Outdoor Adventures

6 Winter Hike Essentials

Many people are visiting Colorado from out of town this time of year to see family or friends, get away from the hustle and bustle, and to have a great holiday vacation. If you’re one of them, welcome to our beautiful backyard playground where there is endless fun to be had! Below are some key essentials for your winter hike.

1. Layers, Layers, Layers

Dressing in layers is one of the most important aspects of adventuring in Colorado, especially in the winter. We suggest a base-layer, mid-layer, and a waterproof – windproof external shell. Typically hikers begin with all of their layers and slowly shed as they hike. At a stopping point, hikers begin to layer back up as their bodies cool from resting.

  1. Base-layer: Your base layer should include moisture-wicking material such as Synthetics or Merino Wool. This is the thin layer that traps in heat while also absorbing moisture as you begin to sweat. Avoid cotton as much as possible because it holds onto moisture.
  2. Mid-layer: Next is your mid-layer. Depending on the temperature you may want to break this is into two layers. Layer one would be a fleece, and layer two is a light-down or synthetic puffy jacket. As you continue to hike your body temperature naturally rises, so shedding a few at a time is ideal. Make sure to shed before you begin sweating.
  3. External Shell: Waterproof shells protects each layer from any external moisture such as snow blowing from the wind. Windproof shells block the wind passing through each layer, causing a chill. Always bring an external shell. Weather is unpredictable in Colorado, no matter how the day starts, it can change within minutes. If you begin your hike on a calm, bluebird day: you may end the hike with wind and snow flurries.

2. Hats & Gloves

Part of your layering process should include a beanie and gloves or mittens. The mountains can be cold. I am not sure how much heat actually escapes from your ears, but covering them up absolutely makes a difference! In some cases, bringing hand warmers or feet warmers are necessary (probably a good rule is to always have warmers in your pack).

3. Insulated Water Bottle

Hydration is key! In our 10 Tips For Your Winter Adventure, we highlighted some tips on why to use an insulated bottle vs a bladder when hiking in the winter. Besides water freezing easier, an insulated water bottle keeps your liquid warm for much longer. For example, our custom-designed Klean Kanteen tumblers can keep 12 ounces of water hot for 11 hours. Picture yourself reaching the top of your hike with 360 views of snowcapped mountains, sipping on hot chocolate, all bundled up. Yup, we wouldn’t have it any other way!

4. Winter Foot Gear

Cold feet is an instead mood buster. Keeping your feet warm with waterproof boots, wool socks, and some toe warmers is key, always. In addition to waterproof boots, we suggest renting (if you’re from out of town) microspikes, or crampons for packed snow trails. If there is deep fluffy snow, go for snowshoes! You can rent these from many locations for a few hours or an entire day. Rental locations include Feral, Jax Outdoor Gear, REI, and Christy Sports, just to name a few. Crampons are small spikes you attach to the bottom of your boots to prevent you from slipping in those sneaky icy spots.

5. Day Pack

Many newbies forget this one. Each hiker should carry their own daypack for every winter adventure. This pack may start pretty empty because you have all the layers on, but the moment you start shedding these layers, where will you put them? Carrying them in your arms sounds plain awful. So, bring a light waterproof daypack for the win! Start with your water, snacks, and outer shell, and slowly fill it as you go!

6. Emergency Kit

Because you never know what could happen in the moutains. Always be prepared. Here are a few handy things to consider (highly, highly suggest).

  • Hydration (water)
  • Navigation (map or GPS)
  • Insulation (appropriate clothes for the weather)
  • Fire (lighter or matches)
  • First aid kit
  • Illumination (flashlight or headlamp)
  • Emergency shelter
  • Nutrition (extra food)
  • Repair kit/tools (knife, multi-tool, paracord)
  • Sun protection (sunscreen and sunglasses)

Hopefully, this quick list of essentials helps you feel just a bit more prepared for your winter hike! For more helpful tips as you prepare for your trip, read our 10 Tips for Your Winter Adventure. Learn about winter driving, altitude sickness, wildlife, trail etiquette, and much more.

The featured image was taken by local designer Danni Switzer at Rocky Mountain National Park.


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