Embracing winter: Our top tips for hiking in cold conditions

men s blue leather jacket and brown backpack
Photo by Oziel Gómez on Pexels.com

Planning your next adventure? Don’t let the weather put you off. Whether you’re headed to the mountains or the coast, staying warm and comfortable is simply a matter of wearing the right gear. When you’re prepared for the outdoors, you can explore without limits.

But if you’re new to hiking or you haven’t updated your wardrobe for a few seasons, knowing where to start can be tricky. No matter your experience, it’s always worth knowing how to stay safe in the harshest conditions.

Why should you go on winter hikes?

If you’re thinking about getting active during winter, hiking is one of the best ways to do it, and you can benefit in many ways. Walking boosts endorphins, helps us feel more motivated, and plays a vital role in beating the winter blues too.

Firstly, walking through the winter months allows you to see your natural surroundings from a different perspective. Dappled early morning sunshine on crisp, frosty, and dewy landscapes creates a breathtaking scene. In winter, birds and other wildlife adopt different routines, so you might even experience the magic of seeing a deer in the wild.

Walking is one of the most accessible forms of exercise, and thanks to an abundance of wheelchair and pushchair-friendly trails, you can take the whole family with you. But before you set out on your next hike, it’s important to bear a few things in mind first.

Hiking through winter weather: Our top four tips

Dress for success

Firstly, it’s vital to know how to wear the right clothing for hiking in cold weather. Layering your clothes enables you to regulate your temperature effectively, which can come in handy when you’re walking through the hills or climbing mountains. Start with a breathable, moisture-wicking base layer. Depending on how cold it is, you could then opt to wear a fleece midlayer on top too. To complete your outfit, an outer shell is essential. On windy but dry days, a windproof softshell jacket is best suited. In extremely chilly temperatures, look for an insulated option – and if you’re expecting lots of heavy rain, full waterproofs will be needed.

Choose the right footwear

Insulated and waterproof hiking boots with good traction will make an enormous difference to your overall experience on the trails. When you wear technical walking boots designed for all-season use, you can extend your walks without worrying about any pain or discomfort. Several brands produce high-quality options that should last you through the years, especially if you take good care of your boots. World-class manufacturers like Salomon, Scarpa, and The North Face make popular choices, but you should always do your research first.

Stay hydrated and energized

Even though you might not feel as thirsty as you might while exercising in summer, you should always remember to stay hydrated on your winter adventures. If you’re heading out on a longer hike, wearing a rucksack with an integrated hydration pack will ensure that water is always accessible. High-calorie snacks will help you stay nourished and energized. Your body loses more energy as it keeps itself warm during colder weather, so eating is vital if you’re planning any longer walks. Fruits, nuts, energy bars, and protein-filled snacks make fantastic choices – just try to make sure that you don’t choose anything that could freeze in subzero temperatures.

Know your route – and navigate safely

Winter brings changeable weather conditions, so you should always try to know your route before you set out on your adventures. Carrying essential safety equipment might feel like a chore, but it could end up saving your life if you encounter unexpectedly harsh conditions. At the very least, you should try to pack a first-aid kit, a fully charged or solar-powered headlamp, and a communication device that works in areas without a strong signal. If you know how to take a bearing, packing a compass and Ordnance Survey map could make a brilliant choice.


With the right knowledge, preparation, and gear, winter hiking promises an incredibly rewarding and safe adventure. If you’re heading out into the hills in harsh weather for the first time, make sure that you go with an experienced and trusted friend too.

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