polar fleece*, polar vest, and outer wind* and rain* protection. Below the belt, I wear spandex underneath, fleece pants* and wind/rain pants*, depending on the conditions.
12. Tuck everything in. Make sure there are no leaks that the wind and cold can get into, especially your head, neck, wrists, lower back, and ankles.
13. Sunglasses.Wear sunglasses even when it’s not sunny out. Besides providing UV protection, they shield your eyes from rain, snow, sleet, dust, and rocks which the wind can hurl at you, taking the fun right out of it.
14. Protect your ears. If you have sensitive ears, you may want to get ear plugs. And wear a headband and/or a hat on really cold windy days. I wear my sunglasses arms on the outside of my headband to cut down on the wind tunnels to my ears.
15. Neckscarves/headbands. Stretchy neck scarves double as headbands and are great to layer up on really bitter, windy days. I wear a headband under my hat to cut down on wind leaks and I also wear one around my neck so I can pull it up over the back of my head when the north Atlantic wind is trying to lazer cut my skull. They are also great for keeping summer sun off my forehead.
16. Gloves.Thick fleece gloves with the flip down tops are the best. Your hands stay warm and you also have the option to get your fingers out and snap a selfie (with the beautiful scenery this province has to offer, you won’t be able to resist) or light a fire on a beach.
17. Pit zips.Outer jackets with armpit zips are the best. Prepare for all temperatures as it can be freezing walking one way and baking hot the other way, depending on the wind.
18. Thumbhole shirts and jackets. Your sleeves then double as extra hand protection. And buy a windbreaker that has quite long sleeves that can protect your hands against the wind and cold when needed.
19. Footwear.Gore-TEX sneakers* are the best for when there is less snow on the ground and you don’t quite need to wear your hiking boots, which happens a lot on the east coast. They help protect your feet from getting wet and they’re very comfortable. Otherwise, wear your waterproof hiking boots.
20. Gaiters.They are those things that go below your knee & tie over your footwear. Gaiters* are great for slushy snow, deep snow and rain. They have saved my life more than once. They are also excellent wind protection and provide extra warmth for your lower extremities.
21. Crampons. For icy walks, Crampons* are great to have in your bag. They are those toothy things you clip onto the bottom of your footwear and may help your winter ninja mindset. On the east coast, it freezes, thaws, snows, thaws and freezes frequently so these can be quite handy.
22. Backpack.A good backpack* allows you to carry extra gear for when you round a corner and the weather changes… yet again! I only bring a backpack on longer hikes.
23. Start and end your walk somewhere beautiful.Park somewhere nice by the ocean and relax with a coffee before your walk and take in the view for a few minutes afterwards. This will set up the rest of your day.
24. Take off your outside gear when you’re done.As soon as you finish your walk, take off outer layers and you will dry off and warm up faster. And when you get home, change your clothes right away. Besh, my hubby, learned that in the military while training for winter warfare…and it works.
25. Pat yourself on the back. After taking it in the face that blustery day, light the fire and pour yourself that well deserved cold beer and spend a little time planning your next outdoor Newfoundland adventure.
25A. Since 26 hiking tips is a weird number.Sometimes hiking ain’t pretty (I had to accept that), so let go of vanity and do what ya gotta do to make it happen. When you get home and take a shower, the resulting inner glow is better than any bronzer you can buy 🙂
Keep in mind, it doesn’t matter how many of these tips you decide to do. Just get outside as much as you can and you will be happier, even if we have a winter that lasts for 8 months. See you on the trails…happy hiking!
Let me know in the comments below other suggestions you have to help us hikers/walkers out…
*These are affiliate products so if you are considering buying one, I get a small kick back if you order from these links…every little bit helps and they are wicked products that I use all the time!
Artist Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara – Experience Newfoundland & life through my artist eyes. Born and raised here on this big rock in the Atlantic Ocean. After my Fine Arts degree and Interior Decorating, lived away for ages. In 2009 moved back with new appreciation for this place. Come hang out and explore with me. Sign up for your Piece of Pye newsletter & art prizes!