When preparing for winter hiking, is a fleece shirt or a sweatshirt enough for smooth and safe hiking? To be honest, you will need more than winter clothing to protect yourself in the cold weather.
If you are wondering about what to wear hiking in winter, the following article is for you. Check it now to get valuable tips for winter hiking!
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Challenges of Hiking In Winter
In comparison to summer hiking, many people will think that winter hiking is safer and more comfortable. It might be true in some ways. However, it does not mean that there are no challenges when you hike in the winter.
Here are several difficulties that you might face when winter hiking.
Cold temperatures are the most severe difficulties of winter hiking. Colder weather makes you not only uncomfortable but also negatively affects your health.
Therefore, you should gear up suitable clothes and accessories to avoid injuries and heat loss.
One of the most common health problems when hiking in cold air is frostbite. It happens when the tissues in your fingers, toes, or even ears are frozen. If you feel your skin is freezing, you need to warm your skin immediately.
You might think that winter is the time for wild animals to hibernate. However, many species still forage or wake up periodically in the winter. As such, these wild animals might become a danger for winter hikers.
Avalanche is another challenge in winter hiking. Before choosing a destination for your hikes, you should make sure that this area is safe from avalanches. The best ways to do that are asking locals and doing outdoor research.
Also, it would be best if you watched the weather forecast to know whether there is an avalanche on the day you hike or not. It will be helpful!
Difficult trail conditions
In winter, the fact that the trails are covered with thick snow or icy conditions is noticeable. It could be a lot of trouble for you to hike if you do not have the proper equipment.
To handle this challenge, you should carry trekking poles, snow shoes, and even ice grippers.
Trail signs are hidden by snow or ice
Ensure that you have a detailed map that includes all signs on your trails. Snow or ice in winter could be thick and high enough to hide the trail signs.
Less daylight might not be a challenge for day hikers. However, if you plan to end your hike in the evening or hike for several days, you should consider this a significant obstacle.
Some beneficial tools to deal with this challenge include flashlights, glow sticks, and headlamps.
Roles of Clothes In Winter Hiking
One of the essential roles of clothes when hiking in cold temperatures is wearing layers. A layering system is the best solution to help you avoid hypothermia and keep warm during your hiking time.
The layers of clothes, theoretically, will create air space and make your body warm-up. Not only that, you could ultimately add or remove items on your body to create the perfect layering and an ideal body temperature.
There should be three layers of clothes when you have a winter hike, include:
- Base layer: You could also understand that it is the next-to-skin layer. The base layer is responsible for helping sweat get out of your body quickly. If you want a good base layer, I will recommend long underwear.
- Insulating layer: Generally, the insulating layer will create and provide more heat and warmth to your body. In other words, this mid layer will insulate your body from the freezy conditions.
- Shell layer (or outer layer): This layer has two main quests. First, it prevents heat inside the layering system from escaping outside and avoids hypothermia. Second, it protects you from bad weather conditions like wind, rain, and snow.
Avoid tight clothes
Besides keeping your body temperature stable and warm, another essential thing to keep in mind is comfort.
Hiking is an outdoor activity that could drastically burn calories and make your body heat up quickly. Thus, choosing comfortable clothes that can be taken off or worn at any time you want is essential.
Also, you have to avoid tight or too fussy clothing as they can make your movements more difficult.
What To Wear Hiking In Winter
When you choose the base layer for winter hiking, the ideal materials for you are synthetics. This type of fabric includes polypropylene, nylon, spandex, and rayon. In addition, merino wool and silk are also other outstanding materials for your base layer.
Since synthetic materials could cause a foul odor, you should bring more than one long underwear when hiking.
Here are some recommended items for a perfect base layer:
Instead of wearing short underwear or short bras in winter hiking, you should go to longer ones since it could pull the swear better. You should choose merino wool or synthetic materials for these items.
Mid weight long underwear
This item is beneficial for both your upper body and lower body. Winter hiking could make you warm up, so mid weight long underwear is enough to keep the heat. In the case of winter camping, I will recommend heavyweight long underwear.
I will choose crew neck clothes for the upper body since they will help me control the heat and temperature more effectively.
This one will help you protect your ears when hiking in cold conditions. Also, it will create more warmth when combined with an insulated hat on the outside.
Mid weight liner gloves
One of the best features of these items is that they are very grippy. Thanks to that, you could still use your hands and fingers comfortably and conveniently. Moreover, mid weight glove liners also keep your fingers from frostbite effectively.
You do not need a pair of sock liners if you feel that your feet are warm with insulating socks. However, if cold feet are still a big problem for you, sock liners are the most efficient way to go.
The insulation layer not only maintains the heat but also helps your body toasty warm. There are several materials for insulation layer that you should choose on the market, including:
- Fleece: This might be the best option for the insulating layer since it could keep you warm even in wet conditions. The advantages of this material are the affordable price, familiarity, and ease of use. However, it is heavier than other materials.
- Merino wool: This fabric could insulate very well. On the other hand, Merino wool is more complicated to dry than other materials.
- Down: It could be duck feathers or goose feathers. Down is the lightest material for the insulating layer. Moreover, it is breathable, durable, and warm. However, you should not use this material in wet conditions since in these conditions, down will not insulate.
- Synthetic fill: This one has an attractive price, easy to dry, and warm enough in wet conditions. However, it is less durable than other materials.
Here are some suggestions for your insulating layer:
I usually use a puffy jacket for my upper body since it makes me feel truly warm inside. It could be a down jacket or wool jacket. You should choose your favorite materials.
In addition, it would be best if you choose a puffy jacket equipped with hoods. This feature will be very beneficial in keeping your neck and your head warm. You also do not have to worry about the wind blowing your hood away as attached to your jacket.
Fleece pants are the best items to wear when hiking in snow or super-cold temperatures since it is thick, durable, and a little bit breathable. Also, it will not be bulky when you walk.
If you have a hat liner on your hat, a one-layer wool-knit hat might be enough to keep your head warm. If you do not use a hat liner, you could choose some wool hats equipped with microfleece inside.
The primary purpose of the shell layer is to protect you from wind, snow, and rain. There are three significant materials of fabrics that you could choose for your shell layer.
- Coated fabric: This one typically comes with polyurethane material. Thanks to that, coated fabric could be lightly water resistant. However, this type of fabric also holds the sweat.
- Waterproof – breathable fabric: It is also known as a hard shell. This material is perfect for winter hiking when it could keep your body dry in wet condition and moisture escape. The only drawback of a waterproof shell is its expensive price range.
- Softshell: This one is an excellent combination of water resistant and wind resistant abilities. Moreover, it comes with light insulation and lightweight. Thanks to that, it could protect you better than hard shells and coated fabric.
For the best shell layer, the following items will be helpful:
A rain jacket is enough to protect your upper body from horrible weather conditions. You could choose hard shell or soft shell materials to have good rain jackets. If you pick a hardshell rain jacket, 2.5 – layer one is ideal since it is lightweight and breathable.
When hiking in the winter season, I will choose softshell pants. They are more comfortable to wear even for a long time compared to hardshell pants. Moreover, it could protect hikers completely from almost all weather elements.
For more information , let’s watch a helpful video on:
Gear Tips For Cold-weather Hiking
Cover your skin
Any part of your body exposed to cold air will make you feel numb and uncomfortable, especially your fingers, toes, nape, and ears. Thus, you should shield your body as much as possible.
- For your fingers, you should wear fleece gloves. It would be best if you chose lightweight and mid weight gloves to help your fingers to move freely.
- For your feet, you could wear long wool socks. Also, more than one layer of socks will make your feet warmer. Remember that keeping the heat for your feet is very important.
- For your head and ear, I will recommend a winter hat or a jacket with a hood.
These items are beneficial when you need to come through a deep snow area. It will keep your hiking boots dry from snow. Also, it could add some heat to your feet.
Bring goggles and sunglasses
Always bring a pair of sunglasses or ski goggles when winter hiking helps you protect your eyes in the best way. These items not only avoid sunlight but also work as a wind-resistant tool.
Some people might think that sunscreen is just crucial in the summer when the sun is intense. However, do you know that even when you stand under a shady tree, the UVA and UVB rays in the sunlight can still damage your skin?
Thus, never forget to apply sunscreen before engaging in outdoor activities, including hiking.
Bring a first aid kit
Be prepared for bad situations that could happen. A first aid kit could save a life in cold weather or a remote area with little traffic.
Use a thermos flask
The thermos flask will give you warm water to drink in cold weather or at least keep your water from freezing.
What Should Not Wear In Winter Hiking
I must say that cotton underwear is a disaster. Underwear could contact directly with your skin. When you sweat, your underwear will become wet as well. Therefore, you need one that is breathable and dries quickly.
Cotton underwear, on the one hand, could absorb sweat well, but it will stay wet for a long time. As a result, it could make you feel cold even when you wear many layers.
These items are not suitable for outdoor activities in cold weather in general and for hiking in particular. It does not offer enough warmth for your body. Moreover, it is hard to dry in wet conditions.
Is the water treatment system necessary for hiking in winter?
Yes, water treatment is essential for both winter hiking and summer hiking. You could use chemical treatment or, more simply, take advantage of ultraviolet light to purify water. In winter, you also need to keep your water from freezing.
What type of shoes to wear for hiking in winter?
For winter hiking, winter boots are the best option for you since they are water resistant and keep heat well. In case you do not have winter boots, hiking boots could be an ideal alternative.
Is it safe to hike in the snow?
If you have good preparation before hiking, the answer could be yes. However, hiking in the snow might be very dangerous if you do not plan for your journey or hike alone. Remember that always walk with groups to ensure your safety.