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There’s something special about hiking quiet, snow-covered trails. Winter creates a beauty of its own. Sure, it’s cold. But it’s less crowded, and you see things you don’t otherwise see on warm-weather hikes. And with the right winter hiking gear, you can explore trails all year round!
If you’re anything like us, you must get outdoors, no matter the season! But winter hiking takes more preparation than summer outings. First, you must stay safe and warm. And if you go far, you should also be prepared for an emergency.
We’re here to help you prepare for winter hiking adventures! In this article, you’ll find everything you need to choose the best winter hiking gear. We guide you through selecting the proper hiking boots, pants, and jackets. And we wrap it up with a list of winter hiking essentials.
Essential winter hiking gear
The most essential winter hiking gear is what goes on your body. So proper clothing is crucial for staying safe, dry, and comfortable on any winter hike. And if you’re going on a long hike, you’ll want extra layers and supplies.
In this article, we’ll tackle how to choose the best winter hiking gear, including:
- winter hiking boots,
- winter hiking pants, and
- winter hiking jackets.
And be sure to check out our list of winter hiking essentials at the end of this article.
Also, we recommend you read our article on how to stay warm in cold weather. It will help you more with layering for winter weather.
Find the best winter hiking boots for you.
The two most critical things to do when hiking in cold temps are to keep your feet dry and warm! So waterproof and insulated are the most vital components of a good winter hiking boot.
It’s critical to have the proper insulation to protect your toes from frostbite (but not so much that your feet sweat)!
Winter boot insulation has temperature ratings. So select a rating suitable for the temperatures you hike in. Most folx choose insulation between 200 and 400 grams. But it will depend on the temps and activities you do.
Below are the standard recommendations:
• 200-gram insulation is for 30 to 40°F
• 400-gram is for 15-30°F
• 600 to 800 grams is for temps colder than 15° F
Remember that the temperature ratings of boots assume you are walking. So if you are standing still in cold temperatures, you need more insulation.
• Wool socks keep your feet warm and dry.
• Crampons or micro spikes that fit over your boots help you navigate icy conditions.
• Gaiters, keep snow out of your boots.
• Toe warmers will help keep your feet warm.
Top boot suggestions
- Merrell Thermo Chill in women’s and men’s
- Oboz Bridger Insulated B-Dry in women’s and men’s
- Keen Revel Polar in women’s and men’s
Choose the best winter hiking pants to stay warm.
The best winter hiking pants keep you warm – but not too warm. So, of course, the most suitable pants depend on the weather conditions!
In other words, winter hiking pants should keep you warm and dry but not make you sweat. So, it’s a judgment call and can take some trial and error.
Some folx layer pants, which is a great idea for changing weather conditions. You might layer a synthetic base layer, followed by a warm synthetic layer (like fleece), and a wind and waterproof (zippered) outer shell if it’s super cold.
But, the outer shell might not be necessary if you won’t hike in snow or precipitation. And if the temps aren’t too cold, you can definitely skip the mid-layer, so you don’t start to sweat.
Most often, we use our lined water-repelling pants for day hikes. And these get paired with a base layer on frigid days. Zippers are also handy for getting pants over your boots; some are full zip to make them easy to remove.
Top winter pants suggestions
- REI Activator Pants in women’s and men’s
- Marmot Eco Full-Zip Pants in women’s and men’s
- Columbia Pants in women’s and men’s
Selecting a winter hiking jacket: It’s all about layers!
Layers are the name of the game for your upper half too!
You may always want a base layer made of synthetic material to keep you warm and dry. And you might follow the base layer with a warm insulating synthetic layer (like fleece) and a windproof and waterproof outer shell.
How you layer is up to you. It depends on the weather and your activity level (and how hot or cold you tend to be).
We almost always wear all three layers on winter hikes – so we can remove layers if we get hot. But you can always top the base layer with a waterproof puffy down jacket if you don’t think you’ll get too warm.
Outer shells we love:
- Marmot Precip jacket in women’s and men’s
- Columbia Arcadia jacket in women’s
- Columbia Watertight jacket in men’s
- Little Donkey Andy Waterproof jacket in women’s and men’s
List of winter hiking essentials: What to wear and what to take with you
- Wool socks, like Darn Tough Socks (plus an extra pair)
- Waterproof mittens or gloves (plus glove liners)
- Wool hat
- Face mask or balaclava
- Scarf, buff, or neck gaiter
- Traction for shoes; microspikes or crampons
- Boot gaiters (if hiking in snow)
Other winter hiking gear:
- Insulated bottle or thermos if your water could freeze
- Nutrient-dense snacks/food
- Hand, foot & body warmers
- Emergency blanket
- Emergency fire-starting kit
- First aid kit
- Map and compass
- Knife or multi-tool
Extra gear for longer excursions:
- Emergency shelter
- Extra water and food
- Backpacking stove with fuel with a kettle or pot
- Cold-rated sleeping bag
- Ski goggles
Other winter hiking safety tips
- Check the weather forecast before you go
- Hike with others
- Let someone else know your route and when to expect you back
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