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Hiking Gear for Winter

Depending on where you live, it is time to gear up with the right hiking gear for winter for your next adventures.

In some areas it could even save lives to know what or NOT to wear when hiking in the mountains or in very cold winter weather.

Remember that even when it is snow free at home, it could be snowy conditions when you drive up the mountains to go for a hike.

My top tips for winter hikes:

1) Plan ahead: trail conditions, weather forecast… 

2) Dress like an Onion. Wearing layers is the way to go.

3) Start early to avoid getting into the dark

4) Bring high energy snacks.

5) Bring enough water and maybe a thermos bottle with tea or coffee.

Green Tip: 

Buy durable products/apparel.
Look out for brands that use sustainable materials, recycled materials, non toxic coating for shells, and use a Guppy Friend Washing Bag for your synthetics to prevent micro plastic fiber getting washed into the oceans.

You don’t need to buy the newest fanciest Apparel. Look through your closet first. You might have some base layer, mid layer, wind jackets, rain coats already!?

Best hiking gear for winter

Dress like an onion:

-Base layer: should wick away moisture
-Middle layer: breathable and insulating
-Outer layer: wind and rain proof

Wearing layers will prevent you from sweating too much or freezing. You can add as many layers as you need, and easily get rid of one and another or put on another one if you need it.

Upper Body Base Layer

For the base layer, you would want to opt for a fabric that wicks the sweat in to the exterior layers where it will disperse. This can be Merino wool, synthetic, Tencel, bamboo…. But NOT cotton. This is what you should avoid to wear when hiking in cold weather!
Cotton does not wick away moisture, it will stay wet and you will get cold quickly. This can become very dangerous when out on a trail and far away from a warm spot. (Read more about Hypotermia in my blog post here)

Natural materials are known to be less smelly than synthetics so you actually need to wash them less. Makes them more durable, more sustainable.

This long sleeve from Icebreaker is made from Merino Wool.
The brand is committed to using natural alternatives to synthetic materials (i.e. plastics) in their clothing. Nature has the solutions to make durable products and build a more sustainable future for people and our planet.

(They have awesome Apparel for men too)

Seamless turtle neck base layer from Odlo. Great for hiking or running in winter. 

Odlo is member of Fair wear foundation and is Oekotex certified.

Upper Body Middle Layer

The middle layer is important to winter hiking. It should store the body heat to protect you from the cold. 
For the middle layer you can choose fleece, synthetic down or wool to keep warm. Depending on the weather this you can wear one or two mid layer and it could be anything from a vest or a light jacket. It should be quick drying and breathable. This does mean it is not wind proof, so always carry a windproof outer layer with you.

Be aware that fleece is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to micro plastic fibers when you wash it (releasing up to 1.7g per wash, older ones shed even more), so please use a Guppy friend washing bag for your fleece (and other synthetics)!

Jack Wolfskin windproof puffer vest made from recycled Polyester.
PFC free.

This jacket from The North Face is made with a recycled polyester blend. Naturally warm and breathable.

This knit pullover from Fjällräven will keep you warm in any kind of winter weather.

Upper Body Outer Layer

The outer layer should be a rainproof hard shell coat with a hood to keep you covered against wind, rain and snow and should keep you warm and dry.

Look for an eco hardshell coat. Chemicals used in treatments on jackets and other garments to repel water (PFC) have potential toxic consequences for both humans and the environment. So many conscious brand already use eco treatment or phasing out PFC at the moment.

Wind and water proof jacket from Haglöfs. Another Brand known for sustainability and great durable Outdoor Apparel.

The North Face Carto Triclimate Jacket is wind and rainproof and has an inner puffer jacket attached.

Fjällräven Keb jacket.
Fjällräven is a great Outdoor brand. They make extremely Durable outdoor Apparel. 

This jacket is wind and waterproof and will be your best friend in any kind of weather

Hands

Good gloves are essential for hiking in cold weather.
I like to wear thin gloves and on top some mittens.

Check my blog post about the best hiking gloves

Head

A lightweight hat and maybe even a face mask (for icy windy days) keeps your head warm. I am always getting cold around my neck quickly so I am mostly wearing a scarf too.

This beanie from United by Blue is made from recycled polyester.

On top of that: for every item you buy from this brand, they will remove one pound of trash from our waterways!!

Lower Body

Onion style for your lower body too. I always like to have a base layer like a warm tight or winter legging and then I’ll carry a windproof/rainproof pant with me as an upper layer.  Again, stay away from cotton for the base layer!

If it will be freezing at your desired hiking destination, think about investing in thermal underwear and a good winter snow pant. If you are wearing a base layer you might need the upper layer in a size bigger. If you go to a shop make sure to try the upper layer with the thermo pants underneath to make sure they fit.

Base layer made from merino wool (Icebreaker).

Columbia winter hiking pants that will keep you warm.
Waterproof and UV protection.

Feet

Hiking in snow or muddy areas you should make sure to have waterproof hiking shoes. 

Good socks are important whether you hike in winter or summer. But even more important in winter, so you won’t get wet and cold feet too soon. 

Another great thing to have to keep feet and legs dry in high wet grass or snow: Gaiters. Tight knee high sleeves for your legs, that prevent snow from getting into your boots and keep your pants dry to.

If you get cold feet easily an insole could help. I know people who worked in the cold areas in supermarkets use heated insoles too, but I have no experience with those. As a gardener I did have used some insoles in winter too. Can’t remember the brand (too long ago) but they have been similar to those I link to below.

Three upper layers and my winter running leggings
Sunnies are very important in the snow to protect your eyes

Other Hiking Gear for winter

Water bottle parkas for winter hiking

To prevent water from freezing, bottle parkas are a great thing to have. 
(You can always use a wool sock for your second bottle in your backpack)

Thermos bottle

I love to have something warm inbetween. So if you have a thermos bottle, you can bring tea, coffee or even warm porridge or a soup to warm you up from the inside on longer winter hikes.

Crampons for snowy trips

Crampons are amazing when hiking, walking on icy surfaces. So a must if you are planning a winter adventure.

Reusable cotton hankies

Don’t know about you, but my nose is “dripping” when out in the cold. To prevent all the single use hankies that are just used for a tiny drop of nose liquid 😉
I use my cotton hankies always. I actually still have some of my grandmother… I miss her, and every time I use a cotton hankie or cotton napkin I think of her 🙂

Extra winter hiking gear

Hand warmer, emergency blanket, sunglasses, stove, etc… 

Read more about safety tips for hiking in winter in my blog post here-> Hiking in winter

Proudly wearing second hand and a couple years old hiking and running winter gear while hiking in the snow in Zakopane

On a budget?

Yes, outdoor gear can be expensive, but doesn’t need to be. 

Try and find outdoor winter gear on second hand markets, thrift stores, online second hand or sales. If you can’t find what you need second hand, buy the stuff that is in your budget but wear it as long as you can. Wash with care. Repair what you can. This way you can make fast fashion more durable=a little more sustainable…

If you don’t live in a snowy country and just visiting you can ask friends if they have gear you can use or look for rental companies that rent out hiking gear for winter.

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