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How to Pack the Essential Winter Hiking Gear

The most intrepid explorers lasted because they planned for the worst. Pack the essential winter hiking gear so that you don't have to worry when it's just you and the elements.


  • Step 1: Wear layers Plan to wear several layers to trap heat your body is generating and to stay cozy. Supply yourself with a thermal underwear base, a second layer of micro-fleece, and a wind and waterproof outer layer.
  • Step 2: Remember scarf and mittens Pack essential winter hiking clothing, a warm hat, and a scarf to prevent warm air escaping from the head or openings around the neck of the coat. Choose mittens to keep the fingers together and warmer.
  • TIP: When layers are too loose and separate, any movement acts on the spaces like a bellows and releases warm air. Like a vacuum, this draws in the cold.
  • Step 3: Stock synthetics Stock synthetic shirts, pants, and socks -- to be worn under wool ones -- that dry fast. Cotton absorbs up to 60 percent of its weight in water, so you need a material that keeps your skin dry and contains the heat.
  • Step 4: Find gaiters Help protect your feet further by finding a quality pair of gaiters to guard against getting a shoe full of snow when you misjudge the depth of a drift.
  • Step 5: Select snowshoes and poles Select strong but lightweight aluminum snowshoes to stay on top of the snow pack and add cleats for the toe and heel for the best traction in rough terrain. Snow poles may help your balance and aid in pushing off.
  • TIP: Let people know where you're going to be, even if you're confident of handling the risks.
  • Step 6: Make a list Make a list of essentials to complete your packing for survival in uncertain weather. Include a map, compass, and sunglasses for blinding snow in bright sun. Keep a fully charged cellphone in a pocket and stuff snacks and bottled water in the backpack.
  • Step 7: Add a first aid kit Add a first-aid kit including bandages, ointment, and sunscreen. Don't forget a lighter, flashlight, cookware, knife, and toilet paper. With a warm sleeping bag, plastic insulator, and a small shovel, you're ready to brave the the cold winter nights.
  • FACT: As of 2010, the coldest temperature ever recorded was minus 129 degrees Fahrenheit in Antarctica in July 1983.

You Will Need

  • Layers
  • Warm clothing
  • Synthetics
  • Gaiters
  • Snowshoes and cleats
  • Poles
  • Essentials
  • Cellphone
  • First-aid kit

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