Hiking in the winter months can be extremely rewarding: beautiful scenery, less crowded trails, no hot weather to deal with. But if you plan to take advantage of cold-weather hiking, there are some things you’ll need to be sure you don’t leave without. Winter hiking gear is a must for staying safe and comfortable on the trail during the off season. Use this winter hiking checklist as a starting point for gearing up.
- Keep comfortable with layers. Lean toward moisture-wicking materials like Lycra, fleece and Gore-Tex. Fabrics like cotton should be avoided because they retain moisture and will actually make you colder when you work up a sweat. Wear a light layer closest to your body and waterproof materials as your outer layer. As you get moving and warm up, remove layers, and when you slow down or take breaks, add layers back on.
- Protect your feet. The best winter hiking boots are waterproof and insulated. Make sure they fit properly and have room for warm socks – a thinner pair first and a thicker one over it. If you suffer from plantar fasciitis or other foot conditions, an insole is also necessary for hiking. In winter, try the Journey Wool for arch support and stabilization as well as temperature regulation.
- Warm your hands and head. Make sure to wear a warm windproof hat to avoid losing body heat through our head, as well as gloves for your fingers. Consider sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes against wind and sun too.
- Pack necessary provisions. For everything besides the simplest walk through the woods, you’ll need to carry water with you – you can still easily get dehydrated in cold weather. Bring along high-energy snacks, a light source, and a navigation tool, whether that’s a map or your phone – but be aware that you might not always have cell service depending on your location.
If you’ll be doing some extended hiking in the winter months, your list will need to be longer. Pack winter camping gear – sleeping bag, tent, additional food and fuel, etc. Take a look at this beginner guide to winter camping. It’s also a good idea to go with experienced winter campers at first. Happy hiking!