You’re preparing for a winter hike and don’t know what to pack? Maybe this problem concerns friends, who will accompany you on the trail? Here’s a solution, a list of equipment which will help you go prepared and enjoy your winter hike!
The list contains basic equipment which will allow you to comfortably hike in the winter season. It isn’t “the only truth”, you are the one who knows your capabilities, equipment, details of the trip and conditions in which you’ll walk. The final decision what to take is yours – our list is only meant to help with making the right choice (and to help less experienced friends ). If you think that there is something missing on the list, something shouldn’t be on it or you simply do things differently – let us know in the comments!
Warning! The mountains in wintertime are dangerous. Equipment isn’t all that matters. Thinking, common sense, skills and knowing how to use that equipment are the basis of safety, especially during winter bivouacking! Also, remember to check the weather forecast, your route and specifics of the area (presence of mountain huts, bus stops, villages etc.).
PS: You won’t find here equipment such as avalanche probe or detector, crampons or a iceaxe – if you know they exist, you know how to use them and think that they should be here you probably know how to pack for a winter hike, and you don’t need our text 😉
Table of contents:
Based on this article we created a checklist with the gear for winter hikes – use it when you’ll be packing for your trip. The checklist is available HERE
Baselayers – layer closest to the body. Responsible for effective transport of moisture from skin surface, dries quickly and keeps you warm even when wet. During winter time a long-sleeved set will be a better choice.
Hiking socks – appropriately warm and thick, as to protect the feet from abrasions. It is worth considering taking an extra pair in case the ones you are wearing get wet. Watch out, you must be able to move your toes – otherwise the risk of frostbites increases.
Fleece – second layer of clothing, provides warmth even after soaking and allows transport of moisture. Thickness should depend on the intensity of activities and temperature.
Jacket – softshell or a hardshell (membrane jacket), depending on the weather.
Insulated jacket – filled with synthetic or real down. Will provide thermal comfort during stops or bivouacking.
Softshell pants – trousers, which will protect from moderate wind and light rain while retaining good moisture wickening properties.
Waterproof (hardshell) pants – Useful at stops and in adverse weather conditions.
Gaiters – protectors preventing snow from pouring into shoes and soaking the bottom of your legs
Hiking boots – reaching above the ankle, well impregnated.
Hat – protects the head (including ears!) from cold. Useful both during the march and while sleeping in the tent.
Buff (neck gaiter) – perfect for covering the face and neck.
Gloves – Two pairs. Thinner fleece gloves allowing use of your phone, knife, opening a snack and a second, thicker one (protecting from wind and soaking). In lower temperatures and while camping mittens (gloves with a single finger) will be a good choice, as they are much warmer than five-fingered ones.
* highlights the gear useful mostly during bivouacking, this equipment is unlikely to be required for a day trip
Headlamp + batteries – makes it possible to return or function safely after dusk, contrary to torch leaves both hands free. Bright enough to allow for comfortable use.
Knife – depending on conditions and preferences – a swiss army knife, folding, fixed or a multitool.
Map and compass + GPS – two independent navigation tools. GPS should be treated as a supporting tool, not as your main mean of navigation – it will be useful especially in low visibility (caused by fog or rain) or when the trail is covered with snow. Warning! GPS in your phone shouldn’t be used on the trail. Using it will drain the battery, later preventing use oof the phone for communication – be it calling for transport or calling for help.
Personal first aid kit – compact, containing standard set for first aid. During winter, it is worth to add an additional space blanket, a few hand warmers, a candle and some basic medicines against cold (for own use).
Backpack – of size appropriate to the lenght of route and taken gear, with a comfortable load bearing system. A raincover will be useful, too.
Trekking poles – shift the weight from your back and legs while marching with a backpack, make it easier to walk through deep snow and provide additional support on slippery terrain. During winter time remember to mount the disks.
Sunglasses/goggles – protect eyes from sunlight and light reflected by the snow. In case of rain and wind they provide additional eye protection.
Mini crampons – lighter and easier to use alternative for crampons useful in partial icing – e.g. in valley descents.
Thermos – a good warm tea on a snowy peak. What else would you want?
Water bottle – allows to carry water. While bivouacking makes it possible to store water from melted snow.
*Stove – enables cooking while camping. Whether you choose a stove which uses solid fuel, gas or liquid fuel depends on your preferences. However, only gas allows for (relatively) safe cooking inside a tent.
*Dish – made of metal, suitable for cooking on the stove
*Hatchet/saw – if you plan making a campfire a foldable saw and/or a hatchet will make preparing the firewood significantly easier
*Spoon – a mean to consume the food you prepare
Fire-starting equipment – a source of fire, preferably with pre-made tinder, secured from humidity and water
Powerbank – a supply of power for electronic equipment (phone, camera, GPS)
- Silver tape
- Zip ties
Reflective band – increases your safety during night returns on unlit roads.
Food – adequate to effort and the time spent on the track
Tea – probably the easiest way to drink something warm, boosts morale and helps to warm up
Emergency food reserve – some additional food carried “just in case”
Face cream + lip balm – protect the skin from drying and cracking
Money – preferably in cash, not all isolated places accept card
Documents – ID/passport + documents confirming discount eligibilities. Protected from humidity and water
Insurance – makes dealing with costs of a possible rescue action much easier
Emergency phone numbers
Phone numbers of local mountain huts
*Tent – the choice depends on personal preferences, with the same amount of people it will be warmer in a smaller tent (but, obviously, less spacious)
*Bivy bag – waterproof “sleeping bag for your sleeping bag” The ones made of membrane will add a bit of warmth while ensuring transport of moisture
*Sleeping bag – for winter. It is worth ensuring that the temperatures in which you’ll sleep are within the comfort temperature rating stated by the manufacturer.
*Sleeping mat – of appropriate thickness, providing thermal isolation from the ground
*Snow shovel – can be useful for preparing space for pitching the tent
See you on the track!