No Need to be cold-winter hiking tips

Everyone has that annoying friend. The one who wants to go cavorting around the outdoors during cold, windy, nasty weather. The friend who is always bugging you to stop making cookies and binge watching Netflix so you can join them in trekking up a mountain on some windy, rainy, insane adventure.

Confession time. It’s me. I am that friend. 

Mt Adams, WA. Just another weekend convincing a bestie to go stomping through the snowy woods with me.

I come by it honestly. My father was a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) in the Air Force during the 80’s and 90’s and money for indoor entertainment was not a big part of the family budget. My parents were avid campers and backpackers, who had grown up exploring the backcountry of the Sierra Nevadas,  so most of our free time was spent out in the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico, where we were stationed.

The best lesson my parents ever taught me about how the outdoors was this: good gear makes it possible to enjoy the outdoors in ALL weather. Feeling miserable can kill any sense of adventure. 

I am not sponsored by any of the brands I am recommending, these are just my opinions.

Winter Rainy Weather Gear Essentials

  • Breathable base layer shirt. My fave is a Merino wool blend I got from Costco 7 or 8 years ago. It cost less than $20 and it still works great.
  • Vest for core warmth. I tend to use fleece, because I get hot pretty quickly.
  • Waterproof shell with pit zips for venting. The pit zips are key. When hiking in a downpour, you need to vent your body heat, to avoid getting cold and sweaty.
  • Wool hiking socks. Wool will stay warm even if they get wet. Smart Wool are my favorite, but the Merino wool ones that Costco sells 6 for $20 are great as well.
  • Ear covering headband.  I don’t like to wear a full hat during a rainy hike, because it bunches up all weird under the hood of my rain jacket.
  • Windproof gloves. These are key in keeping your fingers warm and dry. Costco sells some that are windproof and waterproof, for less than $20.
  • Battery charger. Lightweight ones are less than $10 on Amazon, charge it up and put in your backpack before you go. You will need your cell in an emergency.
  • Daypack. ALWAYS take a backpack with the 10 essentials on any day hike. During the 2017 Eagle Creek fire 140  day hikers got trapped overnight.  During winter, the essentials are even more important.
  • Mask/Gaiter/Buff.  Don’t be a jerk. COVID rules are not new anymore. Cover your nose and mouth when passing others on the trail. 
Mosier Creek, OR. If we had stayed inside on this rainy day, we would have missed this beautiful waterfall.

Snowy Weather Gear Essentials

  • Breathable base layer shirt and bottoms. You need both tops and bottoms in the snow. I sometimes use good, breathable workout leggings when snowshoeing.
  • Vest for core warmth. For snow sports I use a lightweight down vest that is breathable but warm.
  • Waterproof shell with pit zips for venting. As with rain hiking, you will want to be able to vent your armpits. When tromping through the snow you get hot fast. Sweat will make you shiver.
  • Wool hiking socks. For the same reason noted above, wool socks will keep you warm even if they get wet.
  • Waterproof pants or bibs. Some prefer insulated, some do not. The most important thing is that they keep you dry. Bibs are easier to handle because they don’t ride down, but you will have to take a bunch of layers off to use the bathroom.
  • Warm hat. I usually take my shell off within the first mile of a snowshoe trip, so having a warm hat keeps my heat in.
  • Good insulated boots. They don’t have to be name brands, but make sure they are well made and comfortable. 
  • Micro Spikes or YakTrax. When there isn’t enough snow to do a proper snowshoe, having these in the pack is critical for safe navigation on compact snow and ice.
  • Windproof gloves. It’s critical to keep your hands warm and dry. If you tend to get too warm, try layering up the windproof with a simple set of cheap magic gloves underneath so your hands can still be covered if you take the windproof off.
  • Battery charger. Cell phone battery life is impacted by the cold, so having an extra charge is even more important, especially for a long hike.
  • Daypack. ALWAYS take a backpack with the 10 essentials on any day hike. If you get lost in the winter snow, having those emergency supplies will be critical.
  • Mask/Gaiter/Buff. Bonus in the cold weather-along with minimizing the risk of spreading COVID, this can help keep your face warm if it’s a really chilly day. 
Mt Adams, WA. Never discount the power a good down vest. Also, hip belts on a daypack are a game changer. So comfortable!

If at all possible, support a local outdoor store first. Family run businesses have great customer service and real lives are improved when you give them your dollars.

That being said, not everyone has the means to shop exclusively at small shops. If you can’t support a small shop with ALL your gear, consider using them first for the pieces you CAN afford to buy there.

Both REI and Eddie Bauer have excellent gear and great member rewards programs that add up to huge savings. Steep and Cheap is the outlet for and they have amazing deals. Don’t be afraid to shop the clearance sections! Curated is another great option if you have a lot of questions and want good gear at a great price. They do the work for you!

Facebook Marketplace and apps like Mercari feature great deals on used equipment. Some smaller outdoor shops also offer used equipment on consignment. If you live close to a ski resort, keep an eye out for ski swaps in Fall. In addition to downhill skis and snowboards, you can also find used snowshoes, x-country skis, and insulated gear at a great price.

Now get outside and get hiking!

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