There is nothing worse than not having the right clothing to cope with adverse winter weather when you are on your backpacking adventure. Whether you get caught out in a blizzard without a well-insulated jacket or soaked in a rainstorm without a waterproof coat, these experiences can ruin your hiking trip and leave you heading back to base camp. Additionally, safety is important. Without the best winter hiking outfits, cold temperatures can lead to bad decision making, illness, or injury. To make sure you have a safe and successful winter hiking trip, here are the most reliable and fashionable winter hiking outfits available.
Wicking Base Layers
Every good winter hiking outfit starts with base layers. These layers sit directly against your skin and regulate your core body temperature. Also, base layers are designed to wick away moisture. It keeps you dry and will make sure that during the winter, you will retain your body heat. Indeed, the whole process of wicking allows moisture to move away from your skin and evaporate on the outer surface of the base layer. Base layers come in a variety of different materials, all of which have their pros and cons. However, just make sure to always avoid using cotton base layers. These lock in moisture and prevent you from keeping a stable temperature.
Synthetic Base Layers
The most common are those that are made from synthetic fibers. These are often more breathable, lightweight, and better at wicking than their natural fiber counterparts. The best synthetic base layer is Helly Hansen’s now-iconic Dry Stripe. This particular base layer is made from polypropylene and makes use of the company’s innovative Stay Dry technology. However, there are also other alternatives. This includes Patagonia’s Capilene Crew, which is made from recycled polyester. One of it’s best perks is that it has an inbuilt odor control technology.
Merino Wool Base Layers
While synthetic materials now lead the way, classic Merino wool base layers are still one of the best ways to stay warm on the trail. Natural odor repellent, merino wool base layers tend to be more expensive than synthetic ones. They are also considered luxury items by many backpackers. Also, one of the best is Icebreaker’s Oasis 200 base layer, which is made from breathable New Zealand Merino wool.
Insulating Mid Layers
The key to hiking in the winter months is layering, as this will let you adjust your outfit depending on the temperature. An essential piece of backpacking clothing is an insulating mid-layer. An example of an insulating mid-layer is a lightweight but insulating fleece or a puffer jacket. These items should be functional and easily storable in case the temperature rapidly picks up and you want to put it in your rucksack.
The best thing about using a fleece as a mid-layer is that they come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Also, one of their best perks is being excellent at retaining heat. One of the best and most easily available fleeces is Berghaus’ Pravitale 2.0. This brand comes in a snug fit that also allows free movement. Additionally, they come in a variety of funky colors to suit your style. Moreover, this fleece is lightweight and can be easily packed away in your rucksack.
Another fleece mid-layer with an eye-catching design is Mountain Hardwear’s Monkey Man Jacket. This jacket has a ribbed finish and comes in a variety of vivid colors. Indeed, it looks so good that once you have got it on you will not want to cover it up with a jacket.
Better suited to sub-zero temperatures than fleece mid-layers are puffer jackets. They contain insulating air pockets designed to keep your body temperature warm and regulated. One of the most popular and stylish pieces is Patagonia’s Nano-Air, which comes in a slick minimalist design. It has great functionality with its breathable synthetic material and stretchable design ensuring comfort. Another top of the range mid-layer is Patagonia’s Down Sweater, which is lightweight and is also one of the coziest jackets on the market. However, the only downside of the Down Sweater is that its natural fibers are less breathable than synthetic options.
Protective Outer Layers
The final piece of layering is the protective outer layer, which will shelter you from the winter elements all the while allowing moisture to escape from your body. Outer layers come in two different forms: hard shells and soft shells — both of which are best used in different winter weather conditions.
Hard shells are the most common form of the outer layer, as their tapered seams and waterproof zips ensure that no rainwater, snow, or wind can penetrate your layering system. One of the best is the ever-popular Arc’teryx Beta AR, which is coated in Gore-Tex Pro waterproofing. This coating allows the layer to withstand even the harshest alpine conditions. Moreover, the tall collar and tightening hood all make this a go-to jacket for backpackers embarking on a winter adventure.
Less weather resistant than hard shells, soft shell jackets are best used in cold and dry winter conditions. These jackets are often stretchable and highly flexible, which allows for greater comfort. Also, they are far more breathable than hard shell jackets. One of the best on the market is the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell. It’s able to withstand winter conditions nearly as well as its hard shell rivals. Moreover, the jacket’s loose fit gives you plenty of room for layers underneath.
Many winter backpackers make the mistake of focusing on layering their torso. They end up neglecting their lower half, which is equally as important. Most base layers come as sets with individual thermal leggings widely available too. On top of this, you should aim to get a pair of waterproof trousers that have zippers for extra ventilation. Consider that it can withstand harsh winter conditions.
One of the best pairs of hiking trousers is Fjallraven’s Vidda Pro. It offers formidable protection from the winter weather conditions through their G-1000 waterproof technology. These trousers also have a wealth of storage pockets and additional support around the knees to prevent ripping. What’s more, they come in a variety of colors and look very fashionable for a pair of all-weather hiking trousers.
Another essential piece of winter backpacking gear is a balaclava. It helps to keep your face protected from rain, snow, and wind. Indeed, balaclavas have also been proven to maintain blood circulation to your face, which in turn prevents blisters from developing. Additionally, balaclavas differ significantly from beanies and neck warmers. These items only cover the top of your head and neck which can only protect your body to an extent. Moreover, balaclavas are also one of the most flexible items to have in your winter kit. For example, if it gets too warm, you can roll it up or down.
One of the best balaclavas on the market is Arc’teryx’s RHO AR Balaclava. It is moisture-wicking and made from quick-drying synthetic materials. The fabric is soft so that it does not irritate the skin. It also has a stylish silhouette, allowing you to look cool on the trail even when the weather closes in.
Commonly used by skiers to prevent snow blindness, goggles are an indispensable piece of winter gear. It’s something you’ll want if you are hiking in whiteout conditions to keep the wind out of your eyes. Also, it’s useful if you’re looking to protect your eyes from the sun’s glare. One of the main considerations to think about when buying goggles is to make sure it has large air vents. This will prevent them from fogging up. Another great aspect of goggles is that they come in a plethora of different styles and colors. It makes a great way to liven up your backpacking outfit.
Unsurprisingly, some of the best goggles are made by the famed sunglasses brand Oakley. They come with the company’s innovative Prizm technology. This technology creates a stronger contrast in whiteout conditions and anti-fog coating. You never have to worry about your vision being obscured when you use this.
During winter backpacking expeditions, one of the first areas of your body to get cold will be your fingers. This is why it is essential to carry a pair of high-quality wicking gloves in your backpack at all times. If you are embarking on a high altitude winter hike where temperatures could plunge well below zero, one of the best sets of gloves to take with you is Outdoor Research’s Alti Gloves. They have been used on Arctic expeditions and have Kevlar stitching for extra durability. For less extreme backpacking adventures, North Face’s classic Etip model should do the trick. They are wind and cold resistant and are designed in a stylish minimalist fashion.
Winter Hiking Boots
The final piece of essential gear that should be in every winter backpacking kit is a reliable pair of winter hiking boots. These will keep your feet warm and dry from the worst weather nature can throw at you. Winter boots are optimized for walking on snow and ice. They can be used in conjunction with crampons or snowshoes.
One of the best pairs of winter boots is Salomon’s Toundra Pro. These boots are surprisingly lightweight, thanks to its use of Aerogel insulation first developed by NASA. It is no surprise this is the most popular winter boot available. Combine this with a cozy fleece lining, snowshoe and crampon bindings, and reinforced toe kicks, you’ll have an amazing winter outfit.
All in all, choosing your fashionable winter outfit is easy. It’s easier once you know what to wear, what type of layers to get, and how they help you. You can buy multiple colors of each clothing layer. You can be fashionable every day of the winter months. All you need to do is get the right combination of colors and dress up. You’ll definitely look fashionable in your winter outfits.