Cold Weather Hiking Gear & Clothes

List for Cold Weather Hiking Gear & ClothesHiking in cold weather is all about efficient layering. As you travel uphill, if you are wearing too many insulating layers, you will overheat; when you stop to rest, the condensation will quickly chill you. While the climate in which you travel affects your choices, using layers will allow you to quickly remove them when overheating and put them back on to prevent chilling down

Base Layer

The base layer should always be some sort of wicking polypropylene thermal underwear like Patagonia's Capilene. These types of underwear are usually available in three different insulating layers: lightweight, for fall and spring; midweight, for standard activities in the winter in the lower 48; and expedition-weight underwear for high-altitude mountaineering or non-aerobic activities in winter, like ice fishing.

Middle Bay

The middle layer should be your prime insulating layer. Fleece jackets are commonly chosen for this layer, but lightweight and midweight down or synthetic fill jackets are often a better choice, having less weight and more warmth than comparable fleece jackets. Wool is also a possibility, especially for people who prefer a more traditional look, but it is often heavier than fleece.

Outer Layer

The outer layer should be some sort of water-resistant or waterproof-breathable fabric like Gore-Tex. These jackets can be purchased in lighter-weight or heavier-duty versions with better abrasion resistance, depending on the activity. So-called soft shells, which are water-resistant and windproof while being highly breathable, are a better choice for more aerobic activities like back-country skiing in milder climates.


Your boots are a critical piece of winter gear, but the type of boots you choose will depend on your activity. For light hiking, moderate snowshoeing or ice fishing, the classic Sorel boot offers warmth and water resistance while being affordable. For winter mountaineering, choose an insulated hiking boot with a stiff shank to assist with kicking steps in the snow.


Always wear a hat, and carry a spare in your backpack. Most of your body heat is actually lost through your hat; an old saying among mountaineers is, "If your feet are cold, put on a hat." For fingers, mittens are warmer, but gloves provide more dexterity. A way to increase the warmth of gloves is to wear liner gloves underneath the main gloves. This also allows you to remove heavier gloves for things like taking pictures without freezing your fingers.

Article Written By Candace Horgan

Candace Horgan has worked as a freelance journalist for more than 12 years. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Denver Post" and "Mix." Horgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and history.

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