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12 Essentials you Need to Enjoy Hiking in Winter

November 02, 2017 4 min read

12 essentials you need to enjoy hiking in the winter. Visit to see all 12 winter essentials.

Winter hikes can be a lot of fun, especially when you have these 12 essential items.

Summer has come and gone, and winter is quickly approaching. The days of hiking in the sunshine with clear blue skies are out of sight and only in our memories, but we hikers still look forward to many more unforgettable hikes in the crisp, cool winter air.

The I’d Hike That Crew wants to make sure you are well-prepared for your winter hikes so that this hiking season is enjoyed to the fullest.

So we want to share with you our list of 12 essential items to bring on your hikes this winter.

1. Solid pair of waterproof hiking boots

Investing in a nice, sturdy pair of hiking boots is something you will not regret. Make sure they are waterproof and have good traction for all winter conditions, such as ice or snow. You will want to keep your feet as warm and dry as possible. Protect your ankles by getting boots that are high-top style.

2. Waterproof rain jacket

Here in Oregon, the I’d Hike That crew knows all too well the importance of bringing a rain jacket on all outdoor adventures. Having a well-lined thick waterproof rain jacket will not only keep you warm and dry, but it will protect you from all the nasty stuff out there. Also, they are lightweight and easy to throw in your backpack if it isn’t needed.

3. Comfortable pair of hiking socks

Comfortable hiking socks are essential for winter hikes. Wearing thick, preferably wool, socks will be your best option. These will keep your feet nice and warm during the cold months, and the thickness will give your feet cushioning for comfort. For extended hikes, consider throwing a backup pair in your backpack. Check out this two sock strategy that is utilized by many hikers out on the trail. 

4. Appropriate gloves

Based on the weather conditions, you will want to choose between highly breathable, lightweight gloves and extra thick, waterproof gloves. Consider a winter glove system that has both options. Don’t go on a long, winter hike without protecting your hands. Wear some extra thick gloves for the best insulation and warmth. Nylon gloves are the best if you want to be sure to steer clear of frostbite.

5. Sun protection.

Did you know that you can get snow blindness (a sunburn of the eyes)? Even in the winter months, it is important to carry sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. You can also get a sunburn from the snow or bright ground, so be sure to protect yourself by wearing sunscreen. And don’t forget about the inside of your nose and ears, as well as under your chin.

6. A headlamp

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the sun sets early in the fall and winter. It is dark as early as 5 pm. For the hikers who want to hit the trails on a weekday after work, you will want to be sure to carry a headlamp so that you don’t get stuck in the dark.

Alsoconsider bringing a flashlight and extra batteries. It is better to be well-prepared with these things.

7. Layers, layers, and more layers

Since weather conditions are constantly changing, consider using a four-layer clothing system popular among many hikers. Layers are so nice because you can easily take off and put on layers as needed.

  1. Your first layer is the base layer, which manages moisture. A good option for your base layer is a wool or synthetic wicking long-sleeved shirt and long underwear.
  2. The next layer is your insulating mid-layer, such as a fleece sweater, that protects you from the cold.
  3. Your outer layer is the shell layer, which shields you from wind and rain. A hard shell waterproof jacket and pants are great for this layer.
  4. Finally, for especially freezing temperatures, you may want to wear a puffy down or synthetic jacket and pants for extra warmth.

8. Compass and map

For the off beaten trail hikes, you will definitely want to have tools for navigation. Whether hiking day or night, you will want to know where you are going and be able to find your way back.

9. First aid kit

It is always wise to carry a simple first aid kit with all the essentials. You never know when they will come in handy and it is best to be prepared for all injuries.

10. Fire starter kit

The fire starter kit should include a lighter, strike stick, and something to light. Having instant access to a nice, warm fire on a cold winter evening in the wilderness sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Don’t forget your fire starter so that you can make this happen. Also, make sure you have practiced using your fire starter.

11. Water purification and extra food

When you’re out on the trails, you will likely come across many water sources from lakes and streams. Having a portable water filter is great for this reason. Sawyer makes some awesome, high-quality personal water bottle filters you may want to check out. Always bring plenty of extra food and snacks in case you are in the outdoors longer than expected.

12. Emergency shelter

Always be prepared. Especially in the cooler weather, it is a good idea to always be prepared with a tent, tarp, and reflective blanket. If for any reason you get stranded out on the trails, due to weather or some other cause, you want to make sure you stay warm and protected from snow and rain.

Also,consider packing a sleeping bag. If you have an unexpected overnighter, you want to protect yourself from freezing. A zero degree or colder bag is most ideal. Check out some of REI’s cold winter sleeping bags


No matter what time of year you go hiking, you should always have the 10 hiking essentials. Disaster can strike at any time of year. 

Now we want to hear from you. In your winter hiking experience, what else do you consider essential items for enjoying hiking in the winter?

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12 Essentials you Need to Enjoy Hiking in Winter