All the Gear You Need for Winter Hiking

Stay Warm, Dry, and Comfortable on the Trail This Winter with These Important Pieces of Outdoor Gear

Image Caption: Photo Credit: Harbucks/Getty

Avid hikers don’t let little things like cold temperatures and a bit of snow keep them from hitting the trail during the winter. In fact, they know that a cold-weather hike can be just as fun and rewarding as a trek during the warmer months of the year. But the key to enjoying a winter outing is having the proper gear to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable even in adverse conditions.

If you’re ready for a winter hiking adventure, here is all the gear you’ll need to embrace the season while staying safe outdoors.

winter hiking gear

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Base Layers

Base layers are the part of your cold-weather layering system that sits closest to the skin, providing warmth while wicking away moisture. These garments are available as both tops and bottoms and are designed to keep you warm and dry by regulating your temperature when active outdoors. If you want to stay comfortable on your winter adventures, having a good base layer is a must.

There are a number of excellent base layer options available on the market, but the best options use merino wool. That material is warm, breathable, moisture-wicking, and naturally antimicrobial. Those are properties you should look for when selecting a performance layering system.

Shop base layer tops and bottoms and The House

Down Jacket

A down jacket is a must-have for any cold-weather activities. That’s because down is the lightest and warmest insulating material available, making it an excellent option for use in outdoor gear. A good down jacket works in conjunction with your base layers to prevent body heat from escaping, keeping you warmer in the outdoors as a result.

When shopping for a down jacket, you’ll often see “fill power” listed on its hang tag. This is a relative measure of the quality and amount of down used in the coat, with higher numbers indicating greater warmth. A down jacket with 600 fill-power is perfect for active outings in temperatures in the 20º-30ºF range. On the other hand, 800 fill-power or more will keep you comfortable in conditions that fall well below zero.

Shop for men’s and women’s down jackets at The House

winter hiking gear

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Shell Jacket and Pants

Shell jackets and pants are worn over your insulating layers and serve as a shield against the elements. Made from highly technical, wind- and waterproof fabrics, these garments are crucial in helping you stay warm and dry. And while a shell jacket or pants may not be necessary on all outings, they are nice to keep in your backpack just in case a winter storm hits unexpectedly while you’re on the trail.

Shop men’s and women’s shell jackets at The House

Winter Hiking Boots

If outdoor temperatures aren’t especially cold and the trail is relatively snow-free, the hiking boots you already own may be more than sufficient for a winter hike. But if temperatures drop below freezing and you expect snow and ice, a good pair of winter boots will make a big difference.

Winter boots are insulated for additional warmth and have a waterproof lining to help keep your feet dry. They also come with specially-designed soles that provide extra traction on slick surfaces. Most have an upper that sits high on the leg, offering solid ankle support and keeping snow from reaching the interior.

Shop for men’s and women’s hiking boots at The House

winter hiking gear

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Warm Socks

In addition to providing extra warmth, a good pair of winter hiking socks will also keep your feet dry. This prevents hot spots and blisters from forming, which is always a concern, no matter the season. Look for socks made from merino wool, which is naturally warm, moisture-wicking, and odor-resistant.

Shop for hiking socks for men and women at The House

Gloves/Mittens

Whether running errands in town or hiking a long trail, gloves and Mittens play an important role in keeping us comfortable outdoors in the winter. Even a light pair of gloves can make all the difference when trekking in cold temperatures, providing protection from the wind and snow. But as the mercury drops, you may need a thicker, more well-insulated option for use on your outings.

As with other garments on this list, finding gloves or mittens that are wind- and waterproof is essential. If your gloves get wet, it could lead to frostbite, which can be a very serious condition. The right gloves will prevent that from happening and make your winter hikes much more enjoyable.

Shop for men’s and women’s gloves at The House

winter hiking gear

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Stocking Cap

While there is no truth to the myth that 90% of your body heat escapes through your head, it is still important to wear a cap on your winter hikes. Wearing any type of hat will help keep you warm, but a wool stocking cap can be especially efficient at doing so. As we’ve already mentioned, wool is exceptionally warm, great at wicking moisture, and doesn’t attract odors. That makes it an ideal material for use in many different types of garments, including those you wear on your head.

Shop for hats and caps at The House

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are a valuable tool for hikers any time of the year, improving stability and traction while reducing stress on the ankles, knees, and hips. But in the winter, they are also handy for maintaining balance on slick surfaces and probing deep snow for any hidden obstacles.

When purchasing a pair of trekking poles for use in the winter, look for ones that come with snow baskets. These plastic or metal guards fit around the base of the poles, offering additional support in winter conditions. The baskets help keep the poles from sinking deeply into the snow, making it easier to walk in powder, especially when wearing snowshoes.

Shop for trekking poles at The House

winter hiking gear

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Snowshoes

Hiking in deep snow can be exhausting, quickly taking the fun out of a winter trek. But snowshoes prevent the wearer from sinking deeply into the powder, allowing hikers to glide along much more rapidly and effortlessly.

If you live and hike in an area where snow is plentiful, having a set of snowshoes will make your outings much more enjoyable. When paired with trekking poles, they can make winter backcountry excursions more feasible, even when there is several feet of snow on the ground.

Shop for snowshoes at The House

Backpack

A good backpack is another piece of essential gear for hiking any time of the year, but it is vital during the winter. That’s because conditions on the trail can change quickly and unexpectedly, so you’ll want space to carry additional layers of clothing while having room to shed a layer if necessary.

You’ll also need to bring food, water, a headlamp, and various other items to help keep you safe in the cold weather. That could include things like an emergency blanket or an avalanche safety kit. Because of this, you may need a larger pack than you would typically carry, even on a relatively short day hike.

Shop for snow packs at The House

This is all the gear you’ll need to stay comfortable, warm, and—most importantly—safe on your winter hikes. With this equipment, you’ll be able to shrug off anything Mother Nature throws at you and face the cold and snow head-on. Enjoy the solitude and serenity that comes with trekking during the colder months without ever having to wait for the return of spring again.

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