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January 29, 2023

How to Dress for a Winter Camping Trip

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Travel

A winter hike is not only about glistening ice, a warming campfire after a frosty day of hiking, and snow-covered landscapes. Hiking in winter is also a severe test for body and mind, requiring a careful selection of equipment.

Here’s how to dress for a winter hike so you can remember the amazing places you’ve been, not how cold you were.

Clothing

To feel comfortable, clothing for a winter hike should be layered. This principle will allow you to combine it depending on your activity, air temperature and other weather conditions. Another advantage of layering is that between the layers of clothes is a layer of air, and in a few jackets will be drier and warmer than in one super warm sweater.

First layer

The first (moisture-wicking) layer of clothing is thermal underwear. As long as you are dry – you are warm, as soon as you get wet – you are cold. So the main function of thermal underwear – to remove moisture from the surface of the body. At low temperatures underwear should be insulated: of synthetic or merino wool. For winter hiking suit both options. Under it you can wear thin underwear for sports: the moisture will be absorbed by warm underwear, and active movement will be comfortable. 

Thermal underwear is the first layer both for body and legs. Therefore, when going to winter hiking, buy at once a set of thermal jackets + thermal pants.

Second layer

Insulating (insulating) layer is a loose fleece or softshell clothing. Most often hikers take a fleece jacket or fleece jacket. This layer of clothing for a winter hike in the woods will not differ from clothing suitable for hiking in the open terrain. The fleece is always relevant. 

On the legs as a second layer wear warm pants. They can also be made of fleece, softshell or other insulated material https://learn-travel-learn.com/.

Third layer

Stormproof, aka membrane. A membrane ski suit is ideal. It will not get wet and you in it will not sweat and not freeze. Choose bright-colored clothing – this will not let you out of sight, and will look beautiful in the photos. 

If you are not going to have wind storms and extremely low temperatures, you can wear a membrane on your legs. In this case the first two layers will be enough: thermal pants and trekking pants with insulation. The upper walking pants should have a high waist to protect the waist from frost and wind.

Don’t skimp on this layer of hiking clothing. In winter, membrane clothing will save your health and turn hiking in harsh weather into an amazing adventure.

The fourth layer

This is clothing for the bivouac. You will move much less in the parking lots, so you will need warmer clothes. As this layer take with you a down jacket, sweater or down vest, hat and thick mittens. 

The jacket for the fourth layer can be either down or synthetic insulation. Each material has its pros and cons:

Synthetic insulation (most commonly, Thinsulate or Primaloft):

  • practically does not absorb moisture;
  • dries quickly;
  • does not require special care;
  • retains 70% of its heat-insulating properties when wet
  • Heavier than down.

Down (regular and hydrophobic):

  • warmer and more compact than synthetics;
  • high abrasion resistance;
  • Warms quickly when wet;
  • dries longer than synthetic insulation.

If you plan to continue to go on winter hikes, then buy a jacket sports plan, but if you want to wear it all winter, then take a more “city” version.

Footwear

Keeping your feet dry and warm is a top priority on any camping trip.  You can save money on mugs, spoons, and bowls, but not on shoes. Choose boots depending on the nature of the trail.

There are several shoe options for winter hiking:

  • Insulated trekking boots. Suitable for hiking when you’ll be sleeping in the warmth: at campgrounds or in lodges on cordons.
  • Double boots with a sturdy sole. Optimal option if you plan to spend the night in tents during the hike. You can always take the liner out, quickly dry it off and take it with you in your sleeping bag;
  • fishing boots made of Eva material. Perfect for weekend hikes or active outings without long journeys.

Don’t take shoes that fit too closely – the boots should be comfortable to wiggle your toes in. Take care of your feet – if they are cramped, they inevitably worsen blood circulation and your feet will freeze.

Also, if your shoes are a little big, you can wear two pairs of socks: thin and thick. The thin socks will wick moisture away from your foot, and the thick socks will absorb it. Thus, provided that the regular change of the top pair, your feet will always stay dry and warm.

Hiking socks come in fully synthetic or with added wool. Take on a hike as thick socks, and thin – the principle of layering is also relevant for the feet. The main thing is to put a lot of socks in your backpack: they won’t take up much space, but you won’t have to dry them if they get wet. Bring one pair of wool socks to sleep.

Accessories

When you decide how to dress for your first winter camping trip, you need to think about what accessories to wear or put in your backpack.

  • Headwear. In winter, all parts of the body should be warm, so a hat is an obligatory item in a hiking closet. How warm it must be – look at the weather. For windless days and with a little minus is a good lightweight ski hat. During snowstorms a balaclava will be the best option. With intense loads a lot of heat is released through the head, and if the hat is too warm, there is a risk of sweating and then freeze. Therefore, a warm hat will be good for bivouacs and during day trips. When choosing a hat, make sure it fits under the hood.
  • Gloves. If you have ski gloves or mittens, feel free to take them on a hike. You can get gloves with a windstopper, but they have both pluses and minuses. For example, they do not blow out, but they do not dry well.
  • Ice shoes. This is a lighter counterpart to the ice shoes. They can be useful on routes with sections of ice, for example, during a trip to Baikal in winter.
  • Sunglasses or ski mask. This is a must-have item in the winter hike, without them when there is a lot of snow, you risk of seriously damaging your eyes. They don’t protect from the sun, but from the glare of snow and ice. A ski mask will also protect the upper half of your face in a snowstorm.
  • Scarf or buff. In winter during the campaign is possible strong wind or even a snowstorm, so it’s better not to take an ordinary scarf, and the bandage-transformer or balaklava. Also, balaclava is a necessary thing to complement the clothes for a winter hike in the mountains. You won’t catch a cold in it.
  • Chemical warmer. It is a very convenient self-contained source of heat, which lasts for 6-8 hours. It is placed in gloves, boots, a sleeping bag to dry your outfit or to get warm quickly.
  • Sunscreen and lipstick. The sun’s rays, both direct and reflected from the snow, are very harmful to the skin, so do not forget to take these products from the summer cosmetic bag.
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