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What to Wear Hiking in Cold Weather

The cold season should not stand in the way of having fun. It is still possible to have the time of your life in the snowy or chilly conditions with sufficient preparation. Adequate insulation, as well as protection from wind and moisture, is quite important. Failure to do that will only make you susceptible to hypothermia among other cold-related ailments. One of the safest ways to stay safe in freezing conditions is by dressing up in layers. This has to be done with the help of winter oriented outfits. In case you are unsure about what to wear hiking in cold weather, you are in for a treat. This article unravels everything you need to know about hiking in cold weather.

How do you stay warm in winter hiking?

Stay hydrated

Adequate hydration is as imperative in cold weather as it is during summer. You are probably wondering how this is true. The thing is, your core temperature is likely to take a nose dive if you get dehydrated. Such an occurrence would expose you to the hypothermia threat. Insufficient fluids in the system also culminate in dizziness and disorientation. Folks tend to drink less water in the cold season as sweating is not very visible. Hence, do not forget to refill your water bottle or hydration bladder before hitting the sack.

Have some snacks

The cold weather pushes your body into burning twice as many calories as it would under normal conditions. It happens as more heat is needed at this time. That is why you need to eat continuously throughout your excursion. Snacks rich in proteins provide more energy and heat.

Layer up

Perhaps this is the most crucial trick in staying warm while hiking in winter. Aside from dressing in layers, pack up extra clothes that you can throw on if it gets too chilly. Nonetheless, layer your clothes in a manner that your body is protected from wind and water. The layering should also take care of sweating by keeping the skin dry. Therefore, you need a base layer to wick away any moisture from the skin. On top of that, you require a mid-layer to keep your body insulated. A wind or outer layer comes in last to keep off wind and water.

Keep your head insulated

Most people forget to cover their head when hiking in cold weather. The head, like any other part of the body, should be insulated to curb heat loss. Thus, remember to pack up a beanie or hat before hitting the trail.

Go for wool or synthetic fabric

Wool and synthetic fabrics such as polyester boast of excellent insulation properties. Besides that, they dry very fast when wet. Avoid cotton fabric as it takes time to dry. This promotes heat loss.

Sleep in a tent

In the event that you plan to spend a night in freezing weather, ensure that you are well equipped. One of the essentials you need for a comfortable night in the jungle is a tent. As much as you may be layered up sufficiently, it is vital to protect yourself from strong winds, snow showers or unexpected rain. That is not all; a tent will provide additional insulation.

Hike in the warmest sunlight

It is wise to hike when the sun is warmest. The sun is warmest at the highest point in the sky. This way you will not have to worry about freezing.

Make hot drinks

Take a hot cup of coffee or any other beverage before leaving home. Likewise, pack up some hot beverage in a thermos which you can sip whenever it gets too cold. Still, bring along a stove or similar equipment with which warm drinks can be prepared. The importance of all this is to warm up your core.

what to wear hiking in cold weather

Photo from Pexels

What do you wear in freezing weather?

It is imperative to dress up accordingly if you are to enjoy some outdoor time. Freezing weather is fatal to your health. It is important to layer up for optimal warmth and insulation. Before looking at what to wear in freezing conditions, let us first discuss different types of layers for improved protection:

I. Baselayer

The base layer which is also referred to as the underwear layer is your first line of defense against cold. It is meant to be closest to the skin. This layer works to keep your skin dry and comfortable by wicking off any sweat. Although you will be venturing into freezing conditions you are still going to sweat. Sweat is likely to get you chilled which could result in hypothermia. Luckily, you have the base layer to handle that. Nylon, polyester, silk and merino wool are some of the best fabrics for the underwear layer.

II. Mid layer

Next is the mid-layer which is supposed to insulate your body by retaining radiant heat. Mid-layers incorporate fabrics that are light yet thick enough to curb heat loss. Mid-layers are mainly made from synthetic fabrics. They should be breathable as well.

III. Wind layer

In the event that the insulating layer is excessively breathable, the wind is likely to blow through. Such an occurrence will inhibit insulation. The mid-layer is susceptible to snow and rain as well. This is where a wind layer comes in. Ultralight jackets are perfect in this case. They have to be treated with durable water repellent (DWR) for elevated performance.

IV. Outer shell

If the wind layer is not sufficient, you can throw on an additional layer. You can either go for a soft shell or hard shell depending on the intensity of a storm or adverse weather conditions. Softshells are water-resistant, more breathable. They also allow more freedom in terms of mobility. Hard shells are a little bulky but highly effective in storms or harsh conditions.  

Cold weather hiking/camping list

Cold weather hiking list

Here are all the accessories you need for cold weather hiking:

i. Winter coat

Now that you are going out in the cold season you should be prepared for rain, snow, and wind. There is no better way of doing that than getting equipped with a good winter jacket or coat. It is vital to find a coat that is designed to protect you against bad weather. Your preferred model has to be long enough, well insulated and perfect fitting. Here are some of our winter coat recommendations:

Marmot Womens Montreaux Down Coat - Medium - Midnight Navy
700 Fill Power Down with Down Defender; Down Defender; Zip-off Hood with Removable Synthetic Fur Ruff

ii. Waterproof gloves

As much as some winter coats incorporate hand warmers it is crucial to have your own gloves too. Gloves aid in keeping hands warm. Other than that, the best gloves for cold weather ought to be breathable and waterproof too. You can try out this pair:

iii. Hiking boots

Hiking boots are a must-have if you are to make the most out of your hike in cold weather. Contrary to ordinary boots, hiking boosts boast of superior attributes making them ideal for winter. They are waterproof, thick, touch and warm on the interior. Strive to acquire boots constructed from leather, Goretex or a blend of the two for durability. These models will suit you well:

The North Face Shellista II Mid Snow Boot, Frost Grey & Evening Sand Pink, 6.5
Shaft measures approximately 13" from arch; Warm, waterproof above-the-calf boot from The North Face with a streamlined shell

iv. Hiking socks

A pair of hiking boots may not be sufficient against the unforgiving cold conditions. You need an extra layer of insulation. This is why you should include hiking socks on your list. Break them in a few times on normal day excursions prior to hitting the trail during winter. This pair is incredible for winter:

v. Hat

A lot of people forget to cover their heads in cold weather when a lot of warmth is lost from this part in actuality. For elevated insulation, try out a woolly hat or hats made from synthetic fabrics. Here is our recommended model:

Minus33 Merino Wool Ridge Cuff Wool Beanie Blaze Orange One Size
CRAFTED TO FIT: One-Size fits most. Double fabric for warmth. Simple yet stylish.
Smartwool Cuffed Beanie Black One Size
Prepare for colder weather by grabbing the Cuffed Beanie from Smartwool®.; Interlock knit construction.

vi. Sports underwear

Sports underwear is ideal for the base layer. Now that the base layer keeps the skin dry, you are discouraged from getting underwear made from cotton. Cotton has poor moisture-wicking properties. Nylon, polyester and other synthetic fabrics are great for underwear. Below are our recommended models:

Neleus Men's 2 Pack Compression Pants Running Tights Sport Leggings,6026,Red,Black,S,EUR M
NOTE: Pay attention to the SIZE chart in the third picture to select the appropriate size; Tight Fitting,like a second skin, Quick dry fabric helps keep you dry and comfortable

vii. Rain pants

Rain pants will form the outer shell now that should be dressing in layers. They have to be wind and waterproof. Breathability is another vital attribute of a good pair of rain pants too. In the event that it is extremely chilly, you can have two rain pants on. One that is lighter but water-resistant for insulation and another that is completely waterproof. Here are our recommendations:

Arc'teryx Gamma AR Pant Men's (Bushwhack, Small)
ARC'ESSENTIALS - Versatile high performance designs for diverse activities and conditions.
prAna Women's Halle Pant - Short Inseam, Earthbound, 6
Material: Stretch Zion (97% nylon, 3% spandex), DWR finish; Fit: relaxed, mid-rise waist; Inseam: [short] 30in, [regular] 32in, [tall] 36in

viii. Sports t-shirt

The t-shirt will also form a decent base layer for the upper body. You might need a single long-sleeved pair in the event that it is not so cold. Its fabric should offer unmatched wicking capabilities and breathability. Cotton is obviously a bad choice. Wool or synthetic fabrics are recommended. If temperatures are dangerously low, you may require two tees. Thus, put on the long-sleeved tee first followed by a short-sleeved t-shirt for your base layer. Try these models out:

adidas Women's Badge of Sport Classic Tee, Chalk Coral/Real Teal, X-Small
climalite fabric sweeps sweat away from your skin; Ribbed crewneck; Comfortable back neck tape


Winter hiking can never go wrong if you prepare fully. Your top priority should be to stay warm, comfortable and safe throughout your time in the jungle.

The following is a detailed breakdown of more FAQs regarding what to wear in cold weather:

Can you wear snow boots for hiking?

You can wear snow boots for hiking. However, it may be unwise to so do when the snow is heavy. Most snow boots are not well equipped to handle colossal amounts of snow. What you need is a good pair of hiking boots. The thing is, hiking boots are waterproof and stiff which makes heavy snow a piece of cake. Still, hiking boots fit perfectly in addition to keeping the feet warm.

How do you hike in cold weather?

Before setting a course into the freezing outdoors, it is important to dress up appropriately. Dress in layers so as to keep your body warm, dry and comfortable. Aside from appropriate clothing, you require a great pair of hiking boots. It is also crucial to protect your head, neck and hands as well. This is where a hat, scarf and gloves come in. To top it off, you need a warm drink alongside some snacks.

Which fabric is best for cold weather?

Wool stands out among the best fabrics for cold weather. This fabric is not only warm but also highly breathable and soft. Similarly, wool is water-resistant, super lightweight and fairly durable. 

Where can I backpack in the winter?

It is wise to backpack on climbing or uphill terrains. Winter is characterized by extreme cold. Taking on difficult trails gets your heart to pump fast. This enhances blood circulation making the internal body warm.

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