Cruising… On A Winter Afternoon

When people think of winter vacations, they usually think of Aspen and going skiing. Or going to the mountains to stay in a cabin. Or there are those who believe that there are two separate times of the year for vacation―summer and winter―and for a true winter vacation one has to experience the parkas, the gloves, the bitter cold, the hot chocolate by the warm fire, etc. The idea of a winter cruise never occurs to many people longing for a cold-weather getaway, but they don’t know what they’re missing.

Where does one cruise in the winter? Obviously, it’s cold in Alaska but is it worth cruising there in the winter? Why not? Alaskans don’t go into hibernation. According to the Travel Alaska website, winter is when the fun begins. Contrary to what people believe, in the winter Alaska has 6-13 hours of daylight sandwiched between lots of twilight on one end and lots of dawn on the other. Temperatures average around 20°F, which is similar to what you would experience skiing down those mountain slopes in Colorado.

For those who don’t like cold weather, the winter is the perfect time to take a cruise to the Caribbean, Mexico, and places to the south of the US. Hurricane season is over, the temperatures are milder―usually in the 70s or 80s―and the waters are still warm. Compared to the summer months, the number of tourists is relatively low, so it’s not such a busy time. Many of the cruise line sites, such as Norwegian Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard Lines, and Royal Caribbean, give detailed information about the climate and weather according to the time of year you want to travel.

Most, if not all, regions south of the US tend to hover between 65-85 degrees during the winter months. Other countries that have similar temperatures in the winter are the West Indies, the Dominican Republic, the Canary Islands, Australia, India, Malaysia, North Africa, Singapore, and Thailand, to name a few. How about a safari in Africa? Not exactly a cruise, but still something different than sitting in a cabin in 20-degree weather. The winter is an excellent time to go, as the temperatures range between 70-80 degrees during the day.

When you’re in the throes of deciding what to do about a vacation during the winter months, consider things you and your family enjoy. Consider also those things that you have ‘never done in the winter’ and consider cruising to a warmer climate.

Winter Backpacking Checklist

Winter truly is one of the most beautiful seasons for trekking. You don’t sweat much and nor is it very wet. There are, however, a few crucial things you need to remember. As it is going to be extremely cold, you need to carry the right type and amount of clothes. You will need one inner, thermal layer of clothing, through which you can get insulation. Above that, a lightweight layer of clothes will be required, which will regulate body temperature. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, which can further lead to drop in body temperature. So, drink lots of it. Make sure that your shoe laces or gloves are not too tight; they can constrict blood flow.

Checklist

  • Waterproof/breathable jacket and pants
  • Insulated parka
  • Wool clothing
  • Fleece clothing
  • Synthetic hiking pants
  • Base thermal layer
  • Warm coat (down or polyester filled)
  • Mittens or gloves (preferably wool)
  • Socks with extra set
  • Insulated waterproof hiking boots or gaiters (depending on type of backpacking)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Air pump
  • Pillow
  • 80-liter backpack
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Knife or multi-tool
  • Snow shovel
  • Balaclava
  • Water filter or iodine drops/tablets
  • First aid kit
  • Repair kit
  • Utility bags
  • Insect repellent
  • Toilet paper
  • Camera
  • Lighter and waterproof matches
  • Tent (only after asking a professional; varies according to needs)
  • Bivy sack (alternative to a tent, specially if there isn’t much snow)
  • Trekking poles
  • Rope (for clothesline or bear bagging)
  • Whistle
  • Toiletries (razor, toothbrush, etc.)
  • Sunscreen (SPF 15+)
  • Spoon, bowl, mug
  • Cooking pots

Additional Tips

☑ Backpacking during winter means having shorter days to travel as much as you can. This means, you have to make the most out of sunlight time.

☑ The snow is just as unpredictable as the rain. Always inform a couple of people about your route. Don’t forget to carry extra energy bars.

☑ Cold temperatures are said to decrease battery life. Always keep your batteries inside warm clothes, when not in use.

☑ Carry foods that have proteins, fats, and carbohydrates; they all provide energy.

☑ Symptoms such as continuous shivering, a slurred speech, or lethargy might indicate hypothermia. Stay warm throughout your trip as a precautionary measure.

☑ If you’re traveling to great heights, make a camp base at mid-level, acclimatize to a height for sometime, and then climb higher.

☑ A frostbite can also affect your nose and face. Remember to keep these areas warm as well. Using a balaclava throughout the trip can help.

With this checklist and these tips, your winter backpacking trip will be smooth. Also, always remember to take a paper map; don’t rely on network while visiting secluded destinations.