CAMPING & HIKING

Best Cold Weather Gear for Hiking: Build Layers Maximize Trail Time

man hiking in the cold
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Hitting the trails in wintertime is incredibly rewarding, but if you don’t have the right gear, your sojourn into the peaceful, snowy wilderness will likely get cut short. If you invest in the best cold weather gear for hiking, though, you can stay out long enough to see your favorite trails blanketed with snow.

Give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the still, silent beauty of a winter forest. It’ll completely change your perspective on outdoor excursions, but you can’t get there without keeping yourself safe and comfortable. The items on this list represent a good cross-section of winter hiking gear for men.

They won’t necessarily cover all the necessary bases, but when you layer them with other items, they can keep you mobile, dry and warm. Those three elements – mobility, dryness and warmth – are the most important safety measures for outdoor activity in dangerously cold temperatures.

hiker with gear in the cold

We’ve evaluated each item on this list for cold-weather protection based on those three elements, giving you your best shot at a successful winter hike.

Choosing the Right Gear Features for Winter Hikes

Safety and comfort go hand in hand in cold weather; if you’re shivering and wet, your health is already at risk. To maintain mobility, dryness and warmth, you need to protect each region of your body, from your head to your extremities, including your fingers and toes.

In fact, it’s the extremities that can be most susceptible to frostbite, so leave no body part uncovered or unaccounted for when you head out for a winter hike. Each item of clothing you choose, from boots and socks to gloves, hats, coats and trousers, allow for all three safety criteria.

You should be flexible, dry, and warm. This breakdown should make it easier to identify good gear as you shop:

Mobility

  • Stretch: Look for fabrics and materials that allow for a full range of motion, particularly for your base layers. Materials such as spandex and elastane are a good indicator of stretch, as are knits made with natural materials such wool.
  • Bulk: Avoid too much bulk in your layers, especially in the base and mid range. If you’re heading out into truly harsh conditions, some bulk may be unavoidable, but be sure to maximize efficiency in the lower layers.
  • Weight: Opt for lightweight materials whenever possible so you can keep your pace up and avoid unexpected fatigue. Slowing down can be dangerous if it’s perilously cold or you get caught in a storm.

Dryness

  • Moisture-blocking: Waterproof or weatherproof outer and mid layers, including boots, hats and gloves, should prevent rain, snow, ice and other moisture from getting into your clothing layers. Look out for materials described as “water-resistant;” clothing made with these fabrics are not suitable for outer-layer wear because they don’t prevent moisture absorption and will become waterlogged over time.
  • Moisture-removing: Your skin needs to stay dry, so dryness is a concern for your base layers as well, even on your feet, hands and head. Naturally moisture-wicking materials such as wool are a good choice because they dry off quickly. Some natural fibers, such as cotton, are less than ideal because they retain moisture. That means that you’ll feel the temperature-lowering effects of moisture even if your skin itself is dry.

waterproof- jacket -for- hiking

Warmth

  • Cold-blocking: Seek out materials designed to maintain or generate warmth whenever possible; this is true of all layer levels. Think outside the box, too. Wind can easily blow cold air right through your layers, so looking out for windproofing materials can be a good idea if you’re going to be hiking in a windy, exposed area.
  • Insulating: You’ll generate a lot of your own heat as you hike, and you don’t want to let that precious warmth go. Materials such as wool, synthetic fleece, down and nylon or Gore-Tex are good choices for keeping body heat in. Your base layers should also fit close to the body, and it’s also ideal to avoid major gaps in clothing at the wrists, ankles, neck and hips. Think about tight-fitting, efficient materials that won’t let warm air out or cold air in.

Now that you’re aware of what to look for, here are some of the great products you can find in the market.

Our Top Picks

Meriwool Midweight Crew Top

meriwool 250 base

Cold protection: Moderate

Size: Available in men’s standard sizes S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL

Features: Long sleeve, crew neck, hanging loop at neck, washer-dryer safe

Best use: Mild to vigorous activity in wet or dry cold weather conditions

Constructed from 100% Merino wool, the Meriwool Midweight Crew Top is a rugged, warm and versatile base layer item for hiking in a variety of different cold-weather conditions. Whether you’re hitting the trail for a day or you’re doing some snow camping, this all-natural wool long underwear top will keep you warm and dry without any itching.

If the idea of wearing wool against your skin makes you feel instant discomfort, you’re in for a surprise. MERIWOOL’s special fine wool blend is nothing like the scratchy, old-fashioned wool fabrics you’re used to. The 5-micron, interlock-knit Merino wool is surprisingly soft next to the skin, making it a great choice for a cold-weather base layer.

These tops are designed to give a tight fit, which makes their natural moisture-wicking properties more effective. If you plan to have direct contact with snow or rain while you’re out on your winter hike, this would be a great base layer for you to incorporate along with other warm-when-wet winter gear.

If you’re camping, you can change out of this crew-neck top and use the loop on the neck to hang and dry. You could also use this crew-neck top for a middle layer, but you’ll want to order a size or two up in order to wear it comfortably over a thinner base layer.

Check the price on Amazon

ColdPruf Base Layer Basic Pants

coldpruf basic dual layer

Cold protection: Light to moderate

Size: Available in men’s standard sizes S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL and men’s tall sizes M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL

Features: Long pants, elastic waist, ribbed ankle cuffs, tagless, flat seams, gusseted front and back rise, two-layer construction, washer-dryer safe

Best use: Mild to moderate activity in dry cold weather conditions for short day hikes

The ColdPruf Base Layer Basic Pants are a good choice for casual winter hiking, particularly for day trips that don’t require overnight survival safety. These flexible, tight fitting men’s long underwear pants are made from a 60% cotton 40% polyester blend that provides superior insulation thanks to its two fabric layers, which trap heat.

The insulating layer of air between the two fabric layers helps maintains a warm temperature, and the elastic waistband and tight ankle cuffs keep your body heat trapped next to your skin. The use of combed, ring-spun cotton in the fabric blend lends softness and comfort to the garment.

That also makes these long underwear pants susceptible to moisture retention and insulation loss if they get wet. In dry conditions, the 5.25 ounce fabric weight and dual-layer construction make this base layer piece a good choice for staying warm. Flexible fabric makes it easy to walk, bend, jump and scramble as needed on the trail.

Related: If you’re looking for something more rugged and suitable for extreme conditions or foul-weather wear, ColdPruf’s Expedition Base Layer Bottom may be a better alternative. These long underwear trousers contain no cotton, opting instead for 100% polyester construction, meaning they’ll stay light and warm even if they get wet.

Check the price on Amazon

prAna Zion Convertible Pants

prAna Men's Stretch Zion Convertible

Cold protection: Light to moderate

Size: Available in men’s waist sizes 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 40

Features: Long pants, convertible to shorts with zip-off at knees, adjustable waist, open ankle cuffs, water repellent, ventilated inseam gusset, abrasion resistant, loose fit through the leg

Best use: Mild to vigorous activity in wet winter weather or variable temperatures

With their rugged, weatherproof and abrasion-resistant exterior, prAna Zion Convertible Pants allow for bouldering, hiking and snowshoeing in a variety of different cold-weather conditions. These trousers are also a great choice for a cold-weather hike on the cusp of winter or spring.

With their zip-off convertible functionality, these pants can allow you a quick cool-off if your base layers end up being more than you needed. The adjustable waist allows for some all-season versatility as well; you can size up to wear multiple base layers underneath in winter, then cinch the waist in to provide a comfortable fit with a light base for fall and spring hikes.

Made from a slightly stretchy nylon-spandex blend, these convertible trousers provide a good amount of flexibility for an outer layer. One thing to keep in mind: if you plan on trekking through snow, the open ankle on these trousers may require you to wear gaiters.

Related: For a winter-only alternative that doesn’t have the convertible zip-knee feature, check out PrAna’s Brion Trousers. Made from a similar nylon-spandex blend, the Brion trousers are water-repellant and abrasion-resistant, giving you a superior option for a durable winter outer layer.

Check the price on Amazon

Outdoor Research Gradient Hat

outdoor reaserch hat

Cold protection: Light to moderate

Size: One size

Features: Close-fitting beanie style hat, low-profile silhouette, earband lining, moisture wicking

Best use: Mild to vigorous activity in dry or mild conditions or as a base layer in extreme conditions

The Outdoor Research Gradient Hat is a stylish option that looks good on the street and performs just as well on the trail. Featuring an on-trend ombre color scheme, this hat offers close-fitting comfort of a beanie, but it offers more cold protection than your average hat thanks to its band of fleece around base.

This ear band instantly adds a level of outdoor credibility that makes the Gradient hat a good choice for versatile winter wear. You can keep it in your wardrobe to wear with your street gear and pick it up to wear alone or under a heavier layer depending on the conditions you’re expecting on the trail.

You could layer a heavier hat over top or simply pull up the hood on a jacket or parka to give the Gradient hat extra help in keeping your head warm and dry. On its own, the hat’s 100% wool construction provides warm-when-wet protection, meaning you can rely on its insulating powers even if you encounter a light drizzle or snow shower on your winter hike.

Related: For even more cold protection, the Outdoor Research Spitsbergen Hat one-ups the Gradient beanie by providing WINDSTOPPER® lining along with the fleece earband. The Spitsbergen has a similar low-profile construction and striped design along with a 100% lambswool body, but its ear protection is more rugged thanks both to the lining and the fact that the design includes earholes.

Check the price on Amazon

Seirus Innovation 8030 Neofleece Combo Scarf

serius 8030

Cold protection: Extreme

Size: Available in XS, S, M, L, XL; L and XL suit most men

Features: Close-fitting, waterproof, breathable, windproof, waterproof, moisture wicking, five-layer construction

Best use: Mild to vigorous activity in extreme cold and wet weather

Seriously dangerous cold weather calls for serious protection, and the Seirus Innovation 8030 Neofleece Combo Scarf provides just the right level of skin coverage, warmth and moisture protection to keep you comfortable. Combining the function of both a neck gaiter and a face masque, this dual-purpose cold weather gear keeps your neck and face warm, dry and safe from windburn.

Designed to fit underneath goggles and a hat, this is a serious piece of gear that uses five layers of different materials to give you extreme protection in the most dangerous conditions you’d want to hike in. The neoprene exterior blocks out ice, wind and moisture while the soft fleece layer keeps your skin warm and dry.

Though the neofleece combo scarf covers both your nose and mouth, Seirus’s clever design includes breathing holes that let you avoid a suffocating feeling, even if you’re moving down your trail at a good clip. With adjustable features and an overall flexible, stretchy construction, this versatile mask and scarf hybrid is an excellent piece of gear to keep in your outdoor collection.

Related: If you need similar protection without neck coverage, Seirus 6810 Neofleece Comfort Masque is a good choice. You can layer this masque with goggles and your own choice of neck protection for a variety of winter hiking and sporting applications. Like the 8030 combo scarf, the 6810 masque has a multi-layer construction that allows for protection from cold, wind and precipitation and has respiration holes built in to give you room to breathe.

Check the price on Amazon

Seirus Innovation 2110 Deluxe Glove

serius 2110

Cold protection: Light

Size: Available in XS, S/M, L/XL; L/XL suits most men

Features: Five-finger glove, tight fit, moisture wicking

Best use: Mild to vigorous activity in dry, mild-temperature conditions or as a base layer in extreme conditions

Made from ultra-efficient Thermax, the Seirus Innovation 2110 Deluxe Glove provides a soft, flexible, moisture-wicking base layer to wear under heavier gloves in extreme cold.

These lightweight gloves may also be suitable for mild cold temperatures, but they don’t provide enough weather or cold protection to keep your hands safe on their own if frostbite is even a passing concern. Thanks to their tight fit, slim profile and innovative material construction, these gloves can keep your hands dry if they tend to get a bit sweaty in gloves.

Related: Seirus Innovation 2116 Heatwave Glove Liners provide more protection from cold if you’re planning an excursion into extreme temperatures and you anticipate needing to remove your top-layer gloves or mittens to allow for greater manual dexterity. These warmer glove liners are thin and form-fitting enough to function as a base layer, but they feature a specially developed lining that reflects body heat back to the hands. The 2116 gloves also provide moisture-wicking functionality so your hands will stay dry and safe inside their layers.

Check the price on Amazon

Kakuetta Trail Hiking Socks

hiking socks kuku

Cold protection: Light to moderate

Size: Available in men’s sock sizes 9-11, 10-13

Features: Calf height, heel and arch support, cushioned sole, ribbed elastic cuff

Best use: Mild to vigorous activity in wet weather or as a mid or top layer in extreme cold

Thanks to their modern wool construction, Kakuetta Trail Hiking Socks are plush and comfortable, making them suitable for single-layer wear if you don’t plan to encounter extreme cold temperatures. They’re thick and soft, providing adequate cushion and support for miles of winter hiking.

You can wear them with sock liners too, giving them cold-weather versatility for a variety of different conditions. The 100% Merino wool used in these socks makes them resistant to cold and excellent for moisture-wicking wear.

Check the price on Amazon

Vasque Snowburban UltraDry Snow Boot

vasques suburban boot

Cold protection: Moderate to extreme

Size: Available in men’s whole and half sizes 7.0 – 11.5, whole sizes 12, 13, 14

Features: Tall shaft, rubber traction sole, waterproof, insulated, fleece collar

Best use: Mild to vigorous activity in extreme cold and wet weather

Give your feet superior traction and protection with Vasque’s Snowburban UltraDry Snow Boot. These rugged, sturdy hiking boots are specifically designed to give you the warmth and moisture protection you need while out on the trails in wintertime.

With features such as fleece lining and Thinsulate™ Ultra insulation, your feet will stay nice and warm, even if they spend the bulk of your excursion trudging through icy slush. Rubber toe caps and heel kicks add extra durability to an already tough sole.

Use the D-ring on the gaiter to pull the boot on and lace up tightly through the metal eyelets. Interior padding and a built-in stabilizer in the layered sole make these boots a pleasure to wear for winter hiking.

Related: Men who prefer a lower boot shaft may want to opt for Vasque’s Snowblime UltraDry Snow Boot. Many of its features are the same as the Snowburban boot’s albeit in a lower profile that may be suitable for smaller snowpacks and less extreme conditions. Features such as Thinsulate™ Ultra insulation and a fleece-lined collar maintain winter cred, while a rugged rubber sole provides good grip on slick or muddy trails.

Check the price on Amazon

Planning for Winter Hiking Success

Experienced outdoorsmen know that finding the right trail and checking conditions before you head out is only a small part of making your winter hiking trip a successful endeavor. You’re going to need to right gear to keep yourself safe and feeling good throughout the entire excursion, and finding that gear is no small feat.

This list should help you start off on the right foot as you search out winter hiking gear. You may find alternative options that suit your needs better, but as long as you stay focused on the three main goals of mobility, dryness and warmth, you’ll get to enjoy all the joys that winter hiking offers without having to cut your trip short.

Everyone has their own favorites when it comes to winter hiking gear, and we’ve only covered a small range of options with this list. What advice or items did we leave out? Let us know in the comments if you have any good advice or product suggestions for your fellow winter adventurers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

  • Dan Roberts

    I recommend Vasque to everyone who loves hiking. It is really a solid brand. It is very comfortable to wear no matter what your destination is.I know this because I have used mine for more than a year now. I have not used them as daily shoes though. It looks good too.

    • Mark Foster

      Definitely a solid brand!

  • John Austin

    prAna is a great buy in my opinion. I like that it is durable and very comfortable to wear. I also love because it looks very classy and causal at the same time. I usually wear this on cool mornings and hot afternoons. I really love it. 10/10 for me.

    • Mark Foster

      Thanks for telling us what you think.

  • Mark Foster

    The Outdoor Research has superior moisture wicking ability and it is highly breathable. The headband is a little tight, but the style is nice.

  • Mark Foster

    Meriwool Midweight is a top-quality base layer that comes highly recommended by most users. You should recommend this product to your friends.

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