The key to winter trek clothing is wearing layers that keeps you both warm and dry. It’s better to shed layers of clothes when feeling heat than starting a hike with less. For winter layering, you require three layers of clothing: base layer, mid-layer, and waterproof shell.
Layering is crucial as it keeps you warm free from cold and hypothermia. Those layers are essential, especially when it’s freezing, but you can take some layers as the weather changes. When you feel warm, you take off some layers to maintain heat, and when it’s cold, you add extra layers.
These layers are;
- The base layer is the clothes next to your skin like long underwear, glove liners, and sock liners. These clothes form the best base layer for winter hiking. They absorb sweat to keep your skin dry and warm.
- Winter hiking mid-layer provides additional warmth by tarping body heat in the air spaces inside the fabric. Examples are; fleece jackets, puffy jackets, wool hats, wool socks, insulated gloves.
- Shell layer- protects you from the wind and rain like the rain hats, pants, shell gloves.
Features to Look for When Buying Winter Clothes
Consider the following features when choosing your winter hiking clothes;
- Breathability – a breathable fabric allows heat to pass from one layer to another and later leave your system.
- Wicking- a material that absorbs and spread moisture efficiently to promote evaporation and cool down. When water evaporates, your body remains dry and cool.
- Insulation – clothes with insulation retain heat in cold climates. But you have to choose the best, depending on the environment.
- Waterproofness – the outermost layer protects you from rain, snow, and wind. The coating should also be breathable and durable.
When preparing for a hike, warm, snow proof, well-insulated boots are a must. The best winter hiking boots will protect your feet from icy puddles and winter storms. To choose the warmest boots, you should consider the following;
- Inner fabric- being insulated is vital in keeping warm. Wool regulates temperatures well, keeping you warm and not sweaty.
- Material – the top part and the sole are essential. The upper part, which covers your foot and ankle, should be water-resistant. It should have materials such as nylon and leather. The soles should provide good traction by having bumps; waterproof breathable hiking boots should offer grip on the slick and wet snow.
- Boot height- choose a taller boot to keep your calves warm. For short boots, they will let in snow as you hike through the snow.
- Tongue – the appropriate tongue should keep out all foreign materials and keep your feet dry.
Here are some highly-rated boots
Warm Socks/ Liners
Woolen socks are the best than cotton in keeping your feet warm and dry. Cotton tends to hold moisture and can make your feet feel wet inside and even cause foul odors. Choose thicker socks that you will be comfortable wearing with your boots. Remember, too thick socks can cause blisters or cut off proper circulation.
Some socks to consider;
High gaiters for winter hiking prevent snow and dirt from entering your boots. You wear them on top of your shoes over the lower part of your pant legs. You attach them to the shoes using an instep strap and lace hooks. The gaiters have a drawcord to ensure they stay firm on the pants. The following factors are essential when purchasing gaiters.;
- Material – high-quality gaiters should be waterproof and breathable. Material like Gore-Tex, eVent are excellent fabrics. They are durable and provide weather protection. Gaiters protect your feet against abrasion, penetration of water from outside but allow water vapor from inside to pass through.
- Reinforcements- the lower part should have strong fabric for protection against abrasion.
- Weight – choose lightweight gaiters for faster hiking.
- Functionality- should be easy to put on, having Velcro front entries to attach to your pants.
- Height – gaiters have different sizes, over the ankle, mid-calf, and knee. The knee height is the best for winter.
We recommend the following;
Winter gloves come in many varieties like thermal, waterproof, and tech-use friendly. It’s best to choose according to the purpose of use. But in winter hiking, you require warm gloves that will keep frostbite at bay. You may need both thermal and waterproof gloves.
Woolen gloves are best undercover with the following advantage;
- wool is resilient
- warm, comfortable, and feel soft
- traps air, which makes it an insulating material
- wool absorbs, releases moisture, and remain breathable
- wool has natural antibacterial properties to make it odor resistant
Waterproof mitts contain a breathable membrane that shields off the rain and snow. The breathable membrane prevents;
- reduction of their thermal insulation capacity
- production of the unpleasant feeling of a damp cloth
Best gloves should have the following features;
- quality insulation
- zip stash pockets o the back
- reinforced grippy palms and fingers
- elastic drawstring wit cords to seal out cold air
Check this post we did on the best snowmobile gloves as most of them will form a perfect multipurpose outer layer pair.
There are various types of hats you can use to remain warm.
- Trapper hats- it has earflaps on either side. You tie it up to the crown of the cap or fasten it at the chin to keep your ears, neck, and chin warm.
- Driving caps- also called newsboy caps. It’s a round cap with a small stiff brim in front.
- Rangers hats- has a full wide brim and tall crown.
- Balaclavas- mostly for the extreme outdoors, usually with a single wide slot for eyes
- Baseballs- have wool, and this makes them warm in the cold.
- Bucket hats- has a downward sloping brim and sit directly on the crown, and completely covers the head.
Some warm hats to try out include:
Winter Hiking Jackets
For winter jackets, they should be a hard shell with the following features.
Fully Adjustable Hood
Choose a jacket with an adjustable hood so that you can shrink it to fit your head, side pulls to regulate the size opening of the face, high collar that covers your neck and mouth. These features protect your face from frostbite and powerful wind currents.
Hipbelt Compatible Pockets
Search for jackets with pockets to place your phone, other small devices, or even your hands when extremely cold.
Many Zippered Pockets
Extra pockets are best for carrying your small items like snacks, hats, gloves, and distributing weight on your body.
The best jacket should have a way of regulating heat instead of taking it off. The following features can help;
- Adjustable hook and loop wrist closures- help adjust the body warmth at your wrists where the blood flows near the skin’s surface. You can wear inside gloves or over them depending on your preference and the glove type. They also let you pull your sleeves up to vent heat.
- Two -way front zipper- pulling the bottom half up can help relieve excess heat
We recommend the following puff jackets with attached hood ;
- Orolay women thickened down jacket
- Amazon essential lightweight, packable puffer coat
- Men’s down alternative jacket
Waterproof and windproof jackets – best for rain showers; they are lightweight, breathable, and windproof.
Best Winter Hiking Pants
You choose your pants depending on your budget and how cold it is. You need two types of pants for winter hiking: the soft shell and waterproof and wind-resistant.
Check this too: How to Prevent Chafing While Hiking
Hard-shell Pants are windproof and waterproof: no rainwater gets through them and retains body heat. To avoid overheating, find those with vents when you feel hot. They are lighter in weight, packable, and resistant to abrasion.
Softshell pants– are essential in keeping you warm and are wind and are water-resistant. But they aren’t waterproof, so they won’t hold up to heavy rain. They are also breathable and cozy while wearing. The pants have fleece inside to provide extra warmth.
This layer helps retain the heat generated by the body, and the more it holds, the warmer you become. The clothing should be thicker but have insulating materials. Some choices of mid-layer include;
- Polyester fleece- it’s available in lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight fabrics. Wool stays warm even when it gets moist and dries fast. It’s the best winter hiking mid-layer
- Down fill- they are the warmest insulated mid-layers. You can use a down sweater as a mid-layer featuring 700-850 fill down that is extremely warm, compressible, and lightweight face fabric.
- Synthetic fill They are not compressible and lacks durability and resilience. The material will not lose warmth or loft when wet and are cheaper than down. Synthetic is excellent for wet conditions.
Small fleece jacket
Base Layer Insulation
The best base layer for winter hiking materials should wick moisture from the body to ensure you remain warm and dry. The base layer almost acts as the second skin. The coating and thermal underwear provide warmth and absorb moisture too. You can still wear these clothes on warm days or during intense activity. These layers occur into two types- tops and bottoms, that you wear under another item.
- Base layer tops- a thermal top is a must in winter. In winter, long-sleeves are mostly the best choice. However, a short-sleeve can work depending on the weather conditions. Longer sweaters will keep you warm and protect you from any weather or wind chill by keeping your blood flowing.
An example includes a long sleeve jersey.
- Base layer bottoms –Designed to retain body heat and wick away moisture, bottoms, or leggings, are an ideal all-rounder for everything from snow sports to hiking—for example; women’s cold weather hiking pants, long underwear for men, boxer jock.
A full replacement set of clothes could become useful if you were to get very wet. The inner layer may accumulate more sweat and body oils, and you need to clean it. Washing in cold environments may be hectic and still take more time to dry, thus a need to carry spare clothes. You need to have extra sets of socks, underwear, and a long sleeve.
Check this too: How To Layer For Skiing
Face and Eyes Protection
Protect your eyes and face from the extreme cold and the shining snow. For the eyes, you require glasses. Sunglasses are essential in winter; they shield your eyes from cold and protect them from gusts of wind. Again, use goggles to protect your eyes from snow glare when the sun reflects from the snow surface.
For the face, you can use ski masks to protect yourself from the icy cold. The covers also help your face and mouth from losing excess heat from the body. The face can become numb and uncomfortable, leading to unpleasant sinus drainage, colds, sniffles, or soreness and redness in the skin.
Face mask/ balaclava
How Cold is too Cold for Hiking?
It’s never too cold to hike or stop hiking its all depends on you and the gears you have. Hiking in winter can still be enjoyable as it would in summer. If you have the equipment for a warm-weather hike, you can modify it. Before you start your trek, ensure you observe the following;
- Dress in many layers- you will protect your body from heat loss, getting wet and cold.
- Protect your feet, hands, and head- head form the body can easily get lost through these parts. Ensure you wear protective gear, like warm hats, socks, gloves
- Pack a warm drink- hot tea, water, or chocolate will keep you warm and hydrated.
- Eat well- energy giving foods will help your body generate more heat and fight the cold.
- Carry spare clothes to ensure you put on dry clothes always to preserve your body heat.
- Make a fire outside for extra warmth.
It would be best if you pack warm and extra clothes as you prepare for your winter hiking. Knowing how to dress for your hike will ensure a superior experience and protect you from cold, frostbite, abrasion, and snow glare. Remember to dress in three layers: the base, mid and outer shell, and only take them off when necessary.