CAMPING & HIKING

Winter Backpacking Gear: All You Need to Know About Winter Backpacking and Your Must Have Gear

Winter Backpacking Gear featured
Jerry Mueller
Written by Jerry Mueller

By now, you must have noticed that winter backpacking is what a lot of people now like to do. The cool atmosphere and the low freezing temperatures offer a new type of adventure for hikers, and more and more people are gearing up for these trips into the cold. However, you have to agree that it is very important to be adequately prepared for every situation that these severe conditions bring about. Winter introduces a lot of beauty in its scenery, but also in its solitude, you find a lot of challenges and even the danger, so, you need to put a lot of thought into your winter backpacking gear list.

You need to equip yourself for the harshest conditions. It is important to be aware of the weather conditions and forecasts before leaving for your camping trip. Watch out for extremely low temperatures, storms, and heavy winds. You have to remain dry and warm. To avoid getting wet, you need to select the kind of gear and clothing you bring along with you. Jeans, for instance, are not a good idea because they get easily soaked in snow and they retain the moisture and take forever to dry off. It is a lot more difficult to warm up after a chill, than it is to just stay warm.

In order to help you plan your next winter camping or hiking adventure, we came up with this article, in which we will first guide you through the most important things to look out for as a winter explorer, particularly looking at which features to consider before buying any gear. Then, we will introduce you to the best winter camping and backpacking gear of this year, so that you can get familiar with the items. By the end of the read, we hope you will have in mind what you want to buy, and be able to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. 

Product Name Product TypeWeight Dimensions Specific Features Price
Black Diamond Firstlight 2 person tent3.5 lb82 x 48 x 42 inchesSpace efficient, Nano shield fabric, mesh pockets, single door entryCheck price on Amazon
Sea To Summit eVentCompression sack1.3 lb5 x 14 inchesHeavy-duty 210D PU coated nylon material, nylon webbing pull handleCheck price on Amazon
Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket knife0.1 lb2.3 x 0.4 inchesStainless steel build, highly versatile and compact, lifetime guaranteeCheck price on Amazon
Mammut Men’s Ajungilak SphereSleeping bag1.1 lb8.4 x 11.1 x 14.5 inchesWindproof and water repellent exterior, built to hold extreme temperaturesCheck price on Amazon
Equinox Ultralight MasupialPouch0.1 lb4 x 5 inchesAvailable in three sizes, made of nylon with a mesh pouchCheck price on Amazon
Suunto A-10 Compass0.3 lb3 x 3.3 x 7.2 inchesMade of durable, ergonomic design, utilizes two zone systemCheck price on Amazon
Mountain Hardwear Phantom Hooded down jacket1.1 lb28 x 16 x 6 inchesBuilt to resist heat-robbing moisture, retains maximum loft even when wetCheck price on Amazon
Grabber Warmers Instant HeatHand warmers0.3 lb9.5 x 9 x 7 inchesNon-toxic, odorless heat sources with natural ingredientsCheck price on Amazon
FMW Photon Freedom Keychain LED microlight0.1 lb5 x 0.5 x 1 inchesAdjustable brightness, different safety modesCheck price on Amazon
Black Diamond Snaggletooth Pro Crampons2.53 lb15 x 5 x 5 inchesUnique horizontal monopoint, lightweight stainless steel constructionCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

First, we must tell you that camping and hiking during wintertime is a whole other game than in summer or spring. You are really at risk for many different reasons, and that’s why you must be prepared. That’s why we will look at the key features to consider before buying any gear, so that you are rightly informed and guided through the safe path.

Cold

Low temperature is an obvious issue in the winter. One way to avoid getting too cold is to layer your clothing. This helps trap the heat and keep your body warm. Wear layers of clothing that will keep enough heat within your body and you have to make sure that some of the items of clothing that will make up a layer are breathable.

Typically, there should be up to 3 layers of clothing. The first layer should be a soft layer, which includes lightweight items like your shirt, socks and pants.The second layer should be a more insulated layer that does a lot more of the heat trapping. This layer of clothing can be made out of micro fleece. The third layer is your weatherproof and breathable layer. This layer should ideally be made of Gore-Tex material.

Warmth

One important thing to note is you shouldn’t try to keep too much body heat because when your body gets too hot, sweating and perspiration results in moisture that will make your clothes moist; this can hasten hypothermia. You need to monitor your body warmth closely.

Girl Using Grabber Warmers

Most people tend to think that as many layers and as much clothing as possible are better, but it’s not like that at all. You must keep a balance, because the winter is no joke. If you are camping in a far away area, get too sweaty, cool down and then get hypothermia, you are in trouble.

The Right Tent

You also need to pack a winter tent when backpacking in winter conditions. There are a lot of tents available commercially that you can buy that offer a lot of features and qualities necessary for your trip.

The appropriate tent can make a big difference. Winter tents are made of thicker materials, which tend to be a bit less breathable, but are more resistant to wind and insulate better. They are also completely waterproof and have a thicker or more resistant flooring.

The Right Sleeping Bag 

The right sleeping bag will keep you warm and cozy at night. It will ensure that you won’t be suffering from hypothermia or simply suffering from bad sleep. Resting adequately is key to be able to have a pleasant and good hike or trip.

sleeping bag

There are sleeping bags especially designed for winter. Buy one of them, as they will resist temperatures below zero. They are expensive, but they are a healthy investment, and they are also an item that can save your life from freezing.

Survival Gear

When you go camping, hiking or wandering off during the winter, you won’t want only the right clothing or tent, you will want the right equipment for survival. A location beacon is a must in many national parks; they will force you to rent one before you venture yourself into the wild. These beacons are linked to a satellite, so even where there is no phone signal you can activate it, and straight away the park rangers will know your location and come rescue you.

A small pocket knife is also a great item to have. It will allow you to cut ropes, roots, plants, or whatever you might get stuck too. A flashlight is also a must, as during winter the sun comes out later and goes down earlier, you might end up walking in the dark and you’ll want to know your way. A compass is another key feature, you will want to have one with you, as well as knowing how to read it. Walking in the snow can be like walking in the desert, everything looks alike, plus you might end up in a snowstorm or trapped in fog, knowing your way with a compass can save your life.

Best Products on Today’s Market

After looking at the important features to consider before buying any backpacking, winter gear, it’s time to take a look at the best products for the year 2017. Each of the following products is one of the best in its class, as well as most convenient models in their field. And, they will come in handy, as well as keeping you safe and prepared for any winter hike, camping trip or adventure.

Black Diamond Firstlight 2 Person Tent Black Diamond Firstlight 2 Person Tent

Price: $300 – $400 

Weight: 3.5 lb 

Dimensions: 82 x 48 x 42 inches 

Specific features: Space efficient design with Nano shield fabric, mesh pockets, single door entry and optional vestibule for packing gear, mesh panels for ventilation at rear and door. 

Best use: Camping, backpacking, mountaineering 

Description: If you are looking for the tent to own for years without fail to spend considerable amounts of nights in, then go no further than the Black Diamond Firstlight 2 Person Tent. The tent is built to last and it doesn’t leak even when there is a lot of forceful wind and rain. It is also designed to breathe adequately to minimize frost on very cold nights.

With this tent, there is enough room to house two people, but if you choose to go solo, that leaves much space for you to sleep in any position you desire. It is very light and it can easily be set up in a couple of minutes even from the inside.

This helps when you want to put it up in the rain or when you are under attack from mosquitoes.

With its single walled breathable design you can sit comfortably in the tent while it rains continuously outside and not a single drop of water will get in if you can thoroughly seam seal it.

Overall, this tent does very well and it is the preferred choice for many campers as all of its qualities are evident. This tent is a very good example of a mountaineering tent with its easy and quick to set up features. Although a bit heavier than some other types, it offers better snow and wind protection.

PROS:

  • Ideal for alpine conditions
  • Very lightweight, ideal for carrying anywhere
  • The color is easy to distinguish even in snowstorms
  • Very durable 

CONS:

  • Expensive
  • Only for 2 people

Related: The Black Diamond Firstlight Vestibule is an excellent add-on to buy alongside this tent, as it adds a comfortable vestibule where you can keep your bags, or simply have extra space that will be resistant against water, snow or cold.

Check the price on Amazon

Sea To Summit eVent Compression Sack Sea To Summit eVent Compression Sack

Price: $15 – $40

Weight: 1.3 lb

Dimensions: 5 x 14 inches 

Specific features: Heavy-duty 210D PU coated nylon material, nylon webbing pull handle, extra-long straps, 4 straps for even compression.

Best use: Camping, backpacking, traveling. 

Description: The Sea to Summit eVent Compession Sack delivers on its name and it does exactly what it is supposed to do. You can take a huge heap of your personal effects such as clothing or other fluffy objects and cramp them down into about one-third of its original uncompressed size. This comes in very handy when you need to have all your stuff in one backpack.

Funny enough the only real concern with these compression sacks is that with you will probably end up packing way more than you should, as you can compress them into really small sizes, and so you will want to fit too many things and end up carrying a lot more weight than what you initially wanted.

They are made of a water resistant material. Therefore, they are ideal to have during winter activities, as you know that they won’t get wet, they will protect whatever is inside of them. Also, the heavy-duty coated nylon they are made of, is extremely strong, resistant and durable, it won’t get scratched or torn easily by anything.

PROS:

  • Comes in many different sizes
  • Works really well, making everything much more compact
  • Water resistant

CONS:

  • They might end up meaning you pack too much weight, as they create an illusion

Related: The Sea To Summit Lightweight Dry Sack is an excellent product to by with these compression sacks. The Dry Sack is ideal to store valuables such as electronic devices and keep them fully protected against water and snow.

Check the price on Amazon

Victorinox Swiss Army Classic Pocket Knife Victorinox Swiss Army Classic Pocket Knife

Price: $14 – $25 

Weight: 0.1 lb 

Dimensions: 2.3 x 0.4 inches

Specific features: Stainless steel build, built with precision thus highly versatile and compact, lifetime guarantee, multipurpose with 7 functions.

Best use: Camping, traveling, everyday use. 

Description: The Victorinox Swiss Army Classic Pocket Knife is very lightweight and you can carry it with you anywhere. Also very easy to use all of its features. Whether you want to quickly file down a broken nail, cut open a small item with its scissors or tweezing out a small splinter.

This is one of the smallest knives made by Victorinox and it comes with a key ring with which you can easily attach your keys. It is a very compact knife containing a total of 6 equally compact tools. Essentially, this knife was designed to be carried about and to deal with small and lightweight applications.

It comes with features like a small blade, scissors, nail file with screwdriver tip, toothpick, key ring and tweezers.Pretty much anything you might need to fix your bag, cut off some roots, attach extra things, or other small issues that might come along the way, this pocket knife will be able to aid you.

PROS:

  • Excellent durability and quality
  • Portable
  • Not expensive 

CONS:

  • Not really able to help you for serious matters, such as cutting thick things

Related: The Victorinox Toothpick Set is a good idea to buy with this pocket knife. It might sound funny, but it’s very likely that you will lose the toothpick and replacements, for an affordable price, can come in very handy.

Check the price on Amazon

Mammut Ajungilak Sphere Sleeping Bag Mammut Ajungilak Sphere Sleeping Bag

Price: $200 – $400 

Weight: 1.1 lb 

Dimensions: 8.43 x 11.1 x 14.49 inches

Specific features: Windproof and water repellent exterior, contains non-textile parts of animal origin, fits people of up to 195 cm tall, built to hold extreme temperatures.

Best use: Camping, hiking, mountaineering.

Description: The Mammut Ajungilak Sphere Sleeping Bag has been carefully designed to give you top quality protection in tough and severe conditions. Crafted with very high-end materials with attention to every detail, this bag is the ideal choice for all your expedition at high altitudes.

With sleeping bags you need to be sure that it is rated at least 10 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the coldest temperatures anticipated. When you feel it is getting too warm in the bag, you can always vent the bag. However, in alpine and extreme conditions, this bag will only keep you comfortable and cozy. You can even close the zipper almost all the way to the top in order to protect your whole body.

The Mammut bags are cold and winter rated bags supplied with a lot of insulation.it is important to keep the bag as dry as possible so it doesn’t lose its insulating ability, but also because you don’t want to set up camp, get ready to go to bed and find that your sleeping bag is wet or humid and that you will be freezing at night.

PROS:

  • Resists and keeps you warm on extreme alpine conditions
  • Water resistant
  • Closes all the way to the top
  • Very durable 

CONS:

  • Expensive

Related: The Premium Inflating Sleeping Pad is a good idea to buy with any sleeping bag. It will allow you to sleep more comfortable, but also away from the cold floor.

Check the price on Amazon

Equinox Ultralight Marsupial Pouch Equinox Ultralight Marsupial Pouch 

Price: $20 – $25 

Weight: 0.1 lb 

Dimensions: 4 x 5 inches

Specific features: Available in three sizes, made of nylon with a mesh pouch.

Best use: Backpacking, camping, traveling, everyday use. 

Description: For the more organized backpacker and hiker, the Equinox Ultralight Marsupial Pouch offers you a way to effectively organize all of your gear. It is inexpensive and durable and made from high quality material. It is soft, flexible and easy to carry. It even clips onto the bag for easier access.

Having a pouch tends to be an overlooked feature, but it is a great solution for most campers and hikers. Just attach it to the exterior of your backpack, or even to your waist, and be ready to keep with you the valuable items, handy devices such as a locator beacon or a camera, or keep right at arms reach other things that can help you survive, such as knives.

As said above, this is an inexpensive and lightweight item that can make all the difference in the world when it comes to the comfort of carrying things. It is highly recommended.

PROS:

  • Inexpensive
  • Very lightweight
  • Practical 

CONS:

  • Materials are not good quality

Related: The Rain Guard Poncho is a clever item to take with you on winter hikes, it can be carried in the pouch as they are very small, and they can keep you dry.

Check the price on Amazon

Suunto A-10 Field Compass Suunto A-10 Field Compass 

Price: $18 – $25

 Weight: 0.3 lb 

Dimensions: 3 x 3.3 x 7.2 inches

Specific features: Made of durable, clear and scratch resistant acrylic, ergonomic design, fits in the palm, utilizes two zone system for reliable readings in the northern hemisphere.

Best use: Camping, backpacking, hiking.

Description: The Suunto A-10 Field Compass is the budget compass and it serves most of the purposes you require.There are a lot more expensive compasses, but it is not necessary to shell out all that extra cash when the Suunto compass can give you all you need.

It is very durable, lightweight and it is very easy to read. These are pretty much the three characteristics or features that you want in a compass if you are not passionate about them or an expert. You want one that works and that will be easily read, so that if you are caught in a snow storm, surrounded by fog, or walking on a snowy terrain where the path might be covered or hidden, you can take your compass out, read it and actually find your way to your destination.This is also pretty durable for such an affordable compass, it will survive many different trips unless you drop it or break it, but it will work just fine most of the time.

PROS:

  • Very affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to read

CONS:

  • Not very big, some people prefer big compasses with bigger numbers to read them more clearly

Related: The Shoreline Marine Emergency Survival Whistle is an excellent item to pair with the compass. Together, they can keep you on track and calling for help if you need it.

Check the price on Amazon

Mountain Hardwear Phantom Jacket Mountain Hardwear Phantom Jacket

Price: $200 – $400

 Weight: 1.1 lb

 Dimensions: 28 x 16 x 6 inches

Specific features: Built to resist heat-robbing moisture, retains maximum loft even when wet, lightweight and compressible, full, center-front reverse zippers, two large interior mesh drop pockets.

Best use: Hiking, mountaineering, traveling, camping. 

Description: This high loft down jacket was constructed to provide all over warmth and it does very well by eliminating cold spots. The Mountain Hardwear Phantom Jacketis incredibly warm and it is incredibly packable as it can be compressed down small enough to fit into its own pocket. It is also designed with a shield down that is resistant to heat robbing moisture and it thus retains maximum loft.

Another great advantage of this jacket is how lightweight it is. It only weighs 1.1 lb, which means packing it and carrying it on your backpack won’t be an issue at all, but when you wear it, you won’t even feel that you have it on and it will make your walk more enjoyable.

The two large interior pockets that it has, are fantastic. They are big enough to hold in the valuable items, from cameras, to phones or a locator beacon.  Plus, since they are inside, they won’t get wet or won’t be falling down.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Very durable
  • Will keep you pretty warm 

CONS:

  • Particularly expensive
  • Not waterproof

Related:The Adventure World Lightweight Backpack Poncho is what you want to buy with this jacket. Since the jacket is not waterproof, the poncho will take care of that part for you, your jacket and you backpack.

Check the price on Amazon

Grabber Outdoors Hand Warmers Grabber Outdoors Hand Warmers

Price: $3 – $5 

Weight: 0.3 lb 

Dimensions: 9.5 x 9 x 7 inches

Specific features: The grabber warmers are non-toxic, odorless heat sources with natural ingredients, heat source instantly air activated, no shaking necessary, as grabber warmers are pre-mixed.

Best use: Camping, winter walks, everyday use in cold weather 

Description: With the Grabber Outdoors Hand Warmers, you get to move around with the power of heat in your hands. This box of 40 pairs will keep your hands and fingers hot and warm for up to 7 hours.All you have to do is take the gloves out of the box, slap them on and wait a few minutes for the process to start. No need to shake or kneed.

They are odorless, which is a great feature and shouldn’t be underestimated. When it comes to winter, humidity, sweat, and gloves all mixed together, you are very likely to have your clothing pieces smelling really bad, so having items that by default are odorless, is a great advantage. Also, because the moment you take them off, your hands won’t be stinky.

Another important thing to know is that on average, most of the heat of the body is retained by the hand, feet and head, so the better protected you are on those three areas, the warmer your body will be, hence why the hand warmers are so important.

PROS:

  • Extremely affordable
  • Odorless 

CONS:

  • Won’t keep you as warm as you might think

Related: The Grabber Foot Warmers will do the same job as the hand warmers but on the feet.

Check the price on Amazon

LRI FMW Photon Freedom LED Microlight LRI FMW Photon Freedom LED Microlight

Price: $12 – $17 

Weight: 0.1lb 

Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 1 inches

Specific features: Adjustable brightness, different safety modes, replaceable battery, 24K gold plated contacts

Best use: Camping, traveling. 

Description: The LRI FMW Photon Freedom LED Microlight is an advanced product from the leaders in the industry, Micro Light Technology. Manufactured in the United States, they feature the brightest LEDs in the world with advanced circuitry. The photon micro-lights are approximately the size and weight as a US quarter and they are available in a variety of colored LEDs including ultraviolet and infrared.

This keychain may seem as a not very useful item, but you will be surprised. First of all, it can be attached not only to valuables as to locate them much quicker, but also, to any zipper of any bag. Then, you can use it at night time to find things, or to look inside your bag and look for things you might have lost in there. It is an inexpensive item, very small and almost weightless, that can come in handy and useful when you least expect it, and we highly recommend items like this one.

PROS:

  • Inexpensive
  • Very lightweight
  • Handy to find things and illuminate inside bags or in small areas 

CONS:

  • Battery loses charge very quickly

Related: The Nite Ize Keychain is an excellent add-on to this micro light keychain. It is another keychain, but different in purpose, as it works as a cutter, wrench and even bottle opener, and one can be attached to the other.

Check the price on Amazon

Black Diamond Snaggletooth Pro Crampons Black Diamond Snaggletooth Pro Crampons

Price: $150 – $220 

Weight: 2.53 lb 

Dimensions:15 x 5 x 5 inches

Specific features: Unique horizontal monopoint, lightweight stainless steel construction, precision fit, front and rear dual density ABS.

Best use: Camping, hiking, mountaineering, alpine routing.

Description:  The Black Diamond Snaggletooth Pro Crampons provides all the stability and bite you will need on both steep ice and low angle neve. Its stainless steel construction features a strong and lightweight build with a rocker in front to accommodate modern mountain boots.The stainless steel construction will ensure you that they will last forever, as well as being extremely reliable especially in ice, snow or any cold temperature or winter environment.

This is the sort of item that you want to have to keep yourself safe. We talked about additional gear that can make a big difference in safety during winter hikes or adventure; this is one of those items. You don’t want to slip or fall down on slipper ice or snow, especially if you are walking on a very narrow trail on the side of a very steep mountain.

PROS:

  • Excellent quality and durability
  • Lightweight

CONS:

  • Expensive
  • Not useful for every occasion, only for extreme hiking

Related: The Black Diamond Raven Ice Pick is the perfect partner for these, as it is intended for extreme hikers, campers or alpine enthusiasts. With the crampons and the ice pick, you’ll be safe anywhere.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up 

As you are well aware of by now, winter is harsh and you have shorter spans of daylight to work with so after you must have painstakingly selected and packed all of your gear and made all the necessary preparations, you must be wary of all of the dangers and be prepared to deal with them accordingly. One of the things you should be most careful about is hypothermia.

winter backpackers

You can’t go wrong if you follow all the tips and equip yourself with this gear mentioned above. What’s more is you don’t have to spend all of your savings to get them. Many of these products can fit into anyone’s budget, allowing you to get the most value from your purchase. Just make sure you also take care and make safe decisions.

What has been your best winter backpacking and camping experience? Did we miss any piece of gear that you find indispensable? Please share your stories, opinions or questions in the comments section below; we’d really like to hear from you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jerry Mueller

Jerry Mueller

Jerry ‘Boy Scout’ Mueller spends 99% of his time camping or teaching others how to live in the wild. He became an Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting division when he was 17 and after that he still lives the scout life. Jerry always plans neatly every trip, takes leadership very seriously and if you listen to his tips and stories, you can learn tons of useful things.