Winter Backpacking Guide: Expert Tips and Trails with Ragen Davey

Winter backpacking offers a unique blend of challenge and beauty, providing an immersive experience in nature unlike any other. I recently spoke with Ragen Davey, an avid winter backpacker with a deep passion for the arctic environment, about her experiences and insights. 

Ragen, who is currently working as a marine mammal conservation specialist for a non-profit, has developed a keen interest in the Arctic and its changing climate. She aims to educate and assist in the conservation of our planet through her career and personal endeavors. Her love for the outdoors extends to hiking, backcountry skiing, backpacking, and exploring Alaska's remote areas. Here’s what Ragen shared about winter backpacking:

Deep Connection with Nature in Winter

Ragen emphasizes the importance of being prepared for unexpected weather conditions in winter. She notes that winter backpacking is significantly different from other seasons, often involving challenging situations like heavy snow or strong winds. These experiences, she says, have deepened her appreciation for nature and the backcountry. "It's about protecting the land we adventure on and never taking it for granted," Ragen says, highlighting the importance of environmental stewardship.

Starting Points for Beginners

For beginners, Ragen recommends starting with car camping to troubleshoot gear in a safer environment. She advises picking familiar, flat trails to understand avalanche risks better and suggests trying out public use cabins, yurts, or huts as a step before tent camping. This approach allows new backpackers to get accustomed to the gear and layering system needed for winter conditions.

The Beauty of Snow-Covered Terrains

Ragen's love for backpacking grew with the challenges posed by snow and cold. She learned to value good weather days and dry camping spots more. Combining backpacking with skiing, she explores deeper into the backcountry, enhancing her skills and experiences.

Unique Traditions and Rituals

Ragen shares a unique tradition she practices with her husband, Cole. They have a system for packing for trips where they initially pack food and gear separately and then swap to ensure they have all essentials. This process ensures both are familiar with the whereabouts of shared items and necessities.

Valuable Advice for Winter Backpackers

Ragen strongly advocates for taking a local avalanche class, emphasizing the importance of being informed and safe in avalanche terrains. She also suggests undertaking longer day trips to understand personal needs in terms of layers, nutrition, and physical reactions to cold. Once these aspects are dialed in, Ragen encourages trying out winter backpacking, stressing the importance of being prepared and familiar with one’s gear.

Ragen Davey's insights offer an essential guide for those eager to dive into winter backpacking. Her focus on thorough preparation, deep respect for nature, and the unique thrill of facing winter's wilderness highlights the enchanting allure of the backcountry in its coldest season. For more of her expert tips and inspiring winter adventures, follow Ragen on Instagram at @thefrozennugget.

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