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Winter Hiking 101 (w/ Visual Gear Guide!)


Wintertime in the NY/NJ area brings below-freezing temps, gathering snow, pockets of ice…the works!

While these conditions are very challenging, they don’t mean you have to suffer through months of cabin fever before getting back on the trail. With the right preparation and equipment, you can still have an exceptionally wonderful winter adventure! Take a look at the following winter hiking tips and discover how you, too, can explore the outdoors this season.*

*Disclaimer: The following tips are mere suggestions and will not guarantee safety. Be sure to know your limits before getting on the trail in wintry conditions.

Tip 1 – Proper Clothing:

  • Check the weather forecast BEFORE setting out to know what conditions to expect.

  • NO, I repeat, NO COTTON! Synthetic materials are best and will keep you warmest.

  • Wear layers – from the base to the inner to the outer

  • Cover yourself head to toe – From a hat & gloves, to Smartwool socks

  • Dress to stay dry with water resistant outer layers. Once you’re wet, you’re cold!

  • Carry a change of clothes, just in case.

  • Don’t overdress! If you sweat excessively, you risk hypothermia.

Tip 2 – Proper Footwear:

  • Match your footwear to your activity – snow boots are NOT hiking boots!

  • When snow is deep, don't be a posthole - wear snowshoes.

  • Respect ice. Learn to use traction devices before you find yourself needing them.

  • Know what trail conditions to expect BEFORE setting out. If you need to switch between snowshoes and crampons, your time out on the trail will be much longer than if you're just snowshoeing.

Tip 3 – Food/Water:

  • Place foodstuffs within inner pockets to prevent freezing.

  • Insulate your water source to prevent freezing.

  • Bring calorically dense foods e.g. energy bars, nuts.

  • Bring along a stove to prepare a hot beverage to warm you up from the inside.

  • Drink before you're thirsty; eat before you're hungry.

Tip 4 – Get Oriented:

  • Check out the area BEFORE you go. Look over a map BEFORE you hit the trail.

  • Don't rely on others - Know where YOU are & where YOU’re going.

  • Carry a map and compass

  • If you think you’re lost, don't panic! Stay calm, signal for help, and stay put while you make a plan.

Above all else, make sure to tell someone where you’ll be hiking, as well as when you plan to return. In fact, this is a good idea no matter the season!

Recommended Basic Winter Hiking Gear:


>> Stick with gear that is highly rated, moisture-wicking, water resistant, and synthetic. Do your research!

Keep in mind these tips are meant for every-day hikes, not mountaineering, so don’t go tryin’ to conquer Mount Marcy with these tips alone! Start small and learn your limits before attempting longer jaunts outside during winter. I, myself, am still learning the ropes, but hope to get a deeper understanding of winter hiking this season. I’ve found the more time you spend exploring in the cold, the more you understand what you personally need for an enjoyable hike ;)

Have a tip you’d like to add? Share it in the comments below!

Other helpful guides for further information:

Winter Hiking Tips from

VIDEO: Winter Hiking Tips from the NYNJTC and Unboring Exploring

Stay Comfortable in Cold Weather from Backpacker

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