Winter Hiking Gear for Snowy Adventures

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Don’t let a cold, snowy day keep you from hiking! Hiking in the winter is an amazing experience and there’s nothing more beautiful that hitting the trail after a fresh dusting of snow. Quality winter hiking gear will keep you warm and dry during all your cold weather adventures. I’ve included my favorite gear and clothing for winter hiking below.

Layering Hiking Clothing in Winter

Developing a smart layering system is the key to staying comfortable while hiking in winter. You want to develop a system so that you can stay comfortable in all conditions, from working up a sweat to taking a lunch break on a windy peak. The number of layers you need will depend on conditions and temperature.

The best insulating winter clothing is made from wool or synthetic materials (like fleece, polartec, or polyester). Avoid wearing cotton because it traps moisture and wearing wet clothing will make you colder. Warm insulating layers paired with a waterproof outer shell will keep you warm and dry in any situation. If you’re on a budget and can’t afford a waterproof Gore-Tex jacket or softshell pants you can substitute your rain jacket and rain pants. This can be a good option if your rain jacket has pit vents (to help keep you from overheating) and is big enough to accommodate your winter layers underneath.

Hiker standing on a snowy trail. Hiking gear in winter includes snowshoes and gaiters.

Hiking Gear for Winter

Puffy Jacket

A puffy jacket will probably be overkill while you’re actively hiking, but you’ll want to pull on this warm, lightweight layer as soon as you stop for a break. A good, lightweight puffy jacket will be your go-to for hiking, camping, and backpacking in every season. I’ve had my REI Co-op down jacket for 7 years now and it is still going strong. A few years ago I upgraded to the Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer puffy jacket because it has a hood. I trade-off between the two jackets depending on the weather and the conditions. A good puffy jacket is an investment, but with proper care it can last for many years.

Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer for Men 

Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer for Women

REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket for Men

REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket for Women

Waterproof pants

Leave your insulated snowboarding and ski pants at home and opt for a lightweight water-resistant pair of pants. I typically hike in a pair of moisture wicking hiking pants (my pair of go-to Columbia pants are no longer in stock). Unless you’re wearing gaiters, opt for a pair of pants with a wide leg to go over your hiking boots so you don’t have to constantly dig out snow from the top of your boots. I keep a pair of waterproof rain pants in my backpack in case conditions change and I need to quickly pull on a waterproof layer. If you’re breaking trail in deep snow and know that you’ll need a waterproof layer opt for something breathable like the Outdoor Research Cirque II Pants.

Outer Shell

This is another item that can be re-purposed for people on a budget. If you plan to regularly hike during winter, then having a Gore-Tex outer shell is a great investment. If you only plan on going out once in a while you can use a rain jacket with pit vents. The key is to find something that is waterproof and breathable, so you don’t overheat or make yourself colder by sweating through all your layers.

Men’s Jacket

Women’s Jacket 

Wool Socks

No matter the season, wool socks are the best prevention against blisters. Wool naturally wicks moisture away from your feet and helps with temperature control. A good pair of wool socks can last you several seasons. If you’re on a budget buy a pair of Darn Tough socks and then take them up on their lifetime guarantee if the socks ever wear out. For a list of other brands that stand behind their gear check out my post on the outdoor gear companies with the best warranties.

Women’s Wool Socks

Men’s Wool Socks


I’ve had my Tubbs snowshoes for many years now and they are one of my best gear investments. Before purchasing my snowshoes on sale one summer (see my tips for shopping off-season below), I would rent snowshoes multiple times per season. Snowshoes are unisex. Instead of going by shoe size, snowshoes are sized by weight class. Snowshoes can come with lots of features, or they can be pretty basic. If you’re going to be hiking on hilly terrain I’d suggest looking for a pair of snowshoes that have a heel lift, to make those uphill climbs a little easier.


Hiker climbing up a snowy hill. Snowshoes with heel lifts can help make uphill climbs easier.

Warm Base Layers

Again, this is a category where you can spend a lot of money, or get on a budget. If I’m going on a day hike I pull out my Cuddl Duds thermal top and bottom. You can find Cuddl Duds for a reasonable price at Target or Walmart during the winter months. If I’m doing a winter camping trip and will be out for more than one day I will wear my Icebreaker wool base layers. I prefer wool for multi-day trips because they don’t hold onto body odor like the synthetic fabrics do. Choose what’s best for you and your situation.

Waterproof Boots

No one likes to have wet feet! A pair of comfortable waterproof boots are key. Your boots should be well-fitting to avoid blisters. A pair of waterproof hiking boots might be more comfortable than a pair of heavy snow boots.


Pair tall gaiters with your waterproof hiking boots to keep the snow out of your shoes. The waterproof gaiters will keep the snow out of your hiking boots, and they will help keep your legs dry if you’re not wearing waterproof pants.

Unisex waterproof gaiters

When to Buy Winter Hiking Gear

By planning in advance and shopping the sales rack you can find some great deals on winter gear. One of my top strategies for buying hiking and backpacking gear on a budget is shopping for gear in the off-season.  Major retailers usually start putting their winter gear on clearance in the Spring.

For big ticket items like snowshoes consider buying used gear through online sites like REI’s Outlet  or new, previous season gear on CampSaver’s Outlet. Check out my blog post for more tips on how to save money and buy backpacking gear on a budget.

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