Winter Hiking Clothes & Cold Weather Layering Basics

Learn our top winter hiking tips to keep you toasty and safe on cold and snowy trails, including advice on layering, snacks, staying hydrated & more.

Being prepared for frigid and wet weather is critical when exploring the outdoors in cold, snowy conditions and the best way to keep yourself warm and dry is with good winter hiking clothes. Even if you plan on doing a short winter hike on a popular trail, it’s important to be prepared. Staying warm and dry is imperative not only for your comfort but also to keep you safe from more serious issues like hypothermia.

Since I love winter hiking, I thought I’d share some of my favorite winter hiking clothes.

In this blog post, we talk about winter hiking clothes and cold weather layering basics for your winter adventures.


Winter Layering Basics

The key to winter hiking clothing is wearing layers that will keep you both warm AND dry – and that means from the elements as well as your sweat. You’ve probably heard that it’s better to shed layers than to not have enough? That’s especially true for winter hiking. It’s always a good idea to throw more than you think you’ll need into your daypack. Once you have a few winter hikes under your belt, you’ll see how much heat your body generates, and then you can adjust your cold-weather hiking clothes accordingly.

For winter layering, you’ll want a next-to-skin base layer, a mid-weight insulating layer, a fleece or puffy, and a weatherproof shell. Below we discuss the details of each layer and include recommendations for each winter hiking clothes item.


Winter Hiking Next-To-Skin Base Layer

Your next-to-skin cold weather base layer is all about regulating your body temperature while also wicking sweat. You sweat when you’re active, and in winter months it’s extra important that this perspiration is removed from your skin so you stay dry, rather than damp and cold.

Base layers should be made of synthetic fabric or merino wool that wick moisture and dry quickly. Avoid anything cotton (t-shirts, cotton sweatshirts) because cotton stays damp and heavy and loses its insulating properties when it’s wet.

The thickness of your next-to-skin baselayer depends on how cold it is outside and is also based on personal preference. I tend to sweat a lot, so I prefer a lighter synthetic layer next to my skin, and then I wear a mid-weight layer over it. If you know you usually run cold, then you might start with a mid-weight base layer, like the midweight layer recommended below.

Winter Hiking Base Layers for Women

Lightweight Base Layer Shirt – REI Long-Sleeve Crew Top

REI Lightweight Long-Sleeve Crew Top // A lightweight winter hiking base layer

Check price: REI

Midweight Base Layer Shirt – Patagonia Capilene Zip-Neck

Patagonia Capilene Midweight Zip-Neck // A midweight winter hiking base layer

Check price: Patagonia / REI / Backcountry

Base Layer Bottoms – Icebreaker 200 Oasis Deluxe Legging

Icebreaker BodyFit 200 Oasis Deluxe Legging // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Backcountry

Winter Hiking Base Layers for Men

Lightweight Base Layer Shirt – Patagonia Capilene Crew

Patagonia Men's Capilene Lightweight Crew // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Patagonia / REI / Backcountry

Midweight Base Layer Shirt – Patagonia Capilene Zip-Neck Base Layer

Patagonia Capilene Midweight Zip-Neck Base Layer // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Patagonia / Backcountry / REI

Base Layer Bottoms – Icebreaker 200 Oasis Leggings

Icebreaker Mens Leggings // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Backcountry / REI


Winter Hiking Insulating Layers

The middle winter hiking layer is critical for maintaining body heat by trapping air close to your body and providing insulation. Generally, a warm insulating layer will be made of wool, down, synthetic down, or fleece. Keep in mind that down isn’t warm if it gets wet. If you live in a wet or humid climate, you should opt for a synthetic alternative to down, like the Patagonia Nano-Puff listed below.

Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Winter Hiking Insulating Layer Options for Women

Synthetic Insulated Puffy – Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody

Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Patagonia / Backcountry / REI

Synthetic Insulated Jacket – Arc’teryx Atom LT Insulated Hoodie

Arc'teryx Atom LT Insulated Hoodie // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Patagonia / REI / Moosejaw

Fleece Layer – The North Face Denali 2 Fleece Jacket

The North Face Denali 2 Fleece Jacket // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: REI / Moosejaw

Winter Hiking Insulating Layer Options for Men

Synthetic Insulation  – Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody

Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Patagonia / Backcountry / REI

Fleece Layer – The North Face Gordon Lyons Full-Zip Fleece Jacket

The North Face Gordon Lyons Full-Zip Fleece Jacket // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Budget-Friendly Fleece – The North Face Canyonlands Full-Zip Fleece Jacket

The North Face Canyonlands Full-Zip Fleece Jacket // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw


Winter Hiking Outer Layer

If it’s sleeting, snowing, raining, or windy, you’ll want to add an outer shell over your winter hiking clothes. This will protect you from the elements and keep your other layers dry.  Look for an outer layer that is water-resistant but still breathable. You don’t want a super heavy ski jacket for instance. You’re either looking for a simple waterproof shell or an outer layer with a light layer of insulation.

If you choose a shell with light insulation, you might not need one of the previously mentioned layers. Make sure to take into account the layers you’ll be wearing underneath when figuring out what size you need. It’s important to note that high-quality outer layers can be very pricey, but keep in mind that these waterproof layers can double as ski jackets or cold weather raincoats, and they should last you for years. For those of you on a budget, I’ve included a great value REI-Brand shell as well.

Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Winter Hiking Shells for Women

Breathable Shell – Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Patagonia / Backcountry / REI

Great Value Winter Shell – REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket

REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: REI

Winter Hiking Shells for Men

Lightly Insulated Outer Layer – REI Co-op Rainier Insulated Jacket

REI Co-op Rainier Insulated Jacket // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: REI

Breathable Shell – Flylow Knight Jacket

Flylow Knight Jacket // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Great Value Winter Shell – REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Shell

REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Shell // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: REI


Winter Hiking Pants

You’ll want to layer a second pair of pants on top of your next-to-skin base layer bottoms. The outer layer pants you wear depends on whether or not it’s raining or snowing. If it’s dry out, you can get away with a warm pair of leggings. If it’s wet, you’ll want something waterproof.

Interested in winter hiking? Learn what clothes to wear for cold weather hiking and how to layer appropriately for snow and chilly temps.

Winter Hiking Pants for Women

Fleece Pants – Patagonia Peak Mission Tights

Patagonia Peak Mission Tights // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: REI

Waterproof Pants – 686 Standard Snow Pant

686 Standard Snow Pant // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Backcountry / REI

Winter Hiking Pants for Men

Waterproof Pants –  Arc’teryx Zeta SL Rain Pants

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Rain Pants // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Waterproof Shell Pants – REI Co-op Rainier Full-Zip Rain Pants

REI Co-op Rainier Full-Zip Rain Pants // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: REI


Winter Hiking Accessories

Durable hats, gloves, shoes, and socks are just as important as the rest of your cold-weather layers for keeping you comfortable. A hat is especially important because you lose a significant amount of heat through the top of your head. We’ve shared our favorites here as well as other necessities for winter hiking like a buff and sunglasses. 

A buff is always a good idea for keeping the wind, cold air, and sun from hitting your neck and face directly. Sunlight reflects off the snow so it’s smart to protect your eyes with good sunglasses when hiking in the winter. 

Interested in winter hiking? Learn what clothes to wear for cold weather hiking and how to layer appropriately for snow and chilly temps.

Buff – Polar Multifunctional Headwear

Polar Multifunctional Headwear // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: REI / Moosejaw

Sunglasses – SunCloud Mayor Polarized Sunglasses

SunCloud Mayor Polarized Sunglasses // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: REI / Moosejaw

Gloves – Outdoor Research Flurry Sensor Gloves

Outdoor Research Flurry Sensor Gloves // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: REI / Moosejaw

Beanie – Coal Headwear Frena Solid Beanie

Coal Headwear Frena Solid Beanie // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Backcountry / Moosejaw

Winter Hiking Socks – Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion Hiking Socks

Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion Hiking Socks // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Darn Tough / Backcountry / REI

Winter Hiking Boots – Oboz Bridger 7″ Insulated Waterproof Boots

Oboz Bridger 7" Insulated Waterproof Boots // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Gaiters – Outdoor Research Verglas Gaiter

Outdoor Research Verglas Gaiters // Interested in cold-weather hiking? Learn about base layers, shells, and other winter hiking clothes with our winter outdoor apparel guide.

Check price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Get our top 10 tips for winter hiking


We hope these tips and recommendations for winter hiking clothes help you plan and prepare for an awesome cold weather hiking adventure! Got questions? Leave them below in the comments.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means if you make a purchase, we receive a small compensation at no added cost to you. Any purchases you make help keep this blog going and our content free. We truly appreciate your support!

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

11 comments on “Winter Hiking Clothes & Cold Weather Layering Basics

  1. I would suggest that you take a look at a brand new base layer fabric “CARFIBEX” being crowdfunded at the moment by Iron Ocean, it looks like it could potentially set the standard for all base layers to come.
    Paul

  2. Great article! There is a best collection of clothes which will help to enjoy cold weather hiking. I like this article so much. Thanks and keep sharing.

    1. Hi Christie! We don’t at the moment but it’s something we’ll keep in mind for future content. Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Fabulous winter hiking clothes that look good all year round are here. We use these coats at work to stay warm outside.

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