Winter Hiking Gear: What I’m Wearing Now

Winter may have officially begun last week, but that doesn’t mean the outdoor play season is over. With the right gear, you can hike and stay warm all winter long. 

For winter hiking – especially in the Pacific Northwest – you must be ready for wet weather. It may be snow, rain, mist or mud, but one way or another you are likely to get wet. And once you are soaked, the game – and hike – is over.

Here is a look at what I’m wearing this season and a few of my favorite winter wear essentials.

1. Mountain Hardwear Exposure Rain Shell

A good rain jacket is always #1 of my list of gear for the winter. This lightweight, waterproof rain shell is easy to pack whether it is needed or not and layerable. Featuring breathable 2-layer GORE-TEX fabric, this Mountain Hardwear jacket offers excellent protection from the wind and rain. 

2. Columbia Delta Ridge Down Jacket

Perfect for layering, I love this medium weight down jacket. While a hood is great for really cold, snowy days, I prefer this hoodless option when I know I’ll need to layer, such as when hiking. With Columbia’s Omni-Heat thermal reflective lining and 650 fill down, it keeps me warm without being too bulky.

3. Trew Wool Pullover

Made for skiing but excellent for hiking too, this pullover adds an extra layer for warmth on those extra cold days. Made of Merino Wool, it keeps me warm and dry  – plus doesn’t get as stinky as many of my other mid-layer favorites. While they don’t make this specific model anymore, here is a similar one featuring a full ninja hood!

4. Baleaf Leggings & First Ascent shell pants

I love hiking year round in leggings, so when the weather turns foul I turn to shells that can keep me dry while still allowing the flexibility and comfort of my running gear. This winter, I’m living in my Baleaf thermal leggings, which was a gift from my mother-in-law last year, paired with my First Ascent lightweight shell plants. While this shell isn’t waterproof, it offers extra coverage from the wind for mild winter days. A stash a waterproof version, when heavy rain is expected, such as this version by Columbia.

5. Livingstone 25L Alberta Pack

I recently picked up this flash pack by Livingstone Brand to test out. Weighing less than half a pound, it is the most compact pack I’ve seen thus far and is durable featuring tear-proof, water-proof nylon and hardy zippers. I took this pack on a recent hike in the southern Washington forest in the rain and snow and was happily surprised that my extra jacket and gloves remained dry. Big enough to stash a coat, plus your other winter weather accessories, it is a great addition to my packs for short outings.

6. Ice Cleats

You never know when the trail may turn to ice this time of the year and that is when my Ice Cleats are a lifesaver. Providing extra grip on frozen paths, these are easy to pull on and off as needed. We recently were hit by an ice storm here in The Dalles over Christmas and these came in extra handy for walking the dogs! 

7. Black Diamond Distance Z collapsible hiking poles

Gifted after my summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, these hiking poles get used year-round for adventures. In the winter, while I may not need them for technical climbs, they are helpful for slippery sections – especially on the downhills – providing two extra hands to hold me upright.

8. Waterproof Hiking Boots

Keeping your feet warm and dry is very, very important in the winter. I’m still wearing my Ahnu Montara’s boots from a few years ago, which appear to no longer be available, featuring an oiled leather upper and rubber capped toes. But in general I recommend a high-top pair for this season to give you a little extra stability. Throw these on with a pair of warm wool socks to keep your toes cozy.

Other necessary winter hiking accessories: First aid kit, emergency blanket, water bottle, headlamp, and food. Also don’t forget a change of clothing and maybe a towel too in the car!


Published by Kelsey Ivey

An avid traveler and hiker, Kelsey is a freelance writer and professional explorer.

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