Lifestyle, Outdoor Adventures

Essential Gear for Winter Hiking in Colorado

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 pieces of gear to keep you warm and comfortable for your winter hike.

1. What to Wear – Layers, Layers, Layers!

Dressing in layers is one of the most important aspects of winter hiking to keep you dry, warm, and comfortable while on the trail. 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 necessary as they hike. At any stopping point, hikers might add layers back on as their bodies cool from sweat and staying in place, especially if it’s windy.

  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 could be a fleece, and layer two could be a light-down or synthetic puffy jacket. As you continue to hike your body temperature naturally rises, so shedding a few layers at a time is ideal. Make sure to shed before you begin sweating, so your clothes stay dry and comfortable.
  3. External Shell: Waterproof shells protects each layer from any external moisture like snow blowing from the wind. Windproof shells also help to block the wind passing through each layer, causing a chill, so it’s important to 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 it with wind and snow flurries, so it’s best to come prepared with the proper layers.

2. Hats & Gloves

Part of your layering process should include a beanie and gloves or mittens. The mountains can be cold and keeping your head and ears covered will absolutely make a difference in your warmth and comfort while hiking in the winter! In some cases, bringing hand warmers or feet warmers can be essential to keeping you warm and a good rule of thumb is to keep some handy in your pack just in case.

We love these G’Day Beanies for staying warm on and off the trail in the winter. They’re available in 3 colors: maroon, black, and blue.

3. Insulated Water Bottle

Hydration is key and an insulated water bottle is essential for winter hiking! In our 10 Tips For Your Winter Adventure, we highlighted tips on why to use an insulated bottle vs a bladder when hiking in the winter. Besides water freezing easier in a bladder system, 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!

The Vintage Sunset Mountain Tumbler is our go-to for hot trail bevvies! Fill up the 20oz tumbler with your favorite tea or coffee and enjoy the warmth at the end of your hike.

4. Winter Hiking Boots

Cold feet is an instant mood killer on a hike. Keeping your feet warm with waterproof hiking boots, wool socks, and toe warmers is key. In addition to waterproof boots, we suggest renting or buying microspikes, or crampons for snow packed 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. Crampons are small spikes you attach to the bottom of your boots to prevent you from slipping in those sneaky icy spots while snowshoes allow you to float above the powdery fluff and even trek off trail.

5. Day Pack

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 those layers, where will you put them? Carrying them in your arms will get old fast. So, bring a light waterproof daypack to carry the load!

6. Emergency Kit

Because you never know what can happen in the moutains. Always be prepared. Here are a few handy things to consider also know as the 10 essentials (we highly, highly suggest carrying these at all times year round).

  • 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 winter hiking gear essentials helps you feel just a bit more prepared for your 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.


Related Posts