Clothing and gear tips for winter hiking

If you love hiking, you should be looking forward to winter. Now, before you think that’s crazy, here are some good reasons why winter is really a great time to hike.

First of all, you don’t have to wake up at 5am just so to the start of the trail before the sun is high in the sky. Your favourite trails are likely to be less crowded, and you can finally try those routes that don’t have enough shade to be enjoyable in midsummer. And, can we just mention how delicious a flask full of hot chocolate tastes when you stop for a break?

Of course, it can get a bit nippy. And, if you’re in the Western Cape, a bit wet too sometimes. But, if you kit up with the right clothes, and pack a few key pieces of gear, you’ll be ready to discover just how much fun it is to hike in winter. Here’s what you need.


The right layers

You probably already know that you should never hike without a warm top, even in summer. But, in winter, you’ll want to take this further and dress like an onion. This means wearing a moisture wicking base layer, an insulated layer (fleece or down) and a waterproof shell. You can remove layers or add them as you need. If you’re somewhere really cold, consider wearing thermal underwear or warm fleece-lined pants. Remember to avoid cotton clothing.


Warm and waterproof footgear

In summer, lots of people like to hike in lightweight trail shoes. But, in winter, it’s best to stick with proper hiking boots with breathable waterproof outers. You should also switch out your summer hiking socks for heavier wool-blend socks. One of the key benefits of woolen socks is that they stay warm even if they do get wet.


Protect your head and hands

You lose a lot of heat through your head, so pack a warm beanie as well as your usual sunhat. If you wear a beanie, remember to apply extra sunblock – the winter sun can still burn. Keep your hands warm by wearing lightweight gloves with special touch-screen compatible pads, so you don’t need to take them off to use your phone. A polar buff is also a great idea, as it can double as either a warm hat or snuggly neck protection.


A thermos flask

You’re not a proper hiker unless you believe in taking a tea break. In winter, a hot drink will warm you up and keep you motivated to carry on. Get a good quality stainless steel flask that’s unbreakable and it will be your best winter hiking buddy for years to come.


Safety gear

Since winter weather can be harsh, it’s all the more reason to carry basic safety gear with you when you hike. We recommend that you always pack a headlamp, a first aid kit, a firestarter or waterproof matches, a pocket knife, and an emergency blanket.


Built-in rain cover

Be sure to use a backpack that comes with a rain cover for winter hikes. Rain covers weigh almost nothing, but provide great peace of mind that your gear will stay dry if it rains.


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