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Wind: How To Know You Need To Seek Shelter Out of the Woods

Many trails take months to travel from end to end, leading you to deal with all types of poor weather conditions.

Hiking in high winds can be hazardous, from downed trees and blowing debris and branches. It’s important to know when is it too windy to be in the woods.

For most, around 25 MPH winds are the limit for hiking while easily keeping balance. However, it is possible to hike in faster winds. You then must begin evaluating wind chill and health issues that could come from heat loss due to bad weather.

It isn’t a huge concern in most circumstances, but wind speed can become a significant issue with cold temperatures.

Below we can dive more in-depth and provide information on when it is too windy to be in the woods.

Hiking up the mountain side trail with a blue backpack

Is It Safe to Hike When It’s Windy?

Generally, you are safe from high winds when hiking, but there are a few things you should be aware of before heading out:

  • Downed trees and branches
  • Blowing debris
  • Wind chill

First and foremost, if there are downed trees or branches, it is not safe to hike. If possible, find an alternative route. If you cannot find an alternative route, it is best to wait until the wind dies down before continuing.

Secondly, blowing debris can be a hazard when hiking in high winds. Again, if possible, try to find an alternative route. If you cannot find an alternative route, be sure to wear proper clothing to protect yourself from the debris.

Lastly, wind chill can be a factor when hiking in strong winds. Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather conditions.

How Windy is Too Windy to Hike?

So now you may wonder at what point is it considered too windy to hike? Well, heavy winds like 30 mph with gusts over 50 mph are when things can start getting dangerous when hiking.

If you must hike, pay attention to possible downed trees and limbs, as well as other flying debris.

Hiking in Wind

When hiking in heavy winds, there are a few things you can do to make the experience more enjoyable and safe:

  • Wear Proper Clothing – When hiking in windy weather, it is important to wear proper clothing. This includes a hat, gloves, and wind-resistant clothing.
  • Be Aware of Your Surroundings – When hiking in high winds, be aware of your surroundings at all times. This means being aware of downed trees and branches, as well as other flying debris.
  • Watch for Downed Trees and Branches – One of the most dangerous things when hiking in high winds is downed trees and branches. If you see a downed tree or branch, be sure to avoid it.
  • Hike with a Partner – If possible, hike with a partner when hiking in high winds. This way, if something happens, there will be someone there to help.
  • Find an Alternative Route – If the wind is too high, it is best to find an alternative route. This way, you can avoid any potential hazards.

You need to always consider wind chill and similar health risks when hiking in high winds. If the wind chill is too high, it can cause hypothermia.

When Does Hiking In High Winds Become Dangerous?

The wind can cause many problems that can make hiking dangerous to a hiker, not counting the fact that it can easily just blow your feet out from under you.

When the wind is around 30 mph with gusts over 50 mph, it can start to become dangerous when hiking. This is when you need to be aware of potential hazards, such as downed trees and branches, as well as other flying debris.

At this point, it is also when wind chill becomes a factor. If the wind chill is too high, it can cause hypothermia. So, be sure to dress appropriately for the weather conditions.

What Dangers To Look For With High Winds

There are some dangers to deciding to go out when it is too windy for comfort. You want to make sure that you understand the possible dangers and how to mitigate them as much as possible.

Falling Branches (AKA Widowmakers)

The widowmaker is the most dangerous thing for most when hiking in windy conditions as it is frequently difficult to spot unless you are really scouting the trees above, which is hard when you need to watch the trail underfoot.

A widowmaker is a large tree branch that has broken off the tree but is still partially attached. The telltale sign is the lack of leaves. But when the wind blows, these branches can fall and cause serious injury or death.

To avoid widowmakers, be sure to stay aware of your surroundings and watch for any loose branches above you. If you see a loose branch, it is best to avoid the area.

Falling Trees

Much like a widowmaker many diseased trees may be dead and either held via the ground or leaning against another tree and waiting for the right breeze to come along to topple it over.

Falling trees are obviously much more dangerous than falling branches, so you want to be sure to avoid any area where there is a downed tree or suspected possibility of dead trees.

Easier To Lose Footing and Slip or Fall

Wind can cause you to lose footing causing bad and dangerous fall circumstances. Be aware when the wind is blowing hard, it’s not just the items around you that are being affected, but your own balance as well.

Watch out for slippery and uneven footing when hiking in high winds as you are more likely to slip and fall. If possible, hike with a partner so that someone can help if you do fall.

Hypothermia and Frostbite

Wind chill easily leads to these two dangers when hiking, so be sure to dress appropriately for the conditions. This includes wearing a hat, gloves, and wind-resistant clothing.

You also want to be sure to pay attention to the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite, which include shivering, confusion, slurred speech, and more. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Seven Actionable Tips For Hiking In the Wind

When the wind is blowing, it can make hiking more difficult and dangerous. But there are some things that you can do to help mitigate the dangers.

Here are seven tips for hiking in high winds:

Stay Dry

Don’t allow yourself to get wet when hiking in the wind as this will only make you colder and more susceptible to hypothermia.

Dress in Layers

Wear clothing that will protect you from the wind, such as a wind-resistant jacket. But also dress in layers so that you can adjust as needed.

Stay Informed

Understand any changes to weather that are inbound and when the best time to hike will be. This way, you can avoid hiking when it is too windy.

Hike With a Partner & Not Alone

If possible, hike with someone so that they can help if you do fall or experience any difficulties.

This can be life-saving should you fall into water or experience a deadfall situation that actually hits you as they can react on your behalf.

Cover Your Fingers and Toes

The small digits have more issues with cold breezes so be sure to keep them covered. This includes wearing gloves and proper hiking boots.

Eat & Drink Regularly

Hiking in any cold weather can sap your energy levels, so be sure to eat and drink regularly. This will help you maintain your body temperature and avoid getting hypothermia.

Choose a Lower Route

If you are heading out, choose to follow lower and less exposed routes. Valleys and other areas offer more wind protection than ridge tops.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Out in Winds

Hiking in high winds can be dangerous if you’re not prepared. Be sure to wear proper clothing and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

If possible, hike with a partner and follow lower routes when possible. By following these tips, you can help make your hike a safe and enjoyable experience.

Have any other actionable tips for hiking in high winds? Let us know below!

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