Cold Weather Clothes For Winter Hiking

December 8, 2020

Winter will soon be here. @tadej from Camping Valley gives us some tips on the right clothes for getting outside in the winter.

Brrr! It’s chilly outside. But don’t let the cold stop you from getting out and hitting the trails to see the white winter wonderland and all that it has to offer. Your secret to success in the winter season is appropriate cold-weather clothes.

Here’s your essential guide on what to buy, bring, and wear.

Cold Weather Hiking Clothes

Layers, layers, layers

Cold weather is all about having multiple layers of clothes on you.

If your clothes get wet, you can still take them off and have dry clothes on. You need to preserve the body temperature, so make sure you will have enough clothes to change in.

Cold weather is all about having multiple layers of clothes

Inner base layer

The innermost layer would be the clothing that you take off the last – your long underwear. If you get cold easily, but you don’t sweat that much, you’ll want to start with wool underclothes such as merino wool. But if you tend to sweat a lot, you’ll want a polyester T-shirt.

being wet and cold is a hypothermia risk….don’t wear cotton

The idea is that the fabric wicks the moisture away from your skin as this will cause you to quickly become over-chilled. And being wet and cold is a hypothermia risk.  Don’t wear cotton as it doesn’t have the wicking properties like other fibres. There are always some interesting new synthetic fabrics on the market, don’t be afraid to look at those, either.

Middle insulating layer

This layer of clothing sits between your inner base layer and your outer jacket layer. It’s made of thicker, warmer, or puffier material. Fleece, polyester, and down tend to be the main players here.

When it comes to middle layers, you really can’t judge by the material and thickness alone; you need to try it on. Jackets are nice but don’t forget about the rest of your body, such as using fleece-lined or insulated trousers.

A few words about down

Wearing a winter coat

Down is a lot warmer for the weight compared to other clothing items, and can be rolled and pressed very tightly. It’ll also last for a very long time if it’s taken care of correctly.

down loses all of its warmth if it gets wet

However, down loses all of its warmth if it gets wet, and it tends to take a long time to dry. Cleaning down items requires specialised knowledge, care, and materials.

Lastly, some people tend to be allergic to down.

Outer shell layer

Your outer layer is the winterising agent that makes you winter-proof against the wind, chill, rain, sleet, and snow. Sometimes this is called rainwear, but you want everything that you pick to be waterproof and not just water-resistant.

makes you winter-proof

Water-resistant means that it can withstand some rain for a while, but eventually, you will end up as soaked as if you weren’t wearing one at all. Durable Water Repellent or just Water Repellent is a new technology that causes water to bead on the hydrophobic material’s surface and eventually slide right off.

You also need your outer layer to be breathable so that you can expel the perspiration that you inner layer wicked from your skin. Sometimes this is called Moisture Vapor Transfer.

Generally, softshells should be highly breathable by default. It should also have windchill protection by default of being waterproof.

You want the full windproof label, and not merely wind-resistant, which means that it can hold up to mild breezes, but not fully-fledged storms.

More tips

Make sure that the top of your shoes or boots is covered by your trousers. If they aren’t, bring gaiters to keep your feet nice and dry. You don’t want your shoes getting wet as that will travel to your socks, and then your feet.

Another idea is a 3-in-1 jacket that acts as a windproof, waterproof, and breathable jacket typically made of fleece. They tend to come with a second inner component so that you can stash that in your pocket in case you don’t need it.

There’s also something called a hybrid shell. Exactly how they are hybrid varies from product to product, so you need to read the label and have an idea of the kind of weather you will experience at your camping site.


You’ll want to bring some other things, too.

For your hands, bring gloves or mittens just in case. Not losing fingers to frostbite is always worth the reduction in dexterity.

For your face, a ski mask or face mask just in case the wind is a blistering cold, a hat or beanie to cover your head and shade your eyes, and sunglasses for when the sun is right in your path.


You’ll want to make sure that they are UV blocking. Glasses with coloured lenses yellow through red or with a Visible Light Transmission (VLT) of 20-40% are excellent in cloudy, low-light conditions.

Polarised lenses and anti-reflective coating cut down on glare, but hikes generally don’t have much of this except the glare reflecting on your sunglasses themselves. Mirror-coating, like metallic lenses, reduces the amount of light that passes through.

Happy Winter Hiking!

I hope that your next outing goes swimmingly thanks to this guide on cold weather camping clothes.

Remember to bring along some hand-warmer packs, or even electric gadget versions provided you can charge them. On every trip, bring first aid and extra water or a water filtration system.

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Tadej Kozar
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Tadej Kozar Contributor

I am the founder of Camping Valley. The site is an extension of my lifestyle and passion for outdoors. Everything that I learn, experience and find valuable is on the site for you. We live in a technological era but nature is reminding us more and more that we should go to the places where our heart and soul feel like home.

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