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Winter Hiking Outfit Essentials

Looking for winter hiking outfit essentials so you can confidently hit the trails year round? Winter is certainly the season when making smart apparel decision is the most crucial. Showing up unprepared is simply not an option, especially at higher altitudes. This article will be outlining each type of winter hiking apparel you will want to invest in as the temperatures drop. I also want to emphasize that winter hiking year round IS possible. Even in extremely snowy places like Colorado. In 2019, I completed a 52-week hiking challenge, which means I completed one hike per week for the entire year starting January 1st. While not all weeks looked like what some may consider a traditional “hike”, it was still doable! Winter hiking can look very different week-to-week and depending on the altitude at which you are hiking. So let’s talk about what to expect as far at different altitudes:

  • Trails below 7,000 feet will tend to be less snowy and icy in general. You can expect snow on the trails December- March apart from unseasonable snow storms.

  • Trails 7,000-10,000 feet will tend to have more consistent snow + icy conditions from November-April. There will likely be a few earlier snow storms and a few later snow storms to consider as well.

  • Trails above 10,000- feet will likely be completely snow covered from late October- late May (sometimes into late June depending on that year’s snow fall).

Of course, you will always want to check forecasts and check trail reports to get a more current and accurate picture of what you can expect for trail conditions. The app AllTrails is a wonderful resource, as people often leave reviews of trail conditions. All of that to say, it’s not just about dressing warmly, but about factoring in the conditions based on your altitude and time of year.



Leggings- You will absolutely want multiple layers on your legs for most winter hikes, especially if snow is piling up. Start with a base layer for your legs. This can either be traditional leggings, or merino wool leggings for particularly cold days.

My recommendations: Double click the photo for link

Snow pants- On top of your leggings, you will want a waterproof snow pant. These will go over your leggings, socks and the openings in your boots to prevent snow from reaching your ankles. They will also provide an extra layer of protection from cold, piercing wind.

My recommendations: Double click the photo for link

Warm, performance socks- For winter hiking, the proper socks are crucial. Look for wool socks, at least crew height (halfway up the shin) with heavy cushioning.

My recommendations: Double click the photo for link

Waterproof snow boots- Pac boots or snow boots will be your best bet at protecting your feet from the elements and maintaining warmth. The main difference between traditional snow boots and pac boots is that snow boots do not have a rubber lining. Pac boots are better for sub-freezing conditions, but only for shorter time periods. Snow boots are better for longer periods of time in cold conditions. The main thing you want to look for is proper insulation and that they are waterproof. If you find that your boots are not completely waterproof, you can also treat them with DWR (durable water repellant).

My recommendations: Double click the photo for link

Spikes- One of the biggest gamechangers for me during winter hiking was discovering spikes for my boots. Spikes essentially just clip around the bottom of your boot and provide much for traction when you hit icy patches. Spikes are ideal for when it’s not quite snowy enough for snowshoes, but it’s still slippery. And the good news? They are extremely cheap!

My recommendation: Double click the photo for link