Essential gear for winter hiking
With the arrival of winter, there is no need to hang up those hiking boots. With the proper winter hiking gear, you can hike all year and be comfortable doing it! Here is a list of gear that will make winter a lot more enjoyable. This list will only contain additional gear you should bring when winter hiking. If you're looking for a more in-depth hiking gear list, check out my Hiking Gear List for Beginners.
An important note for new winter hikers: your safety is your responsibility. Do not really on others to keep yourself safe. This means always researching a trail before you go (knowing the distance and time and anything else about it), bringing all the essential items with you (first aid, water, snacks, etc), and also speaking up on the trail if you think something is not safe (if you do not feel well/exhausted, not comfortable with a shortcut route).
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Winter Hiking Gear for Beginners
A good waterproof boot or shoe is required to keep your feet dry. I highly recommend a boot for winter hiking as the height gives a bit more protection from the snow.
You want socks that wick away sweat, keep your feet dry, and provide some cushion and warmth. Get socks that are made from wool or a polyester blend, do not get cotton! Always carry an extra pair of socks with you just in case your feet sweat. Lots of hiking socks come in different thicknesses. Make sure if you get thicker socks, your shoes/boots still fit properly.
Baselayers keep you warm while wicking away sweat. They come in different weight options (how thick the material will be) and which one you get will depend on how hot or cold you get when you do activities.
To give an example, I sweat a lot when I exercise, especially if I'm walking up a mountain. I rarely wear my baselayer leggings because I know I will get too hot. Instead, I always carry them in my bag and throw them on when I need them. The baselayer top is supposed to be the layer against your skin. I always wear an athletic t-shirt under because sometimes by the end of the hike, the only layers I have on are my t-shirt and down jacket.
A mid layer is to help keep you insulated and warm and is usually a fleece or a down jacket/vest.
Columbia Lake 22 Down Jacket
This adds a ton of extra warmth without the bulk! And it is very easy to layer with other layers.
Down Jacket: Amazon
Helly Hansen Fleece Hoodie
A fleece is a great addition, also providing a lot of warmth without the bulk.
This is a waterproof or water-resistant layer. Make sure it fits over all of your layers.
Marmot Pre-Clip Eco Jacket
This is a very thin rain jacket (more for summer) that doesn't weigh a lot but can pack down quite small.
Helly Hansen Seven J Waterproof Rain Jacket
This waterproof rain jacket is a bit thicker and provides a bit more warmth.
Rain Jacket: Amazon
Osprey Mira 32L Day Bag
You need a backpack that's going to be able to hold all your extra layers, snacks, water, and anything else you might need to bring. Anywhere from 20-35L will let you fit everything you need. Also remember that whatever you are wearing, should also fit inside you're backpack.
Day Bag: Amazon
Keep your feet dry by wearing gaiters that prevent snow or water from getting into your boots. You can get them in different lengths but I like the higher ones so you're always prepared for everything.
Whether it is snow, wet snow, or the wind, they don't stand a chance against these guys. They are one of my favorite items to bring as you can never predict the weather when you are winter hiking. They are lightweight and take up very little space.
Waterproof Pants: Amazon
A must for winter hiking to keep your hands dry and warm. If you have warm hands, thin glove liners might work better.
Waterproof gloves: Amazon
One thing you won't get away from is the possibility of ice on a trail. Always carry spikes as trail conditions change the higher up you go,
Buy one that has a fleece lining around the ears or is fleece lined. This will prevent the wind from coming in and keep your head a bit warmer.
4. Hiking Poles
If you ever need to break trails (walk through snow that nobody else has walked on) or use them for support, hiking poles are a great addition to winter hiking.
Hiking Poles: Amazon
If your hiking bag does not come with a rain cover, I would highly recommend investing in one. Snow falling from trees and unpredictable winter conditions can leave your bag soaked.
Always bring a battery pack when you go on a winter hike. The cold drains your phone and you can go from a charged phone to zero percent in an hour.
Power Bank: Amazon
This is definitely a must in the winter. Prevent any damage to your electronics by placing them in this waterproof case
You should always be prepared to stay overnight and an emergency bivvy can help you with that.
Emergency Bivy: Amazon
I think most people forget about this but you can still really burn your face and lips during the winter especially if you're higher up in elevation and are exposed to the sun.
Lip Sunscreen: Amazon