What to Wear When Hiking in Cold Weather

what to wear when hiking in cold weather

Winter hiking can be a tough activity if you’re not prepared. It’s important to know what to wear when hiking in cold weather and how to dress in layers so that you can stay warm and dry during your hike. This blog post will go through how to prepare your clothes, what kind of clothes are best for winter hiking, how many layers you should wear, and how to layer them properly! For more tips on how to hike in the winter and cold weather hiking, read more here!

What to Wear When Hiking in Cold Weather

Upper Body

– A base layer that wicks sweat away from your body. This will help to keep you dry and comfortable during the hike. We prefer merino wool base layers because they’re soft and are excellent at wicking moisture! Check out these merino wool long sleeve tops for men and women

– An insulating mid-layer such as a fleece jacket or down vest or jacket for warmth. You’ll want this item to fit comfortably over the base layer, but not be too bulky so it doesn’t restrict movement when hiking. A great option is this Outdoor Research 700 fill down hoodie for women and men

Outerwear layers should include windproof/waterproof material with plenty of pockets on both sides (left and right) for storing gear like snacks, water bottles, maps, etc… Make sure these outer layers have good insulation to protect you against cold temperatures! We prefer Patagonia’s Torrentshell Jacket. Waterproof and windproof, it makes a great outer layer for just about any hiking season, including winter. Here’s links to the Men’s and Women’s

Lower Body

– A base layer such as a pair of leggings, pants, or tights that are made from synthetic materials or merino wool. These will wick sweat away from your body and help you to stay warm during the hike without being too bulky. For women, we like these merino wool tights and these ones for men

– A waterproof and windproof outer layer to protect against snow and rain. This could be a pair of snow pants, rain pants, or waterproof hiking pants (ideas for men and women). 

Accessories to keep you warm

– A good pair of waterproof hiking boots are an absolute necessity! They should be insulated for warmth and have a waterproof sole to protect you from getting your feet wet.

– A warm hat is an excellent way to keep your head and ears warm during a winter hike. Make sure it’s made from a material that will wick moisture away from your skin so you don’t overheat.

– A neck gaiter, balaclava, or scarf can be used to protect your face and neck from the cold wind on a winter hike.

Warm socks that are made from wool or synthetic materials. You want these to fit well and be comfortable since you won’t be able to change them out during the hike! We like Smartwool brand for our winter hikes because they wick moisture away from your body and keep your feet warm.  

– A pair of gloves or mittens that are insulated and have a waterproof outer layer.

Handwarmers are a lifesaver on a winter hike! They can be used to keep your hands and fingers warm, and they last for hours.

Microspikes are an absolute necessity when it comes to winter hiking. The added traction can mean the difference between a beautiful hike through a winter wonderland or a broken tail bone from falling on a hidden ice sheet!

How to Layer Your Clothes for Hiking

It’s important to dress in multiple thin layers as opposed to one thick layer because this helps you regulate how hot or cold you feel based on how active you are during the hike. The more active you are, the warmer your body gets which causes blood flow to increase up through your core area. This means additional heat is being produced by your muscles via exercise so it’s not necessary (or even possible) at times for extra clothing items like jackets, coats, hats, etc…  to keep warm! 

How Many Layers Do I Need?

We recommend wearing three to four layers on top and two to three layers on bottom depending on how cold it is outside. If you’re hiking in freezing temperatures we suggest adding extra layers. This can also change depending on the individual, as some people run hotter or colder than others. Try out some shorter hikes to get a feel for what you need. When in doubt, always pack or wear extra layers instead of selling yourself short. 


While winter hiking can be different and challenging, it can also be rewarding and enjoyable if you are dressed properly and prepare accordingly. The fresh air can be healing and it’s a great way to stay in shape and get exercise year round. Just make sure you’re dressing in layers and self-regulating so you don’t get too sweaty, and have fun!

About the Author

Derek Vitiello

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers. Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me. When I’m not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while. Feel free to contact us with any questions or get in touch with us on social media!

Safe Travels,

Derek and Ashley

Know Nothing Nomads