Best winter hiking gear

Jackalyn Beck

Hiking gear for cold weather

With each season the landscape changes. Whether it’s flowers blooming in the spring, or a light snowfall in the winter. So, it’s fun to hike trails in every season, but you need to adjust your gear accordingly.

Winter hiking is especially tricky since snow and harsh weather can complicate things. And weather conditions can change rapidly, sometimes leading to dangerous conditions. Thankfully, a little preparation goes a long way and having some extra gear can make all the difference.

Be prepared

No matter what kind of gear you have for winter hiking, you need to be prepared and be safe. When possible, consult local guides and get to know the area before going on a winter hike. 

No matter how well you know the area, always bring a map and compass. Don’t rely on your cell phone in an emergency.

Consider how long the hike will be and what the terrain will be like. The gear you need for each area will be slightly different, so knowing what to expect will make it easier to prepare.

If you are going for an extended hike or backpacking trip, you need to try on and use your gear before you leave. While this is important in any season, it can make a vital difference in winter. Having gear that doesn’t properly fit or work is uncomfortable, but it can also be dangerous.


When looking for winter hiking clothes you want something that will insulate you well and protect you from the elements but not hamper your movement.

If you are going on long hikes or backpacking trips, it is especially important to have clean, dry clothes. If possible, get waterproof or water-wicking items, like socks. This will help keep you safe from the elements but also from sweat, which can be dangerous in the winter. Layer your clothing and bring spares, like extra socks, in case anything gets wet.

If you regularly hike in the winter, make the investment in good, insulating gear. High-quality hiking clothes can get expensive, but it is worth the extra money to be warm and safe during your trips.

Mountain EquipmentTrango Down Jacket: available at Backcountry

When picking a hiking jacket, choose something that isn’t too bulky and won’t make you sweat. This one is also made of down so it stays warm and compresses well.

SealSkinzWaterproof All Weather Glove: available at Backcountry

The hiking gloves you choose for winter hiking should be waterproof to keep your hands protected from snow.

Smith Cascade Classic Goggles: available at Backcountry

Ski Goggles might not seem like they belong on a winter hike, but they protect your eyes from the cold winter winds. They are especially important when hiking in summits and typically windy areas. 

Louis Garneau Winter Cap: available at Backcountry

When buying a hat for hiking, make sure it covers your ears like this one does. It will help keep you warm and make your trips much more enjoyable.

DANISH ENDURANCE Merino Wool Cushioned Hiking Socks: available at Amazon

Socks may be easy to overlook but they are key to comfort and safety when winter hiking. This pack is made out of high-quality merino wool so it will keep your feet dry and last a long time.


Whether you are going for a short hike or something that will take all day, having a bad backpack can make the trip miserable. This is even more true for backpacking or other extended trips, no matter the season.

If you are going backpacking, buy your pack in a physical store. Many bags have plastic pieces that need to be tried on or, in many heavy-duty bags, formed to you.

High Sierra Pathway Internal Frame Hiking Backpack: available at Amazon

This pack doesn’t come with a rain cover, so bring a trash bag or other waterproof cover with you in case it rains or you want to set it down. 

Other gear for winter hiking

Timeless hiking items you need to take with you include a compass, local maps and appropriate safety equipment. However, depending on how long your hike is and what terrain you are trekking, you should also plan to bring additional items like snacks and trekking poles.

NathanInsulated Hydration Bladder: available at Backcountry

No matter what time of year it is, you need to drink water if you are going hiking. This bottle holds 1.6 liters and is insulated, perfect for bringing warm water. 

Honey Stinger Waffle: available at Amazon

When hiking in the winter your body burns extra calories to keep you warm. Likewise, choose snacks you can eat while walking since stopping will impact your body temperature. So pack calorie-dense, easy-to-eat snacks like this Honey Stinger Waffle. 

LuxoGear Two Emergency Whistles with Lanyard: available at Amazon

Many backpacks have a built-in one, but you need to keep a whistle of any kind with you every time you go hiking. The sound of a whistle carries further than your voice, so it can be life-saving if you get trapped or injured. Plus, this one is made of plastic so it won’t stick to your lips due to the cold.

THRIAID Mini First Aid Kit: available at Amazon

No matter how long or short your hike is, bring a first aid kit with you. This one includes 100 pieces but it is ideal to also take moleskine with you in case your hiking boots give you hot spots. 

überleben Hexå Fire Starter: available at Amazon

This fire starter has six flat sides, making it easy to use in emergencies or for a campfire.

LEKI Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Pole Pair: available at Amazon

While hiking poles might not be necessary in every terrain, they are handy. Plus, these have a sturdy grip so they are easy to hold, even if you have gloves on.

Jackalyn Beck is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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