Winter hiking…you might be wondering, “Why would someone want to go hiking during the winter? It’s cold. It rains. It snows. Who in their right mind would want to go out hiking in cold weather on purpose and risk being wet and being miserable while they’re out there?”

Here are some of the reasons why I love winter hiking:

Reason #1: Winter Hiking is peaceful. There’s less crowds out on trail and everything is so much quieter, especially when it’s all covered in snow.

Reason #2: Winter hiking is a way to extend your hiking season to all year-round, so you never have to stop hiking.

Reason #3: Winter hiking is good exercise. You’ll exert more energy and burn way more calories when traveling over snow.

Reason #4: Winter hiking is also a lot of fun, but only if you’re prepared.

They say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. This is especially true when it comes to winter hiking.

When you have the right gear for the right conditions, you’re more likely to enjoy yourself while you’re out on trail, even when the weather is less than perfect.

I’ve been getting out for some really fun hikes this winter so far. I’ve been getting out for local day hikes here in Montana, hitting up some of the local, natural hot springs and even leading group snowshoe trips with students in my online backpacking program for women, The Confident Solo Female Backpacker System.

In this post, I’m going to share with you all of my favorite winter hiking gear for 2024, including all of the hiking gear I’ve been using this winter and all of the clothes I’ve been wearing on each of my winter hikes.


Starting with the pack I’ve been using this winter. I’ve been using the Gossamer Gear Loris 25 Daypack in the grey color. Here are some of the features I love about this pack:

  • The over-the-top closer system, which has a vertical zipper that opens wide and allows direct access to all of the gear in the main compartment of the pack.
  • I’m a HUGE fan of the large external mesh pocket. Here I stuff gear I need easy access to throughout my hike like rain gear and microspikes.
  • Dual water bottle side pockets, which is where I store my water and my 11th More on that later.
  • Dual stretchy shoulder strap pockets where you can keep things like a can of bear spray.
  • A Removable SitLight Pad. I’ve replaced this pad with Gossamer Gear’s Air Flow SitLight Camp Seat because it creates even better air flow and is slightly cushier than the SitLight Pad.
  • Inside the pack, there’s a hydration sleeve that can also hold a laptop or tablet, which makes this pack a great carry-on bag for all of my trips.
  • There’s also Fast Belt Loops you can use to attach an optional Fast Belt, which I want to do as soon as Gossamer Gear has the fast belts back in stock again.

The total weight of the Loris 25 Daypack with the SitLight pad is less than 19 ounces – super light!


Moving on to the gear I store inside my daypack, starting with the 10 Essentials. The 10 Essentials are a list of 10 different items you should always carry in your pack, no matter what type of trip you’re going on, what time of year you’re out on trail and how long you plan on being out there.

Sometimes things happen that might cause you to be out on trail longer than you anticipate. If you ever get stuck out on trail longer than you planned or find yourself in an emergency situation, the 10 Essentials will help make your experience out there more comfortable and could even save your life in certain situations.

I always live by the motto, “Always be prepared for the worst case scenario.”

The 10 Essentials include:

  • Navigation
  • Illumination
  • Shelter
  • Extra Clothing
  • Extra water
  • Extra Food
  • Sun Protection
  • Fire
  • Knife and Gear Repair
  • First Aid Kit


For navigation, I like using onX Backcountry, not only to help create the routes for my hikes before getting out on trail, but also as an on-trail navigation tool while I’m out there.

Get 20% off your purchase of onX Backcountry OR start a free 14 day trial of onX Backcountry Elite by using promo code “HungryHiker” and Clicking THIS LINK.

No matter which navigation app you decide to use, if you’re using a digital navigation app, make sure you always download the map of the area you plan on hiking in before getting to the trailhead and losing cell and WiFi service AND make sure your batteries are fully charged.

Since the cold weather can easily drain electronic batteries, I also like to bring with me an external battery pack, just so I have a way to charge any of my electronics while I’m out on trail.

It’s also important to note, especially when it comes to hiking during the winter, to keep anything with a battery close to your body to help prevent the cold air from draining the batteries.


For illumination, I always bring with me a fully charged, rechargeable headlamp. Winter days are shorter and have less daylight. This way if I’m running late, I don’t have to hike back to the trailhead in the dark.


Before switching to a trekking pole tent, I would always carry an emergency bivy as my emergency shelter for my 10 Essentials.

Since my trekking pole tent, Gossamer Gear’s The One only weighs 22 ounces, I’ve decided to switch this out as my emergency shelter for my winter hikes. It’s small and compact, fits easily into my pack, provides more protection and shelter than an emergency bivy and uses the trekking poles I’m already carrying for my winter hikes as the structure of the tent.


My extra clothing includes all of my insulating layers like a fleece, puffy jacket, synthetic vest, a hat, an extra pair of socks and a pair of gloves.


Depending on how far I plan on hiking, I’ll typically bring 2 liters of water with me for a winter hike. I use neoprene sleeves on my water bottles to keep my water from freezing. I also like storing my water bottles upside down in my pack. This way if the water does freeze, it freezes at the bottom of the bottle, making it so that I can still drink water from the bottle at the top.

I always bring with me a water filter and dirty water bag as a backup, in case I need to filter water out on trail.


In addition to my hiking snacks and a lunch, I always pack at least one extra meal and/or extra snacks with me, just in case.


My sun protection includes liquid sunscreen, a hat, a sun hoodie, a pair of sunglasses, a Buff and a lip balm that has SPF protection.


For Fire, I always carry a stormproof match kit along with a lighter or two.


For a Knife and Gear Repair, think about the gear you’re carrying and what you would need to repair any of your gear with out in the field should it break. In my Gear Repair Kit, I carry things like mini bottles of Krazy glue, tenacious tape, duct tape. zip ties, paracord and my knife.


To see everything I put in my backcountry first aid kit, check out this blog post, How To Create A Backpacking First Aid Kit.


Other gear I carry inside my pack for winter hikes includes:

A pack liner like a trash bag that I can use to keep all of the gear inside of my pack dry if it starts raining or snowing on me while I’m out on trail.

My Poop Kit with a Wag Bag. In the wintertime when everything is covered in snow, you can’t dig a cathole and bury your poop in the snow because once the snow melts in the spring, your poop will be exposed and can possibly end up in a nearby water source.

Instead, use a Wag Bag whenever traveling over snow to poop inside and then pack out your poop along with your trash inside the Wag Bag and dispose of it inside the trash, either at the trailhead or when you get home.

An external battery pack and charging cables so if I need to, I can charge any of my electronics while out on trail.

A couple packs of hand warmers

Plenty of yummy snacks and a lunch

An insulated butt pad, like Gossamer Gear’s Air Flow SitLight Camp Seat that sits on the inside of the back of my pack. This way whenever I stop for a break, I always have some sort of cushioned insulation to sit on that helps keep my butt warm and dry from the wet or snow-covered ground.


On the outside of my pack, I carry:

  • A water bottle in one of the side pockets
  • In the other side pocket, I like to keep my 11th Essential which is usually a hot drink like soup, broth, tea or hot cocoa.
  • A pair of microspikes in the large external mesh pocket along with my rain jacket so I have easy access to both of these items without needing to get into my pack
  • My fully charged Garmin inReach Mini 2, a satellite communicator, which clips onto my pack strap.


In addition to my pack, I also usually wear a fanny pack on my winter hikes. Since my pack doesn’t come with hip belt pockets, I’m able to store additional items I might need easy access to while out on the trail like:

  • My car keys, which I clip to on the inside of my fanny pack
  • A couple extra snacks
  • Sunglasses
  • My phone
  • My camera
  • Lip balm


In my hands, I always have a pair of trekking poles. If there’s snow out on trail, I’ll make sure to use a pair of trekking pole with snow baskets.

Depending on how much snow is out on trail, I might opt to wear a pair of snowshoes over my hiking boots, which can help make traveling over snow much easier than just hiking boots alone.


In addition to packing the 10 Essentials and having all of the hiking gear I’d need for a winter hike, I also make a point to wear clothing that will help me stay warm and dry while hiking in the colder, wet weather. When hiking in the winter, I dress in a layering system that consists of a base layer, mid layer or insulating layer and an outer layer.

Here’s what I’ve been wearing on my winter hikes this year:


Base layers are going to be the layers that are closest to your body. I choose synthetic base layers because they tend to dry quickly and help keep me warm. I avoid cotton because in cold, wet weather, cotton is rotten. Cotton is heavy and once it’s wet, it loses any insulating abilities.

For base layers, I start by wearing a moisture wicking, quick drying sports bra and underwear. My favorites this winter have been Smartwool’s Intraknit Crop Sports Bra and bikini.

On top of my sports bra and underwear, I like wearing the long sleeve, thermal merino base layer top and bottoms from SmartWool.


 The Midlayer or Insulating Layer will help retain body heat and protect you from the cold. For my midlayers. I look for materials such as fleece, wool, down or synthetic materials. I prefer using a synthetic down with my winter hiking midlayers because they stay warmer and dry faster than down.

For my winter hiking midlayers, I’ll pack a long-sleeved micro grid fleece hoodie like the Fayettechill Leah hoodie which is lightweight, breathable and moisture wicking.

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I also like wearing a synthetic down vest like the Outdoor Research Shadow Insulated Vest, which helps keep my core warm while I’m hiking up the trail and even when I’m stopped for a break.

I always carry a lightweight puffy jacket like the Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket, which is an ultralight, synthetic insulation jacket that weighs less than 8 ounces. It’s perfect for putting on to stay warm while stopped for a break.


For an outer layer, I wear a rain jacket that’s lightweight with good ventilation.

My favorite rain jacket is the Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket because it’s lightweight and the outside material is waterproof and repels water. This jacket has pit zips, which allow me to regulate my body temperature underneath so I can prevent myself from sweating while I’m hiking.

I also like wearing a pair of trekking pants that are comfortable enough to hike up the trail in, provide a little extra warmth and keep me dry when it’s wet out. My favorite pants this season have been the Duluth Trading Company Flexpedition Pull-On Slim Leg Pants. They’re stretchy and comfortable with a wide elastic waistband instead of a traditional zip fly construction, have 5 total pockets and a water-resistant finish.

Something new to my Outer Layer this winter has been my Purple Rain Winter Skirt. I’ve been loving hiking in a skirt this winter because:

  • It helps keep my backside warmer when out on trail and sitting down during my breaks.
  • The skirt’s fabric is waterproof, breathable and has a cozy fleece backing.
  • I can easily wear my winter skirt over my trekking pants, making this really comfortable to hike in while wearing all of my layers.
  • The skirt has two, very spacious and functional pockets on the side, which I’ll often use to store items I might normally carry in my fanny pack instead like my phone, camera, sunglasses, extra snacks and lip balm.
  • Wearing a hiking skirt means you can pee out on trail without having to expose your entire backside.
  • Plus, it’s super cute!


When hiking in the winter, I like wearing a lightweight, high top, Gore-Tex trail runner like the Altra Lone Peak ALL WTHR Mid 2 Hiking Boots because they’re lightweight, waterproof, have an extra roomy toebox, provide extra ankle support and do a great job of helping to keep my feet warm and dry when it’s cold and wet out. And I always pack an extra pair of socks.

To help keep my legs and feet dry from snow, rain and mud, I also wear a pair of knee-high Gore-Tex gaiters like the Outdoor Research Crocodile Gore-Tex Gaiters over my pants. And if it’s really cold out, I’ll wear a pair of these Hot Sockee neoprene toe covers to help my toes stay warm.

As someone whose toes also seem to get really cold when hiking during the winter, the Hot Sockee neoprene toe covers have surprisingly been one of my most favorite pieces of gear this winter because they easily fit over my socks and inside my hiking shoes comfortably and do such a fantastic job of keeping my toes warm…and they’re only $14 on Amazon!


For winter hiking accessories, I’ll usually pack with me a buff or fleece neck gaiter, a pair of liner gloves and even a pair of warm winter mittens. I also wear a trucker hat with a wide brim to help keep my face covered from the sun and to keep the rain and snow out of my eyes.

If you want more details about all of the winter hiking gear I mentioned in this post along with links to how you can find all of this gear online, check out my 2024 Winter Hiking Gear List.

Hopefully this post will help you figure out what gear and clothing you’d need so that you can get out there and have fun winter hiking and snowshoeing too.

Happy fun (and safe) winter hiking!

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