How to Dress for Winter Backpacking

How to Dress for Winter Backpacking
Backpacking during the winter is much different than hiking during warmer months. Winter presents distinctive challenges, such as ice, snow, cold winds and constant moisture. It is important to keep the weather conditions in mind when backpacking during winter months, not just to make sure you have a comfortable hike, but as a matter of basic survival. The gear that you choose makes a significant difference in how your body responds to the weather conditions.


Choose footwear that is designed for cold weather. A good backpacking experience begins with good footwear. It is a good idea to have a separate pair of hiking books for winter backpacking, so that you can use boots that were specifically designed for cold weather. Ideally, you should have rubber boots for cold weather, because leather will freeze. You should also have multiple pairs of hiking socks. Socks made for hiking are thicker and have extra padding to make your walk more comfortable. You should keep at least one pair of extra socks sealed in a plastic bag inside your backpack. Switch your socks as soon as they get wet or at the half way point in your hike.

Select headwear that will keep you warm. Most of your body heat escapes through your head and wearing the proper garments on the head can help maintain a stable body temperature. In excessively cold weather, a balaclava should be worn. Commonly referred to as a ski mask, this garment wraps around the entire head and leaves only the face exposed, or sometimes only the eyes, and can also be rolled up to be work as a hat. You may also wish to wear a hood or hat over the top of your balaclava.

Pick clothing that will keep your body warm. If you will be backpacking at higher altitudes or in extremely cold conditions, you will want to wear ample clothing to maintain your core body temperature. Wear a shirt, with a sweater or sweatshirt over the top and a thick winter coat. Just remember that it is impossible to overdress for cold weather, because you can always remove a layer of clothing and place it in your backpack should you get hot. Choose a coat that has a hood and make sure it is made of water-resistant material with drawstrings at the hood and waste. This will help you keep out moisture so that your body will remain warm and dry.

Keep your legs warm and dry. If the weather is really cold, you may want to wear long underwear under your pants that will cover your legs all the way down to the ankle. This will help keep your extremities warm. If there is snow or ice on the ground where you are backpacking, you should also wear snow pants over the top of your clothes. These pants are made of water-resistant material that will keep moisture off of your clothes. If snow pants are required, may sure that they have either elastic or draw strings around the ankles to help the seal off.

Buy gloves or mittens that keep your hands warm. You may wish to wear a pair of cotton or wool gloves, with a second pair of water-resistant gloves on top. Avoid leather gloves unless they have cloth lining, since leather will freeze. If you prefer mittens, then make sure to wear a water-resistant mitten shell over the top of them.

Use walking aids that assist in hiking on snow and ice. If conditions are icy, consider slipping a set of spikes or small cleats onto the bottom of your hiking boots. You should also consider using a set of trekking poles while backpacking. These poles will aid in ascending hills, help you maintain proper balance and also assist in identifying unstable surfaces (such as loose rocks) under the snow.


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Article Written By Wirnani Garner

Wirnani was born in the Philippines, where she had constant access to a rural jungle environment. In addition to exploring the island jungles, Wirnani spent much of her youth interacting with local wildlife, swimming in the Philippine Sea and rafting on the Davao River. She also routinely went on backpacking trips along the trails of Mount Apo, the highest peak of the Philippine Islands. Wirnani currently lives near the Ozark Mountains of Northern Arkansas. The location provides an abundance of hiking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking and fishing opportunities. When she's not spending time outdoors, Wirnani enjoys studying biology and human health sciences.

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