5 Tips for Staying Warm During Winter Hikes

This idea of throwing on multiple layers and heading up into the mountains to endure rain, snow, or even a combination of the two is still new to me. But there I was last weekend, encouraged by a friend that the weather was going to give us a break for a mid-day hike. With a window of time for clear (ish) skies, and despite my early hesitations, we went for it. We jumped on the freeway headed north towards Mountain Loop Highway and heavy clouds.  About 20 minutes out from the trailhead, the rain began. Silently considering whether or not this hike was actually going to happen, we turned a corner and the rain turned into white flurries, and the tree branches were already filling with fresh snowfall.

Best Gear for Winter Hiking

Hiking in the rain? Uh-uh. Hiking in the snow? Count me in.

Despite my excitement at the site of my first snow of the season, I confess my body doesn’t react well to the cold.  My fingers and toes lose color and my lips turn purple.  Just thinking about how cold and uncomfortable I can get in the frigid conditions makes me want to boycott the season.  But my body and mind’s demand for getting outside won’t allow for me to sit the season out and wait for Spring.  So you see, staying warm while outdoors is incredibly high on my priority list and the inspiration for this post. 🙂 Based on my observations and experience from last weekend I came up with a few tips to help you through your Winter season!

Winter Hiking in the Pacific Northwest- Heather Lake

Here are 5 tips for staying warm during a winter hike!

1.) Layer, Layer, Layer. I wore 5 top layers in our loop around Heather Lake. Even though I got warm on the uphill, I never took off an article of clothing besides my beanie. Your layers should go as follows…

  • Base layer- aka what is next to your skin. Wear a fabric like synthetic or merino wool to help wick sweat away! The last thing you want is to be sweating in a wet cotton t-shirt. On this hike I wore lululemon’s cool racer back tank and swiftly tech long sleeve crew. Both are made from fantastic lightweight material that is wicking and breathable.
  • Middle Layer – I call this my marshmallow layer. The middle layer is your insulating layer where you retain heat. My winter life changed when I purchased Patagonia’s Down Sweater Hoody. My warmth and comfort is worth every penny spent on that jacket.

2.) Protect Your Feet, Hands & Head – Beanie, gloves, socks. Make sure you have them all and extras. I go the extra step and add hand and feet warmers to my gloves and socks. That may be a little extreme for some, but my poor fingers and toes need the extra love!

3.) Pack a Warm Beverage – In addition to enough water, pack a thermos of tea, hot water and lemon or hot chocolate. Ok, or coffee (that’s what will be in MY thermos).. but just make sure to stay hydrated.

4.) Nutrition- Eat to keep your energy up! Try to stay away from “cooling foods” like citrus fruits and opt for “warming foods” like nuts and oats. This vanilla almond crunch bar from Aloha is quite tasty and a great mid-hike snack.

4.) Spare Clothes- Pack an extra set of clothes for the car ride home. Nothing is better than fresh socks, a dry set of clothes and the heater blasting on the car ride home.

Hiking in the Snow at Heather Lake, WA

I am on the lookout for the best gear and tips to keep me outside and active this winter. Please share your favorite hikes, clothing companies, gear and tips in the comments below.

Happy Trails!

PS >>  My instagram shows my travels // my pintrest shows my future travels.  Stay Stoked!


  1. November 19, 2015 / 11:11 am

    Awesome tips! I feel like so many shy away from hiking in the winter, myself included, but this has definitely given me the motivation to try it out! Not to mention your stunning photos! Who wouldn’t love to hike in the winter if all trails looked that beautiful 🙂

  2. November 20, 2015 / 6:57 am

    Thanks Kate. I was definitely one of those people who was reluctant to hike in the winter, but all it takes is one gorgeous hike and views of snow capped mountains to be hooked! Thank you for your encouragement on my photos. I was actually bummed because I got a new DSLR and have been playing around with it- but didn’t want to bring it on the hike because of the rain/snow. But, iphone still does a pretty good job 😉 Happy hiking! Would love to know which trails you get on this winter.

  3. vkrivas
    November 20, 2015 / 11:48 am

    I love this tips. I’ve always been one to shy away from nature when its cold, but your pictures reminded me that there are so many beautiful places to see covered in snow! I’ll definitely be taking your advice and venturing out this winter 🙂

    • November 20, 2015 / 2:23 pm

      Thank you for the sweet note! I think my favorite part about hiking in the snow is how quiet it is. There are definitely less people on the trail and the silence promotes an introspective mood.

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