Typically when you’re out in the cold you’re bundled up in a heavy coat, mittens, snow boots, a scarf etc. If you go hiking in the winter dressed like that you’ll end up hot, sweaty and very uncomfortable. You will also have a higher chance of getting hypothermia.
What you want to do when hiking in the winter is dress in layers, comfortable, thin layers. Start with a t-shirt, add a long sleeve thin shirt then depending on how cold it is add a flannel shirt, a light jacket and then your puffy winter coat.
Dressing in layers enables you to subtract clothing as you or the temperature warms up. A word of advice, try to wear layers that are easy to pack away. You don’t want to be lugging around 4 layers of clothing as you’re trying to traverse the trail.
From Head to Feet – Winter Hiking Gear
• A hat that covers your ears
• Long sleeve synthetic baselayer to wick away moisture
• Sweatshirt or fleece
• Two pair of gloves. One thin one thick.
• Long thermal underwear
• Thick warm pants (jeans are not recommended)
• Warm socks preferably with wool in them
• Waterproof hiking boots
Conditional Winter Hiking Gear
Before you gather all your hiking gear and hit the trail, test your traction with the ground. Depending on the conditions and depth of the snow, you may need to bring snowshoes, crampons and/or gators.
Additionally, you’ll want to bring basic items such as water, snacks, lip balm, sunglasses (very important when hiking in the snow) and a watch. We’ve created a longer list of necessities, view the hiking gear checklist here.
If you’re not sure about the conditions you’ll face, bring everything with you, check the condition of the trails and then leave what you don’t need in the vehicle.
ALWAYS let someone know where you are going and how long you plan on being gone. It’s better to bring a friend as opposed to going it alone. It’s even better to bring along someone special. There’s just something about the snow, cold and nature that makes things more romantic.
Know where you’re going. Whether it’s a trail map or a hiking GPS be prepared to know where the trail will lead you. The good thing about hiking in the snow is it’s easier to find your way with the trail marked by your tracks.
Check the weather before you head out and watch the sky as you’re hiking. If the sky gets dark and cloudy you are better off heading back. The last thing you want is to get lost in a blizzard.