Hiking during the winter means going out in conditions that are not always favorable by your current set of gear. The snow, ice, wind, and little visibility can take a toll on things, and you want to make sure that you’re prepared with only the most supportive and reliable gear. If you’re new to hiking in the winter, it’s helpful to have a guide to help you figure it all out. While not everything is always necessary, make sure you invest in this winter gear so you can be prepared while outdoors this season.
Those regular hiking boots that you’re attached to aren’t going to fly this time of year. If you’re only doing minor hiking, then you’ll be okay with a good pair of winter boots like the XPG Mid Gore-Tex-Cabela’s or a pair of Keen Summit Boots. However, if you’re planning on doing more intense winter hiking in snow that is a quite a few feet deep, then you’re going to need additional gear. Make sure your boots are compatible with anything you may need to attach on the bottoms to aid in maneuvering (see below).
Navigating the terrain in the winter is no walk in the park, but fortunately there’s a lot of things out there you can buy to make your winter hike that much easier. Get a set of good trekking poles like the Corklite Antishock and a good ice axe by Petzl. You’ll need a pair of good snowshoes like the TSL Symbioz Racing snowshoes, and crampons that fit the specific type of environment and the hiking you’ll be doing.
Your ordinary sunglasses may not be good enough for the strong rays in the winter, that reflect brightly off the snow. You’ll need something that will allow you to see on the sunniest days, but also give you could visibility for the foggy winter mornings. Try a good pair like the Spy Targa 3, and check out what other amazing eyewear options are out there for winter.
Though dangers can present in any type of weather, the winter is definitely more prone to scary things outside. Avalanches are a huge threat, so make sure you bring along a snow shovel and a probe to be prepared in the worst case scenario. Many hikers also up their first-aid kits and emergency gear, making sure to have the usual supplies, but also bring reflective blankets, hot packs, headlamps and helmets in case of falling ice and rocks, and extras of everything just in case. Another way to be safe is by hiking with friends, so that can count as your gear, too.
A Warm Sleeping Arrangement
That light sleeping bag you use during the warmer months is not going to keep you warm in extremely low temperatures. Consider investing in the Exped Downmat 7, which is made with down and thoroughly insulated to keep your warm and cozy. On top of that, get any down sleeping bag that will cuddle you in for the night, like the Montbell U.L. Super Spiral Down Hugger, which is just as comfy as it sounds. If you have room for a little throw blanket, then bring it along, too.
A Sturdy Tent
It’s no question that winter conditions require a tent that can withstand them. An ordinary tent that you can use during the warm, no-wind, summer months isn’t going to be suitable. Unless of course you have a four season tent like the Hilleberg Tarra, which should do the trick. If not, keep in mind that the material of a winter tent is the most important, but so are the stakes holding it into the ground. To make sure your extra secure, take a look at the Black Diamond Firstlight Tent.
If you don’t have the right clothing, then none of the other gear on this list will matter much. Now would be a great time for long johns, leggings, and some time of Heattech or Under Armour to keep you warm right down to the last layer. On top of that (literally), make sure you have a jacket that keeps the heat in, but lets your body breathe and move easily. While you want to have all that warmth packed in, you also want it to be versatile. After choosing a solid winter parka, make sure you got good ski socks, a snug hat, insulated gloves, and a scarf that you don’t have to keep adjusting.
Just as the sun can be harmful to your eyes, it can also do some unfortunate things to your skin, especially during the winter. The harsh conditions can really do a number on your biggest organ. Bring along a reliable lip balm to keep your lips hydrated, and get a sunblock balm to easily apply on your face without worrying about taking your gloves off and making a mess. Bugs may not be out this time of year, but the wind can bite just as hard. Bring some lotion to prevent skin from getting too dry.
In addition to this basic gear, you might find you want to add more to your bag later…like an extra cooking stove in case one dies, or a insulated pouch to keep your water bottle from freezing. Just make sure you have the necessities.