​Stay Hot While Looking Cool During Your Winter Hikes

Photo:  Matt Heaton

There's nothing like hiking through a winter wonderland during the colder months, but it's important to gear up and keep warm before heading out the door. Here are some quick tips on how to keep toasty on your hikes this winter.

Layer Your Clothing

Plenty of layers not only helps to keep your core warm, but allows you to make quick adjustments when you’re feeling a little too hot for comfort. Each layer should be made of relatively lightweight material, so that you don’t feel overburdened during your hike (http://backpackerverse.com/hiking-in-jeans/) . There are three basic layers that you should slip on before leaving the house.

  • The base layer helps to regulate your body temperature and keep moisture away from the skin.
  • The middle layer helps to insulate your body and retain heat.
  • The outer layer provides you with protection from harsh weather conditions, including rain and snow.

  • Get Proper Footwear

    While hiking boots (https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/hiking-boots.html) may suffice for light winter hiking, it’s a good idea to invest in some heavier winter or mountaineering boots if you plan to be trekking across snow and ice. These styles of boot are specially engineered with warmth in mind, boasting thick insulation and waterproof coating. You can also keep your feet warm with thermal insoles and thick socks. This additional layer of insulation offers the added benefit of keeping your feet cushioned as you hike to prevent discomfort (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23915727) in your heels and ankles.

    Wear a Hat

    You lose a significant amount of heat through your head when it's cold out, and wearing a hat can help to keep your core temperature from dropping too low. You should look for a snug-fitting, lightweight material that will provide you with insulation, such as fleece or wool.

    Protect Your Outer Extremities

    Your fingers and toes are particularly prone to frostbite (http://www.amssm.org/frostbite-facts-and-more-va-32.html) in cold climates, and you should take extra precautions to protect your digits during winter hiking. It’s important to wear thick gloves or mittens and warm, insulating socks under your boots to protect your toes. You can also wear a scarf or balaclava in particularly cold conditions to protect your ears and nose.

    Avoid Cotton

    Cotton isn’t an ideal fabric for cold-weather conditions, and so it’s best to avoid hiking gear made from cotton in the wintertime. Cotton is a lightweight material that doesn’t retain heat well, nor does it wick away moisture. Even if you wear a cotton shirt that is protected from rain and snow by outer layers, your own perspiration can still soak into the fabric and cause a chill. It’s best to stick with synthetic polyesters, fleeces, and natural fibers such as wool or goose down.