Knowing what to wear for hiking in cold weather is absolutely essential. A lovely day out could easily become miserable, or in some cases dangerous, if you are not dressed appropriately.
The key to this is layering
In this guide, I’m going to talk you through the process of layering clothes. What to look for in each layer, the purpose of each layer, and give your some options of what to buy, based on my experience, what I wear, and any other essentials for hiking in cold winter weather.
What does layering mean?
You may have heard the word thrown around in the hiking community. But what does it mean? It’s basically wearing multiple layers of clothes that can be removed or added as needed.
However, layering any old clothes you have at home WILL NOT WORK. Back when I was a beginner hiker, I did this, and always wondered why I was so damn cold, when people around me, who seemed to be wearing lighter clothes were so warm.
For some time, I was reluctant to fork out the cash on proper hiking clothes, but after one too many times being cold and wet on a hike in not so nice weather, I invested in a few pieces* to wear, and have never looked back.
*Those few pieces have turned into an obsession for all things outdoor clothing, and now I have a nice selection of things to wear on those cold weather hikes….maybe too many. Can you have too many clothes?
Why is layering clothes important for winter hiking?
Layering is a system that allows you to stay warm, dry, and comfortable on those cold weather hikes. The types of layers you will wear or need when hiking, will vary based on the conditions, but I will talk you through what you will need for the cold winter weather.
To understand layering, you need to understand how each layer works. You can then apply this knowledge of what to wear in different scenarios in cold weather hiking (as well as other seasons).
The layering system
- Base layer – Fits close to the skin and keeps moisture at bay.
- Mid layer – The insulation layer. Helps retain your body heat.
- Outer layer – To protect you from the elements, such as wind and rain.
You won’t need to wear all of these layers in every outdoor activity situation, but if you are out hiking in cold winter weather, you should have them all.
Whilst some items may seem expensive, trust me, they are worth the investment. Each of these layers has its own purpose, and is made with specific material to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable.
This is what surprised me the most when I invested in good hiking clothes, how I felt like I was wearing so little, yet I was so warm, even on the very cold weather days.
Now let’s delve deeper into each one….
I’m about to go through each layer step by step. I will go into detail as to the different elements and materials in each layer, and why you may choose one over the other. I cover a lot of information, which may seem overwhelming, when all you want to know is what to wear. So, at the end of the article, I have provided a bite sized overview of everything, as well as a quick look checklist.
What to wear for hiking in cold weather – The layering system
Base Layer – Step 1
Your base layer is the first thing you will wear for hiking in cold winter weather. It sits close to your skin, so shouldn’t be too loose. It acts to keep your body heat in, and keep moisture at bay.
The best materials are either Merino wool or synthetic. Not Cotton. When you are out hiking, even in cold weather, you will probably sweat at some point, and if you wear cotton it will absorb your sweat and stay wet.
Merino wool and synthetic materials are much better at moisture wicking. This basically means they quickly take the sweat off your body, and are quick drying.
If we are being technical, what they do is take moisture from your skin, and move it to the outer surface where it then evaporates. This helps cool you down, but also keeps you dry. You actually want this feature for hiking in any weather, not just cold.
Now, there are pros and cons to each material….
Best base layers to wear for hiking in cold weather
Merino wool is more expensive, but has a higher warmth to weight ratio. It’s also very good at odour management. This is really handy if you are hiking and camping in one, or if it’s just very very cold.
Icebreaker is a fantastic brand for base layers, and almost exclusively use Merino Wool for their clothing.
- Icebreaker 175 Everyday crew long sleeve top – 100% Merino Wool: Buy here
- Icebreaker leggings – 100% Merino Wool: Buy here
Synthetic is more affordable, and although it don’t actually absorb water that well, it’s quicker drying so will dry you off faster. I tend to use synthetics when hiking, if the weather is not too cold.
Recommended synthetic base layers:
This top from Columbia uses their own Omni-WickTM and Omni-HeatTM technology. It works to keep moisture away from the body, and keep heat in with their reflective lining.
It also has antimicrobial treatment to prevent bacterial growth (ie you will be less smelly).
This Berghaus base layer uses their own Argentium fabric, which is is super lightweight and stretchy for more freedom of movement.
It’s excellent at drawing moisture away from your body, and is super quick drying.
Not to be left out, Helly Hansen also have their own technology. They use their hydrophobic LIFAR yarn, which provides light insulation whilst being super light, breathable, and quick drying.
Helly Hansen is a popular brand amongst professional athlete.
Columbia midweight stretch long sleeve top: Find out more and buy here
Berghaus 24/7 long sleeve crew tech top: Find out more and buy here
Helly Hansen HH LIFA crew base layer: Find out more and buy here
For the lower half of my body, I tend to wear regular old leggings, or if its very cold, I will wear my Merino Wool base layer bottoms. Sometimes I wear hiking trousers (see next layer). What I choose to wear really depends on what is in the wash. I rarely wear both at the same time (unless its snowing).
Mid Layer – Step 2
This is your insulation layer. It is designed to keep you warm, but should also be breathable. You can wear more than one mid layer.
For your top half, this should be either a fleece or some sort of insulated jacket. If the weather is cold, I will have both with me when hiking, but I don’t necessarily wear them both all the time, for example I might have a puffy jacket in my backpack, which I then throw on when taking a break from the hike.
If we are being technical, an insulated jacket can also be classified as an outer layer. In this situation, it’s a mid layer because, if it’s raining and very windy when out hiking in the cold weather, you will then need to have another layer on top of it – we will get to that soon.
Best mid layer to wear for hiking in cold weather – The fleece
In simple terms, the jumper. Fleece is very good at keeping you warm when hiking in the cold weather, but also works to keep you cool: It keeps your body heat in, but is breathable at the same time, and removes body moisture.
You can get different thicknesses of fleece jumpers, and they are usually quite lightweight, which is what you want when out hiking.
Recommended fleece mid layers:
Budget: Mountain Warehouse Camber
This is a lightweight, but cosy fleece, and also breathable.
Although it is the least warm on the list, it will still give you some warmth when layered up with your other garments.
Mid Range: Berghaus Darria
This is a super cosy and warm fleece, with a high neck for that extra protection from the elements.
It comes with a little chest pocket for any valuables you want to keep close.
High End: Berghaus Prism Polartech
This Berghaus number uses Polartech fleece which has a high warmth to weight ratio, is super soft for ultimate cosiness, highly breathable, and is fast drying.
It has a full length zipper which makes it easier for layering on and off.
Budget – Mountain Warehouse Camber half zip fleece: Check out there latest price here
Mid Range – Berghaus Darria 1/2 zip fleece: Check out the latest price here
High End – Berghaus Prism Polartech fleece: Check out the latest price here
Best mid layer to wear for hiking in cold weather – The insulated jacket
For your insulated jacket, you will need to choose between either down or synthetic. Down is generally considered warmer, but is also much more expensive. However, they don’t do so well in the wet.
If they get too wet, they are rendered useless, and no longer keep your warm. Synthetic is cheaper, can keep you warm even when wet, and are usually water-resistant.
You also need to think about what size jacket you wear, but first I will talk you through how to pick between down and synthetic.
Should you buy a down or synthetic insulated jacket for cold weather hiking?
Which one you choose will depend on your needs. From an ethical stand point, down is animal, so if that’s an issue for you, then go for synthetic. Saying that, some good brands do source their down ethically.
If you know you will be hiking a lot in rainy conditions, only get a down jacket if you know you will be vigilant in keeping it dry (this is where the outer layer comes in). If you don’t want to have to worry too much about the rain, and want to keep things simple, then go for synthetic.
Some down jackets will have a level of water resistance treatment to the down or on the jacket itself, but it’s not suitable for heavy rain.
I own both down and synthetic puffy jackets, and I have to say, although down is considered warmer, wearing my synthetic jackets has always been good enough when hiking in very cold winter weather. I actually prefer it on hikes, as it’s much less hard work.
- If it starts to rain, I’m not in a mad panic to get an outer layer on to protect the down.
- Both can be packed away small in a backpack, but down takes a bit more time. You need to do lots of squishing, then when you get it out again, you need to give it some time to puff up.
- Down does have pros for me though. It’s good for camping in the cold, or when out in snowy conditions.
Read more: Tips for keeping warm in a tent
What size insulated jacket should you wear?
Insulated jackets come in lots of sizes. Thin, thick, long, short. I personally always go for short. When I say short, I don’t mean crop top size. I mean not full length/below bum ones. They would just be too much for hiking, and make moving around difficult.
The level of insulation I wear, depends on how cold it is going to be on the hike. If you don’t want to invest in multiple levels, then think about they type of weather you will likely wear it in the most…
If you plan to be doing lots of mountains, or camping in the cold, then a thicker/more insulated one will be a better investment. Or if you are more of a hill walker, and won’t do much camping in the cold, then you can get something with a lower level of insulation.
A good jacket brand will usually tell you what type of weather it will be suitable for hiking in.
One other thing you will find with insulated jackets, is some come with an outer hard shell layer as part of the jacket. I personally wouldn’t go for one of these when hiking, as you wont be able to control your layering. Having a separate outer layer gives you more control.
I also find that they tend to be bulkier, and don’t pack away nice and small. These jackets aren’t bad though, they just aren’t as efficient for hiking.
Best synthetic jackets for cold weather hiking:
Budget:Columbia Powder Lite Jacket
This Columbia uses Omni-HeatTM technology, which is a thermal reflective lining, to keep your body heat in.
I am currently using one of their lightweight jackets from the Omni-Heat range, and it’s excellent. It’s my current go to for hiking in cold winter weather (when combined with my other layers).
Mid range: Berghaus Nula Micro Jacket
This jacket from Berghaus uses HydroloftR Polyball insulation, which is extremely lightweight and easy to compress.
Designed to keep you warm like down, as well as being water resistant.
High End: Rab Nebula Pro Jacket
The most heavy duty of the insulated jackets. This one is designed for winter mountaineering.
Windprood and water resistant, with PrimaLoftR Silver Insulation Luxetm, which is highly compressible, breathable, and warm like down.
Budget: Columbia Powder lite jacket – Check out the latest price here
Mid range: Berghaus Nula Micro jacket – Check out the latest price here
High end: Rab Nebula Pro insulated jacket – Check out the latest price here
Best Down Jackets For Cold Weather Hiking:
This jacket from Berghaus uses HydrodownTM which, unlike normal down, is water resistant and quick drying. Which makes it much less high maintenance.
It also uses inner reflective mesh, which keeps up to 20% more of your body heat in.
Mid Range: Rab Axion Pro Down Jacket
A versatile jacket from Rab, that can be used for winter walks, or mountain treks.
It has a weather proof coating, which helps with water resistance. Then inside it has 700 fill down, with NikwaxR hydrophibic treatment to help retain loft (the flussyness of the down. You need down to stay fluffy for warmth).
High End: Mammut Tass IN Down Jacket
This is the big boy. Mammut is a super high end, high quality brand.
It boasts 900 fill goose down, with a water repellent exterior, and is ultra lightweight.
If you wear something like this, you can be sure you will keep warm when hiking in cold weather.
I chose a safe colour for the photo, but they actually have some really fun ones.
Budget: Berghaus Tephra stretch reflective down jacket – Check out the latest price here
Mid range: Rab women’s Axion Pro down jacket – Check out the latest price here
High end: Mammut Taiss IN down jacket – Check out the latest price here
If you would like more hiking jacket options, for a variety of weather conditions, I will be getting a guide up for best hiking jackets for women soon.
Best trousers to wear for hiking in cold weather
Good hiking trousers will offer some wind protection and some have a level of water resistance. Your trousers can be your only layer for your bottom half, or you can do the full works and have a base and outer layer as well.
These highly rated trousers from Columbia are a good all season trouser. They use Omni-Shield waterproof technology, to help protect against wet weather, and have UPF 50 sun protection.
They are made of stretch fabric for ease of movement.
My favourite hiking trousers are Columbia. Apart from being comfy and easy to move in, they fit really well (AKA make my bum and legs look good).
Also highly rated are these Berghaus trousers. Suitable for all seasons, with a water repellant coating and air vents tor help stay cool.
They are constructed with 2 way stretch fabric for ease of movement.
These are some heavy duty serious trousers. They come with a fleece lining for extra warmth, and a water-repellent coating.
If you know your legs tend to get cold, then these should be good option for you.
I don’t notice the cold as much on my legs, and I think I might get too hot in these if doing lots of hills.
Although, now that I live in a camper van, I’m considering these for just general wear duing the winter.
Columbia adventure hiking pant – Check the latest price here
Berghaus Ortler 2.0 hiking trouser – Check the latest price here
Mammut winter hiking trousers – Check the Latest price here
Outer layer – Step 3
This layer is designed to protect you from the elements, such as wind and rain. This is either a soft shell or hard shell.
These are designed to give you the best protection against the elements, and are waterproof, windproof, and more durable than soft shells. My hard shells have been subject to thorny bushes and don’t have a scratch on them.
They are much stiffer than soft shells, and technically aren’t warm. You would need to wear layers underneath for the warmth. However, they will keep you dry, and a good quality one will also be breathable to allow for sweating.
In the winter, I always take one of these to wear, if I’m out hiking in cold wet weather.
Although some may seem quite expensive, for what seems like such little (and maybe uncomfortable) material, in my opinion, they are worth the investment, and will cover you in all situations.
These are usually (but not always) water resistant and offer some windproof. Soft shells are lightweight and much more flexible and breathable than a hardshell. They are usually much cheaper as well.
As they are only, at best, water resistant, they aren’t good as an outer layer on those rainy days. So I would only wear one as my outer layer in the cold weather, if there is no rain or wind, as they are more breathable than hard-shells. For hiking in cold winter weather with wind or rain, I would always take a hard shell with me to wear as my outer layer.
As such I won’t be recommending any of these for hiking in cold wet weather, however, I will be getting guide up soon about hiking jackets for women in all seasons.
Read more: Top tips on hiking in the rain
What to look for in a hard shell jacket
Now, it’s important to understand the importance or relevance of different features in an outer shell. That way you can be better informed as to which jacket to buy. The cost is going to vary hugely, and you might wonder why one jacket may cost under £100, and another £600 for such little material.
Water resistant vs waterproof: These are not the same thing. If it starts raining when you are out hiking, a water resistant jacket will not keep you dry. For this reason, I only ever wear waterproof when hiking in wet cold weather. All hard shells should be waterproof.
Windproof: The wind has the power to make a warmish day feel very very cold, so I will take something windproof with me to wear, even on the warm weather days. Particularly in places like Dartmoor, where the weather can change very quickly, and along the coastline which can see some very strong winds, or just anywhere very exposed. Any jacket that is waterproof is also windproof, so you cover both bases.
Breathable: If your outer layer isn’t breathable, moisture gets trapped inside, which results in you getting clammy and wet. If you plan to be hiking up hills, ideally you want something with at least a 15,000g/m2 breathability rating.
How to tell how waterproof jacket is
Did you know, that not all waterproof jacket are created equal? Thats one of the reasons there can be a massive variation is the price of two waterproof jackets.
The ins and outs of waterproofness could cover a whole article in itself, so I will keep to the main points here.
- Material: Gore-Tex and Pertex offer some of the highest level of waterproof protection whilst being breathable. Gore-Tex is more expensive, but it is also often considered the best. Pertex is better if you are on a budget, but that’s not to say it’s not as good, as they offer some very high waterproof ratings. Some brands have their own waterproof technology, but to keep things simple, we will stick with these two for now.
- If you are shopping around for Gore-Tex, then you are also presented with subdivisions, with a huge variation in price: Gore-Tex, Gore-Tex Paclite, Gore-Tex pro, Gore-Tex active, 2layer, 3 layer. I know, it’s a lot, so I will keep it simple. If your’e shopping for Gore-Tex for winter hiking, I would personally go for the Gore-Tex or Gore-Tex pro. These have the best balance between durability, breathability, and waterproofness. Gore-Tex is a good all rounder. Gore-Tex Pro will withstand the most extreme and high intensity environments, however, it is much more expensive. I would get this if you think you will be doing mountains in with extreme weather conditions.
- Waterproof rating: Anything above 20,000mm is considered very waterproof. Gortex starts at 28,000mm. Pertex starts at 20,000mm. If an item says it’s waterproof, and is very cheap, then check this number. You will probably find it’s not that high. If you can’t find this number, then it’s safe to assume it’s not high. And whilst it can still be classified as waterproof, in consistent heavy rain and hard wear, it will start to let some water in.
- Taped seams: The seams are where water can get in, so make sure the jacket you choose has this covered.
- Draw strings or velcro: The wrists and head/neck area are the weak points where rain can get it. So you want these areas to have some sort of Velcro or draw string so you can seal them as much as possible.
- Zips: You want what’s called a stop flap over the zip. This is basically material that coverers it. Or an aqua guard.
Recommended hard shell jacket to wear when hiking in cold wet weather:
This Pertex jacket boasts a 20,000mm waterproof rating, whilst being breathable at 20,000g/m2.
It has an adjustable hood, velcro wrist straps, and an aqua guard and internal storm flap to keep that seal on the zipper.
Mid Range: Rab Kangri Gore-Tex jacket
Constructed of 3-Layer Gore-Tex, with a water proof rating of >28,000mm.
This one also has an adjustable hood, velcro wrist straps, and an aqua guard and internal storm flap.
The zipper also has a large handle, which will make it much easier to handle if your are wearing thick gloves.
Budget: Montane minimus stretch Ultra waterproof pertex jacket – Check the latest price here
Mid range: Rab Kangri Gore-Tex jacket – Check the latest price here
Recommended shell trousers
Shell trousers are best used as an outer layer over your other trousers or leggings, to protect against the rain/extreme weather. You won’t want to wear these on their own.
You will want them to be lightweight and pack up small, to store in your backpack, only for use if you need them. They won’t be sexy or flattering, they are there just to do the job.
These trousers use Berghauses own hydroshellTM waterproof technology. HydroshellTM waterproof level ranges between 15,000mm and 20,000mm, and is said to be very breathable. I can’t find anywhere what these exact trousers are, but they will be something in that range.
They do come highly rated though as being comfortable, breathable AND waterproof.
Mid range: Berghaus Paclite Gore-Tex trousers
I know I recommended against Paclite Gore-Tex for winter hiking, however, it does have its benefits. The main one being is it ‘packs light’. Which is what you want in shell trousers.
These are the trousers I own, and they pack up so small, I can stick them in my backpack and forget about them. Only to be recovered if the weather insists.
Being Gore-Tex, waterproofness starts at 28,000mm, so you can be sure to stay bone dry. However, these trousers aren’t very breathable. I find I can start to feel a little claustrophobic if wearing them for extended periods. So as soon as the weather lets up a little, I whip them straight off.
High End: Rab Women’s Firewall trousers
These trousers from Rab are built with a 3 layer pertex shield.
They have a good balance between waterproofness and breathability. With a waterproof level of 20,000mm, and breathability of 20,000 g/m2.
These are articulated through the knees, which allows for a wide range of movement when hiking up hills, or scrambling.
Budget: Berghaus Deluge waterproof trousers – Check the reviews and buy here
Mid Range: Berghaus Paclite Gore-Tex waterproof trousers – Check the latest price and buy here
High End: Rab Women’s Firewall trousers – Check out the latest price and buy here
Other clothing essentials for hiking in cold winter weather
We can go into a lot of detail when it comes to the ins and outs of hiking boots and shoes, but for the purpose of this article, I will give my recommendations of what to wear for hiking in cold or wet weather.
High or low cut:
Low cut hiking shoes are generally more flexible and are best used for warm weather and lighter trails. High or mid cut hiking boots offer ankle support (although there is debate as to wether this is really needed) and are usually much stiffer. These are more suited to rough terrain hikes and cold winter weather.
Hiking boots/shoes can be pricey, so if you only want to buy one pair, then I would recommend the boot (mid/high cut) as opposed to the shoe (low cut). I wear mine through both summer and winter, even though I own hiking shoes, I still prefer my boots.
Waterproof vs breathability:
The more waterproof a boot is, the less breathable it is, and vice versa. A lot of people will say it’s better to choose breathability over waterproofness, as boots can never be 100% waterproof, so it’s better to have a system where your feet can dry quicker. However, I personally disagree, as it also depends on where you think you might be hiking.
Hiking around England in the cold weather, I have encountered lots of boggy marshland, and big puddles. In these situations, my solid waterproof hiking boots have done me proud. My hiking boots that are only a little bit waterproof, but more breathable, have let all the water in and I have ended up walking the rest of the trail with very wet and cold feet. And felt very miserable. I’d rather have my feet a bit sweaty, than soaked with puddle water.
Plus, if it’s that cold, my feet never get that sweaty anyway, so I don’t need them to breath.
Recommended winter hiking boots:
These boots all have a fairly similar price point, with a difference of maybe £20-£30. I wouldn’t recommend going budget on hiking boots.
One thing you will be paying for with the higher priced boots is better durability. So they will last you longer. If you plan to do lots more hiking in the future, they will be a better investment.
Scarpa is my favourite hiking boot brand. I find them to be extremely comfortable, and have worn them without needing to break them in.
These boots have a Gore-Tex membrane, which provides a high level of waterproofness.
I haven’t personally tried this brand, however, they come highly rated as being very comfortable and waterproof to a certain level.
Another one from my beloved Scarpa. This one also features a Gore-Tex membrane for ultimate waterproofness.
Scarpa Terra GTx hiking boot: Check the latest price and buy here
Merrell Siren Traveller hiking boot: Check the latest price here
Scarpa Mistral hiking boot: Check the latest price and buy here
A good pair of hiking socks will offer warmth, moisture control, be durable, and prevent blisters. To meet all three of these, you will have to spend a bit. Just like with the hiking boots, I recommend not going budget with this one.
You may be horrified at paying such a high price for one pair of socks, when you can get a multipack for the same price, but think of it this way: Your feet are carrying you for many hours and miles. If your feet are not happy, then you will end up just being miserable and not enjoying the hike.
I have tried lots of different socks for hiking, and my absolute favourite is Bridgedale. It’s all I wear now, wether hiking in winter or summer. They use their own fusion technology, which is a blend of the highest quality yarn, with high performance microfibres.
Recommended socks for hiking in winter:
Part of the Merino Performance range, these provide a supportive fit with heavyweight cushioning, insulation, and moisture wicking.
Designed to be worn for extended hiking in the cold weather.
They are made with 28% Merino wool which is great for odour management.
Also part of the Merino Performance range, these also provide a supportive fit and padding, with insulation and moisture wicking.
These are the thinner version, if you would prefer less bulk. They are a lower cut, but I wear these in my hiking boots, and the height is good.
These have a slightly high ratio of Merino wool at 29%.
These are liner socks (or stand alone summer socks). As we are talking about what to wear when hiking in cold weather, we will call them liners.
Designed to be worn under your main socks, to provide extra warmth.
Part of the CoolmaxR Comfort range, these are extremely soft and have excellent wicking properties so your feet stay dry.
If you are prone to blisters, then these might help, if worn under your main socks.
Bridgedale Explorer Heavyweight Merino Performance: Buy on Amazon
Bridgedale hike ultralight T2 Merino performance: Buy on Amazon
Bridgedale hike lightweight CoolmaxR Comfort: Buy on Amazon
You might be wondering what backpacks have to do with cold weather hiking. Well, they are quite important.
Hiking backpacks come in all ranges of sizes. In the summer or on shorter hikes, I tend to use my little one. In the cold winter weather, I will sometimes choose a bigger size.
You need somewhere to put your layers, as these will be coming on and off at various points in the hike. You should also have extra food and snacks on you, as your body burns more energy in the cold.
Saying that, I do sometimes use my little one on winter hikes, but it’s a really tight fit getting everything in. It’s ok if I end up wearing all my layers for the whole hike, but if I get really hot and have to take a few layers off, then a lot of squishing is involved.
Read more: What to pack on a day hike
Read more: Tips on staying warm when winter hiking
A good backpack will have a mesh back, to prevent your back getting sweaty, and have padded straps for comfort. It should also have compartments. This makes it easier to keep things organised, so if you need something specific from your bag, you can find it quickly.
You will also want a removable outer waterproof shell. Some backpacks come with this, or you can buy one separately.
Best backpacks for a day hike in winter:
The larger of the backpacks on this list, so you will definitely have enough space for all your gear, and a bit more. Although, for some it might be overkill
Due to the larger size, you could get more use out of this one, as it will be suitable for camping and multiday trips.
It has padded shoulder straps for comfort, and a mesh back for ventilation. It also comes with a separate rain cover.
Mid Range: Deuter Speed Lite 23 backpack
Deuter is a well know high quality hiking backpack brand.
As well as being lightweight, this backpack has been designed for the female anatomy, so you can be sure of ultimate comfort when out hiking.
There are plenty of storage compartments, pole attachments, padded shoulder straps, and mesh back. I particularly like the shoulder strap pockets, which can fit your phone for quick and easy access.
High End: Osprey Womans Tempest 20 Backpack
I’m a big Osprey fan, and have been using them for many years. It is my go-to for hiking backpacks. The material is top quality, so you can be sure it will last you a long time.
Mine are still going strong after 7 years of heavy use. I had another one prior to this, but a mouse ate a hole in it. Thats a story for another time.
The Tempest 20 is the smallest on the list, but it’s sufficient for a day hike.
The fit is specifically designed for women, so along with the padded shoulder straps, is extremely comfortable. It also has a mesh back to prevent back sweat.
There is plenty of storage compartments, along with hiking pole and bike helmet attachments.
Budget: Mountaintop 35L hiking backpack – Check the latest price and buy here
Mid Range: Deuter Speed Lite 23 backpack – Check the latest price and buy here
High End: Osprey Womans Tempest 20 Backpack – Check the latest price and buy here
Vango Backpack rain cover: Buy on Amazon
Hat and gloves
If you are hiking in cold winter weather, any exposed bit of skin is a place for your body heat to escape, so a hat and gloves are the last piece of the puzzle of what to wear.
If you have hair, then this does help keep your head warm, but a hat is that extra layer (like the layering system we covered earlier). Fleece lined or double layered, will give a nice level of warmth.
Hats are something you can have real fun with. Bright colours and bobbles. Or plain and simple. Here are some of my favourites:
This super cosy hat by heat holders, has a heatweaver thermal lining, which will be sure to keep all you head heat in.
This hat by Columbia has a durable construction, and a foldable cuff which can be pulled down for extra ear and neck coverage.
This Columbia hat has a super soft micro fleece lining for extra warmth. It is the most expensive hat on the list, but it has a pom pom. I do love a good pom pom.
Heat Holders Thermal fleece lined beanie – Buy on Amazon
Columbia Whirlybird cuffed beanie hat – Buy on Amazon
Columbia winter blur pom pom beanie hat – Buy on Amazon
There is a real balance to be had with gloves. Essentially, the warmer the gloves, the less dexterity you will have. I personally get cold hands easily, so I’m ok with my hands being useless, if it means I can keep them warm.
If warmth is very important to you, then you should pick gloves which are constructed with multiple layers and have a thermal lining.
I have experimented with gloves, and the only ones that I found satisfactory for my hands is thermal lined mittens with a leather outer shell. These are very expensive, and normally I wouldn’t dream of paying £100 for a pair of gloves, but after one too many days spent hiking with cold cold hands that rendered any other gloves I had tried useless, I went into an outdoor store and went straight for the most expensive pair I could find. I was desperate.
I can tell you now, that this has been a very good investment. Although my fingers are trapped, I now always have warm hands, and have even used these gloves for skiing (I think they might actually be skiing gloves).
These are the gloves I bought, if you want to consider it.
I do realise that most people won’t pay this much for gloves, so I have found some others which come highly rated:
These fleecy winter gloves have a lot of good reviews, so should be a solid choice if you are on a budget.
They have an abrasion resistant palm patch, which will be good if you use hiking poles.
This is a solid brand for gloves, with a Merino wool lining and a three layer construction, making them durable, breathable, windproof, waterproof, and most importantly, warm.
They have silicone printed palm and fingers for added grip.
These are similar to gloves I have, except they have fingers, a Gore-Tex Membrane, and are actually a little cheaper.
They use PrimaLoft insulation for extra warmth, plus the Gore-Tex Membrane will keep the rain out.
Budget: Columbia women’s cold weather gloves – Buy on Amazon
Mid range: Sealskinz unisex all weather ultra grip gloves – Buy on Amazon
High end: Saloman native Gore-Tex women’s gloves – Buy on Amazon
What to wear for cold weather hiking – Overview
Hopefully I explained things well enough, that you feel a bit more comfortable when figuring out what to wear for hiking in cold winter weather. I know it’s a lot to think about, but here is a more user friendly overview of everything:
What to wear for winter hiking checklist:
- Base layer
- Mid Layer (take 2 layers – fleece and insulated jacket)
- Outer layer (hard shell jacket and trousers)
- Mid/high top hiking boots
- Backpack + backpack cover
Layers for hiking in cold weather
|Base||– Acts to keep body heat it. Should sit close to your skin.|
– Choose Merino wool or synthetic .
|Mid||– The insulation layer.|
– Should keep body heat in but be breathable.
– Choose a fleece or insulated jacket (or both)
|Outer||– Acts to keep the elements out ie wind and rain.|
– For hiking in cold wet weather, should be breathable and waterproof.
Look for waterproof level >20,000mm.
Look for breathability >15,000g/m2.
– Choose hard shell.
Other clothing and gear for hiking in cold weather
|Hiking boots||– Look for mid or high cut|
– Try to pick waterproof
|Socks||– Look for something that offers warmth, moisture control, and comfort.|
– Merino wool in the material is good.
|Hat||– Fleece lined or double layered is good|
– Can be creative and have fun with styles
|Gloves||– Fleece or thermal lined with a waterproof layer will offer the best protection in cold wet weather.|
|Backpack||– Should have multiple storage compartments|
– Large enough to fit your gear in
– Mesh back
– Should come with an outer waterproof shell (or can get one separately)