In this article, we’ll talk about some of my top six winter hiking outfit essentials. Showing up to trailheads without the right gear is pretty much not an option in the winter season. Making smart apparel decisions is very crucial in the winter. The trick to winter hiking is to wear layers, stay warm and stay dry. If you are wearing the right outfit, you can enjoy your hikes not only in winter but in any season. Let’s get started on my list of must-have gear for winter hiking.
Winter hiking can definitely change the entire dynamic of hiking, however, hiking is definitely something you can do year-round.
Must-Have Gear For Winter Hiking
1. Winter Hiking Boots
Let’s start with our feet because if you don’t have warm feet, and good hiking boots that are not waterproof then you’ve got a problem with winter hiking. Investing in a good pair of boots is essential. A winter hiking boot should have three things. They should keep your feet completely warm and completely dry, they should be waterproof and they should have a good grip.
Generally, boots should be rated to keep your feets warm even at around -30 degrees temperature. Normally inside of these boots, there is a sheepskin lining, and the entire boot must have waterproof leather. The bottoms should be grippy.
Another thing to keep in mind while choosing boots is that they should go past your ankles. Let’s say you start hiking through some deeper snow then you have got an even taller boot to protect your legs from getting wet due to snow.
One of the biggest game-changers to winter hiking that everyone and their mother should have is microspikes. Don’t let them intimidate you they’re super easy. These are essentially spikes that just wrap around your boot and they provide so much traction. And just like that, your boot is completely micro-spiked.
Microspikes are not going to ruin your boot. They’re rubber, they’re going to protect it and they’re gonna keep you safe on the trail. When I say these are a game-changer for winter hiking I mean it.
Just a couple of weeks ago, we were in a rocky, mountain national park and hiking to some alpine lakes. It is winter in the mountains here and we passed hundreds of people who did not come prepared to do winter hiking. The trails get beat down, they turn into slush and they freeze into ice and they become extremely slippery. People were falling, people were crying, and people started going into the forest and making their own trails.
Microspikes are so cheap and they’re so compact and small. So just throw these in your hiking backpack and pull them out when you need them. It’s better to just have these with you, just in case because you never know what’s going to happen with the elements in the area you’re hiking.
So if you learn anything from this article is to be sure when you’re winter hiking you have microspikes.
3. Winter Jacket
Another must-have gear for winter hiking is a good quality winter jacket with a hood. It has to have a hood. The jacket should be water repellent.
I’ve never owned a down jacket and I can’t even explain to you how warm winter jackets can be. It’s like you’re wrapped in a ball of fur and it’s so light, it’s like you’re not even wearing a jacket. It has such a light material but it’s so warm and that’s what I love about it. It gives you a little bit more protection from the elements. There are jackets that go to your knees but that to me is too long.
The hood is essential because if you’re out hiking and all of a sudden it starts to rain or the wind picks up, a hood is going to help give you extra protection around your head. You can kind of cinch it in to keep yourself warm and the hood is detachable. So if you don’t want the hood one day you can take it off.
So if you’ve never owned a down jacket I highly recommend it. I mean who doesn’t want a light winter jacket that feels like you’re in a fluff cloud they’re amazing.
4. Base Layers
Let’s talk about base layers. Base layers are essentially the layer closest to your skin. They are worn with the attention of insulating and keeping in the warmth. So the tighter the better with base layers.
Let’s start with the bottoms. I am a lover of some good high-waisted, warm winter hiking leggings. These are going to be made out of a thicker material than the standard leggings that you would wear in the summer. The inside will have a nice soft layer of fleece that will help trap the heat and keep you warm and comfortable. With the added bonus of them being legging they will be nice and stretchy and comfortable when you’re hiking.
Leggings are perfect for any type of hike. Now as the snow gets deeper and the temps continue to drop I generally layer them with some snow pants. They should be waterproof and insulated to give added wind and cold protection to your legs.
Now let’s talk about the base layer for the top of your body. Long sleeve cold gear mock net shirts are a must-have for winter hiking. I love them so much that I have them in two colors. These suck to your skin and they keep you warm.
With the added bonus of them being a moisture-wicking material. If you happen to sweat while you’re hiking these will keep you comfortable and they will keep you dry because they wick moisture from the skin. It keeps your body circulating heat and when I tell you they keep you warm they will keep you warm they’re amazing.
You can wear this along with some fleece or wool on top of that and you are going to stay warm and toasty when you are out winter hiking. One thing to think about when you’re picking out base layers is to try and avoid cotton. Cotton will absorb any type of moisture and it takes forever to dry out. So sticking with synthetic materials that have that dry fit, fleece, wools anything like that will be so much better for you when you’re hiking than cotton.
5. Neck Gaiter
Last but not least another must-have is a neck gaiter or buff whatever you want to call it. A neck gaiter is something that you just pull over your head, and pull around your neck. If it’s cold and windy you take it put it up here around your mouth, and nose, and there will be no snow, or cold.
Frostbite is a real thing. Protect your skin and that’s why I love a good neck gaiter because if it starts windy and the cold and the snow’s blowing when you’re hiking pull up your neck gaiter and you guys you’ll have just your eyes showing.
You will stay warm and it’ll keep your skin protected. It’s such a small item like the microspikes throw it in your hiking bag. If you need it, pull it out and you’re good to go.
“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it.”– Andy Rooney
This is my list of must-have gear for winter hiking. In all honesty, It just takes patience and practice if you are new to winter hiking. I highly recommend trying out some shorter trails to get yourself comfortable and know what’s going to work best for you and your body to let you move comfortably and keep you dry and warm.
Practice makes perfect and I also recommend always checking the forecast and trail conditions before you head out on any type of hike.
There are a lot of things to determine when you’re out hiking. So it’s better to come prepared, do your research, and really see what you might be getting yourself into. If you are a beginner hiker I have an entire article on some tips and tricks to kind of get you ready if you are just starting out hiking. So I highly recommend checking out the article.
You can also check out other insightful blogs on traveling tips and places on our website. Happy Travelling!