Dressing For Winter Hikes

Hiking doesn’t have to be only a warm weather activity. By changing what you wear and layering your clothing, winter hikes can be just as enjoyable.

By Corey Hunt
Explore Ambassador

Most consider hiking a warm-weather activity. Even during the peak of autumn, many hikers will begin during the warm part of the day. But hiking doesn’t have to be a warm weather activity. By changing what you wear and layering your clothing, winter hikes can be just as enjoyable.

The goal during winter hikes is to keep your body from sweating. Some experienced hikers recommend starting the hike a little cold to give your body time to warm up as you go. Others recommend stopping to take off layers when your body temperature increases. It’s a personal preference, but the goal is to keep sweat and moisture away from your body so it doesn’t cool as you go.

(Corey Hunt)

When it comes to clothing, think of layering in three categories: base layer, mid layer and the outer shell. The base layer is designed to wick moisture away from your body. There are some great synthetic materials or wool that will easily do this. Avoid cotton next to the skin. Cotton absorbs sweat and moisture and takes a long time to dry. This means you have a greater chance of getting cold on your hike.

The mid layer of clothing should act as an insulating layer from the cold. This layer should insulate the heat that your body is putting off during the hike. Fleece and down are good materials that keep the heat in.

The outermost layer or shell should keep the elements out. Whether it is rain or snow, this layer should protect the mid layer from getting wet.

Another important tip for winter hiking is to keep your skin covered. The more skin that is exposed, the higher the chance of frostbite. It’s especially important not to forget your face, including the nose. A gaiter or face mask can be worn when temperatures dip below freezing and easily removed during the warmer part of the day.

(Corey Hunt)

Hats are a necessity for winter hiking, because most body heat is lost through the head. Hats should be worn during cold weather. Hats will also keep your ears from getting frostbite.

(Corey Hunt)

Gloves are also needed for winter hikes. There are several different layers of gloves to choose from, depending on the weather. There are glove liners to help keep the moisture off your fingers that will need an outer layer to protect your hands from rain, wind and snow. There are wool gloves that will insulate and keep your hands and fingers warm, and there are combinations of layers that try to do it all. Many hikers choose a combination and pack extra in case one gets wet or sweaty.

Last, don’t neglect your feet. Sometimes, the toes cool first due to sweat from a warm boot. If your feet get sweaty while hiking, change your socks before your toes get cold. Some hikers will use an insulated boot during the winter or synthetic materials in their socks to combat this problem.

Hiking in the winter can be beautiful. The snow makes the woods quiet and there are always animal tracks to behold. Before leaving the house, make sure you have the right layers for the temperature. Double-check that no skin is exposed, which will decrease the chances of getting frostbite. With layering options and extra socks and mittens, hiking in the winter can be just as enjoyable as in the warmer months.

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