Written by a husband-and-wife team of authors, this book was published by Appalachian Mountain Club in 2009. On its almost 200 pages it covers a variety of topics, all of which are approached with the peculiarities of winter hiking and camping in mind.
Thus, when discussing such a common topic as where to go, the authors draw your attention to various changes in the terrain, the shorter duration of the daytime and possible difficulties you may face when trying to reach the trailhead. For those people who do not have a lot of experience in winter hiking, they also recommend to start close to home and limit their first day hikes to 3 miles (i.e. around 5 km), before gradually building up to more adventurous endeavors. Other topics covered in this book include some winter hiking and camping basics, how to plan a trip and what to think about when organizing a group. They also talk about what to wear (including a 21-item head-to-toe basic clothing list), what gear to use for traveling (e.g. snowshoes, skis, and something I have never heard of before – split boards) and what gear you can use to carry your other gear (i.e. backpacks and sleds).
In the same chapter, you can also find their extended list of the essentials which, besides the usual ten ‘all-year-round’ items, also includes the eleventh, winter specific one – the snow shovel. But this is not all. The book also contains some valuable advice on what you need to pay attention to when you are on the go (e.g. navigation and the weather) and when you are in camp (e.g. cooking and campfires or making snow shelters). And of course, to a further delight of gear-freaks in us, there is a chapter on camping gear that deals with pros and cons and various designs of tents and tarps, sleeping bags and mats, as well as kitchenware, repair kits and other whatyamacallits. Finally, you can find some information on nutrition and hydration as well as various winter hazards and how to avoid them.
In general, a lot of attention is given to saying warm and dry during day time, while digging out a snow shelter or preparing for a night. The latter has an 18 step sequence that the authors recommend to follow before going to bed if one wants to stay warm and enjoy the night’s rest to the fullest.
This and other lists are just examples of useful information presented in a very user-friendly way that this book is abound in. Thus, besides lists, there are boxes with titbits of extra information, tips and ideas. One of them gives clear and straightforward instructions (even with some drawings) on how to make your own pulk sled, this being my next DIY project I think.
But it is not all work and no play with this book, as it is written with a lot of humor, which the authors masterfully use to balance out the more sober information. And I like it a lot.
What I miss in this book, however, are better illustrations. In total I have counted 65 black and white pictures (plus five pictures in full-color on the cover) and 16 drawings in this book, all of which are there to demonstrate a certain point. However, while most of the drawings are clear and understandable (even though the people on them look more like aliens), the majority of pictures are too dark for you to actually see almost anything. What you get is the white of the snow and some grey or black shapes of people, objects and scenery against this white. Sometimes it is just dark objects against even darker background without any white of the snow. To be honest, I was rather surprised to find so much detail in the pictures on the cover, which, inside the book, lacked these details altogether. It was like looking at the same thing during day and night – so different were they from one another. Therefore, if I were to publish this book again, I would definitely consider printing all pictures in full color. After all, what is the point of an illustration if the reader cannot see what’s in it?
To conclude, this is a well-written book that can be interesting for both novice and experienced winter travelers. And what it lacks in graphics, it clearly makes up for in the wealth of useful information, easily digestible tips, which were tested by the authors themselves, as well as a large variety of lists (and I am a sucker for them) related to almost any aspect of a winter adventure.
Would I recommend this book? – Definitely.