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The Essential Winter Hiking Checklist

May 19, 2015
The Essential Winter Hiking Checklist

Hiking is just walking in the wilderness, right? Well yeah, that might be true, but it’s probably not a good idea to head straight into the bush in only your trainers and a pair of track pants – this isn’t bikram.

Winter is well and truly upon us, and whereas hot yoga is looking attractive for the first time all year, heading outdoors can be challenging for many. But don't let the cold deter you! You just need to make sure you are prepared for all conditions. Before you go gallivanting in the wild outdoors, there are a few things you might consider packing. Here at Outdoria, we’ve compiled a helpful packing list for winter and for anyone who is new to the world of hiking who can’t be bothered writing one them self (which is basically everyone).

Bear in mind this list is just a rough guide. Depending on your location, you may need to add or remove items to suit your planned route.


One of the most important pieces of equipment you can take with you into the outdoors, your pack is going to carry everything else for you, so it’s a good idea to get one that is comfortable and that is the right size for the job. When purchasing a pack, retailers can help you adjust it to fit you just right. This step is crucial as the strain your gear can put on your back can have a prolonged negative impact on your muscles and ligaments if worn incorrectly.

Make sure you also pick up a water proof pack cover to ensure your sandwiches stay dry, and your scroggin, crunchy.


Hiking in winter demands that you wear the right clothing. Hypothermia is a very real risk if you don’t take the proper precautions. It’s a good idea to wear multiple layers of clothing that you can remove and add easily so as to allow for changes in your core temperature as you hike.

Essential winter clothing items include:

  • Boots - Sturdy hiking boots can mean the difference between an enjoyable hike and a regretful one. They are designed to keep your feet warm and dry, but also breathe so your feet don’t get too sweaty. Arch support and a solid toe construction aids with the climb and protects you from tumbling rocks or the occasional misplaced step.

  • Thermal underclothes - Designed specifically to keep you warm and to absorb sweat to help keep your skin dry. Thermals should be worn on your upper and lower body and a thermal hat isn’t a bad idea either.

  • Fleece/woollen jumper - Either a synthetic or wool jumper is key as they are light but incredibly warm.

  • Hooded waterproof/windproof outer shell- A great range of jackets is available and is designed to be light and compact so you can easily roll them up and pack away if they turn out to be unnecessary.

  • Lightweight zip off pants - There is a number of different kinds of pants designed specifically with the hiker in mind. It might just be too cold to wear shorts by this point, so you’d better get a pair of nifty pants that function as both. Hiking pants are usually constructed from breathable yet water resistant material keeping you warm enough but also dry if the heavens open up on you.

  • Breathable top/bottoms - Good to have a change of (non-thermal) shirt and pants in case you get rained on or your sweat dries making you cold.

  • Socks (x3) - Keep a couple of pairs of socks with you of different thicknesses so that you can change them if they get sweaty or if your feet get too hot. Two good pairs of thick woollen socks and a lighter pair of breathable liner socks is a good combo. Look after your feet on the trail and they’ll get you there and back again.

  • Gloves - If you are planning on hiking in alpine regions, a pair of ski gloves could be necessary on your adventure. Otherwise, a sturdy pair of woollen/synthetic gloves will get you through most situations keeping your extremities warm. Remember your hands, feet and head feel the cold first so keep them warm to keep your energy levels high.

  • Sunglasses - It’s not always gloomy in winter and indeed there can be a real glare about. Keep a pair of sunnies in your pack to help take care of some of the liht, especially if you are planning on hiking near snow which intensifies the sun’s rays.

  • Scarf/Balaclava - As a precaution, keep something on you to cover up those areas of skin that often feel the bite if left unattended.


There are a few essentials that you should always keep in your day pack when hitting the trail.

  • Pocket knife/multi-tool - There is a good chance you won’t need one of these, but they can be invaluable if you have trouble with gear, or need to build a temporary shelter. They have so many uses it would be ridiculous to list them all here, but you never know when you might need that reusable tooth pick…

  • Waterproof matches - For starting fires. Just be sure you are doing so legally. Check the restrictions for lighting fires along your trail and abide by them at all times or you might find yourself in trouble with the ranger.

  • Hiking Poles - Although they are not essential in order to go hiking, a lot of people use them once and never go back. Providing balance over uneven terrain or on narrow trails, hiking poles also have built in suspension that helps take weight of your back and legs as you climb and descend along the trail.

  • Thermos - Take a hot drink with you! A cup of tea, hot chocolate or coffee is not only delicious but can give your spirits that much needed boost when it gets really cold.

  • Torch/head torch - Find your way as the sun goes down.


  • First Aid Kit - Make sure you have a complete kit with you at all times. Accidents can happen when you are hiking on uneven terrain so be sure that you can look after yourself or your friends and family until help arrives if need be.

  • Sunscreen - Look after your skin, you might just be in the sun for hours at a time depending on where you are hiking.

  • Insect repellent - Keep the little biters at bay.

  • Water - Take plenty of water with you and drink often. When it’s cold we often don’t realise just how much we are sweating and have a tendency to neglect our hydration levels. Some packs such as ‘Camelbaks’ have hydration units installed for ease of use and are perfect for hiking.

  • Food- Keep your energy levels high by eating small amounts often. Foods high in carbohydrates are great and a bit of sugar never hurt for that added boost (you’re burning it off anyway). Scroggin or trail mix is a hiking staple for a reason. It is a delicious mix of nuts, dried fruit and chocolate: an excellent combination of fats, carbs and sugars.

  • Rope - You never know when you might need some rope: string up a temporary shelter, or tie a safety line between you and your buddy if things get really steep.


  • Rubbish bag - For your food wrappers and any rubbish you might take in with you. Take out what you take in leaving no trace; that way the trails will be accessible for years to come.

  • Money/I.D./Insurance information - Always good to have these on you in case you run in to trouble, or in case you stumble across a local selling souvenirs (if you’ve hiked the great wall you’ll know what I’m talking about).

  • Camera - Keep a record of your adventures.

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