• Melanie Adair

Top 10 Tips for Hiking in Cooler Weather

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

Girl standing on hiking trail with Kalamalka Lake behind
Hiking in cooler weather in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, BC

Cooler temperatures, shorter days, and leaves changing mean only one thing: fall is coming. Or maybe you're heading into spring with the weather warming up but not that warm. With the change in temperature also comes the change in how we hike in it. Don't let the cold detour you from hiking, instead use these 10 top tips to help you become better prepared.

Tips for Hiking in Cooler Weather

1. Layers. As the day progresses, so does the flux in temperature. Mornings will be cool, afternoons warm, summits cool and evenings cold. Bring layers that you can easily add and remove as the temperature changes. DO NOT WEAR COTTON. It will not keep you warm and takes a long time to dry if it gets wet. Stick to synthetic (polyester) or natural (wool) materials as they dry faster, wick away moisture, and are good at insulating.

*Do not overdress otherwise it will lead you to sweat which in turn can lower your body temperature. If you find yourself sweating, adjust your layers.*

2. Socks. This might seem random but it's not. You're hiking shoes probably aren't insulated and you want to make sure you keep your feet warm and dry. I always wear 2 layers of socks-sock liners that wick away moisture, followed by wool socks. I also keep an extra pair of thermal socks in my backpack just in case. Again, DO NOT USE COTTON.

3. Mitts/toque/neck gaiter: The higher the elevation, the colder the temperature will be and the more exposed you are to the wind. I carry a fleece neck gaiter, thin fleece mitts, and a toque with a fleece piece that goes around the ears. Any extra items I bring, I keep in a water-resistant bag.

4. Hydrate: It can be super easy to not drink anything when it's not hot out and you're not sweating. You should still bring at least 1-2L of water, casually taking small sips throughout the hike. Hydration bladders are handy for this (but the hose will freeze in the winter if not insulated).

5. Windproof/Waterproof clothing: Ah that wind, refreshing during the summer, not so much in any other season. Windproof clothing will keep the chill away and you never know when it will rain (bonus tip: if you have waterproof pants, they also work great for wind protection).

6. Mess-free, easy-to-eat food: Stopping for long breaks will make you cold. You need food items you can quickly eat in a couple of minutes or eat as you go. Wraps/sandwiches, nuts, protein/energy bars or gels, presliced fruit/veggies, etc are some of my go-tos.

7. Sleeping bag: One wrong turn may lead to an uneventful night you did not plan on having or an injury that prevents you from moving and requiring you to wait. You can get super compact sleeping bags nowadays or if you have a bulky one, try putting it into a compression bag to save some space.

8. Headlamp/flashlight: Fall means shorter days, meaning it gets darker quicker, meaning your hikes need to be done in a timely manner. It can be easy to underestimate the time required to complete a hike and even if there is some daylight left, the trees will make it feel like nighttime.

9. Lighter. Weather is always unpredictable and staying warm and dry should always be your top priority. Keeping a small lighter in your pack can make a big difference from providing warmth to drying clothes to providing light.

10. A warm drink: This is more of a treat yourself one. Nothing is more rewarding when you get to the top or have a chill than to sip on a nice hot drink (tea/coffee/hot chocolate) to warm you up. I carry a small thermos that holds one cup and I always look forward to taking small sips of it during breaks.

Hiking doesn't have to end just because the weather gets cooler. Go out and enjoy the beauty of leaves changing colours, taking advantage of those late sunrises, and enjoying the trail with fewer people on it.

Girl standing in front of Kalamalka Lake
Standing in front of Kalamalka Lake on a super windy day

You might also be interested in my Top 10 Tips for Hiking in Hot Weather.


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