Winter hiking on Mont des Vallières de Saint-Réal in Gaspésie

Winter Hiking Gear You Should Add to your Backpack

I have the essential hiking gear that I carry with me when I am on the trails. If you are considering starting hiking, this list will be helpful. There is a small section about essential winter hiking gear, but I wanted to be more thorough and dedicate a whole article to the best gear for winter hiking. 

Not all of the winter hiking gear listed in this article is essential for your winter hikes. The basic equipment remains the same in any season, but here is what I add to my backpack when I go for a hike in the winter, once snow and cold are here.  

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hiker on a snowy trail with mountains in the background
randonneur avec l'équipement de randonnée d'hiver

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Winter Backpacks

Your average hiking backpack will do for a winter hike, although some hikers prefer a slightly bigger pack in the winter as we tend to carry more gear and extra layers. 

Some outdoor gear companies also carry winter-specific backpacks with extra features that come in handy in the snow and cold. 

Those features include but are not limited to:

  • back panel access
  • ski carry
  • snowboard or snowshoes carry
  • scratch-free goggles pocket
  • helmet carry
  • EVA foam back panel
  • bigger zipper loop to accommodate gloved fingers
hiker wearing a winter hiking backpack with snowshoes attached to it

My pick is the Osprey Kestra 30 L for women. They make the equivalent for men, the Osprey Kamber 30.

Osprey Kresta 30 for women

Osprey Kresta 30 for women

(check price on Amazon)

Osprey Kamber 30 for men

Osprey Kamber 30 for men

(check price on Amazon)

Winter Hiking Gear for Your Feet

A sturdy pair of winter hiking boots is essential to keep your toes and feet warm and blister-free.

Socks are also important. I recommend a pair of Merino wool socks like Silverlight’s winter hiking socks. They wick away moisture to keep your feet dry, helping keep them warm simultaneously.

If you are prone to freezing toes, I recommend a pair of heated socks. They do wonders to keep your feet warm in the snow.

Microspikes may be imperative depending on the terrain on which you are hiking. For example, they will be helpful on ice and snow to prevent slips and falls. They are also great for stabilizing your footing as they grip the snow. (see buying option on Amazon)

a pair of microspikes over hiking boots

On some trails, snowshoes may be necessary. After a considerable snowfall or if the path has seen few hikers since the snowfall, the deep, fresh snow will make snowshoes indispensable.

See also:

This article delves deeper into the functions and features of microspikes, snowshoes and crampons.

I always carry packets of toe warmers when the cold sets in, just in case.

Winter Hiking Gear To Keep You Warm

The golden rule for staying warm in the winter is staying dry, which means dressing in layers. 

The base layer, or underlayer, is the clothes you wear against your skin. Even in winter temperatures, you will sweat as you work your way through a hike. So, your base layer must wick away any moisture to keep you warm. My very favourite is my Merino wool underlayer shirt and pants (available on Amazon). They do wonders to keep me warm and dry on cold days. You can also find the men’s base layer set from Mountain Warehouse on Amazon.

black underlayer shirt and pants

The mid-layer will keep you warm like these thermal fleeces on Amazon. It is a popular choice for a mid-layer. It will keep you warm, providing insulation between the cold air and your body.

When it is especially cold out, I like my Venustas heated vest. It keeps me warm even when I stop moving. I can turn it on when needed.

Read my review of the Vestustas heated vest.

The top layer will keep you dry. It would be a shell you wear against the wind and the rain. A waterproof windbreaker is appropriate. I wear my down jacket with my shell over it when it is freezing. It keeps me warm, dry, and comfortable without restricting my movement on the trail or scrambling up a mountain. 

Winter Hiking Gear For Your Head and Hands

It is imperative to keep your extremities warm to help your core temperature up. Cover your head with a toque. The toque should preferably be made with moisture-wicking material, as you will still get sweaty on the trails even in cold temperatures. The Icebreaker Merino Wool Chase hat (check price on Amazon) is a perfect option.

Keep your hands warm with either mittens or gloves. The choice between the two comes down to the hiker’s preference. Mittens tend to be warmer than gloves but are also more restrictive. 

Venustas makes these awesome heated gloves that will keep your hands and fingers toasty warm even on frigid days.

I always carry hand and feet warmer packets (like these on Amazon) in my backpack during winter. They help when the cold seeps in, and I can feel my fingers or toes freeze. 

Winter Hiking Gear For Your Eyes

Sunglasses: the sun’s glare on the snow can make it hard to keep your eyes open on sunny winter days. A good pair of sports sunglasses will protect your eyes from the brightness of the snow.

Goggles: they will be helpful if you plan on hiking up a mountain above the treeline where the wind is cold and fierce. The Bollé NorthStar‘s anti-fog and wide spherical lens make them a great choice.

Showing winter-specific hiking gear when hiking in the mountains

Winter Hiking Gear To Stay Hydrated

When the temperature goes below the freezing mark, I ditch my hydration pack for a water bottle with a sleeve. I carry it upside down in my bag to keep the bottleneck from freezing. 

More on Winter Hiking Gear

Hiking is an enjoyable activity with many advantages, both physical and emotional. Unfortunately, when winter comes around, many of us tend to stick to the warmth of our living room and rarely venture out. However, with the essential gear for winter hiking, you can enjoy the trails in the winter just as much as you do during the other three seasons. 

When planning your next winter hike, see this list of 20 tips to stay safe on the trail this winter.

Please comment below if you think of other winter-specific hiking gear that should be included in this list. Until then, enjoy the trails!

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