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The 11 Best Pieces of Winter Hiking Gear for Hitting the Trail

There are plenty of reasons to hit the trail during the winter. Frosty temperatures usually mean trails are less crowded, and a blanket of snow can change the whole aesthetic of a hike – and make the landscape exceptionally photogenic. Another bonus, hiking in the snow is a serious workout.

But, cold weather also brings a whole new set of challenges for hikers. Winter treks can involve navigating precarious stretches of snow and ice, braving bone-chilling conditions, and being prepared for rapidly fluctuating weather. Here are a few key pieces of gear to help keep you safe and comfortable on frosty winter hikes.

Darn Tough Mountaineering Socks

Darn Tough Mountaineering Socks.

No matter the season, keeping your feet happy is a priority on any hike – and that means choosing the right socks is essential. On icy winter outings, help ensure your feet stay toasty with a pair of Mountaineering Micro Crew Heavyweight Hiking Socks from Darn Tough. Crafted using a blend of thermoregulating merino wool, nylon, and Lycra, the heavyweight socks wick moisture and reduce odors, while also providing plenty of warmth. For long-haul hikes, the seamless toe and generous heel cushioning provide plenty of comfort, and ribbing above the ankle keeps socks from bunching and helps to prevent blisters. And, the socks come with Darn Tough’s unconditional lifetime guarantee — so they’ll be around for plenty of winter adventures.

Kahtoola EXOspikes Footwear Traction

Kahtoola EXOspikes Footwear Traction.

From packed snow to frictionless patches of ice to craggy beds of rock, trail conditions can change quickly on a winter hike. Be prepared for all types of dicey terrain with Kahtoola’s EXOspikes Footwear Traction System. For exceptional stability and grip, the innovative system features a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) matrix outfitted with a trifecta of traction, including a dozen tungsten carbide tips per foot to dig into ice and snow, aluminum steps to provide grip on uneven patches of ground, and lugs to burrow into shifting surfaces. And for comfort, the highly malleable thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) foot harness fits a wide variety of boots and running shoes. The traction system is also tough enough for regular winter use, from snowy walks in the neighborhood with your favorite pooch to icy morning trail runs.

HeatBank 9s Rechargeable Hand Warmer

HeatBank 9s Rechargeable Hand Warmer.

On long winter treks, sometimes even the best gloves don’t cut it. Thaw out icy digits with the Zippo’s HeatBank 9s Rechargeable Hand Warmer. Weighing in at just 5.5 ounces, the pocket-sized hand warmer offers nine hours of warmth on the trail, with six different heat settings to keep you comfortable (topping out at 140 degrees F). Another bonus, the HeatBank also doubles as a charger for USB-compatible devices, so you can charge your smartphone while you’re defrosting your fingers.

Hydro Flask Standard Mouth Water Bottle

Hydro Flask Standard Mouth Water Bottle.

A hot beverage can be a real morale booster on snowy adventures – so treat yourself on the trail with the Hydro Flask Standard Mouth Water Bottle. The perfect cold-weather-companion, the vacuum-insulated bottle keeps drinks hot for as long as 12 hours, so that hot chocolate will still be steaming when you need it. The stainless steel bottle is BPA-free and bacteria-resistant, and Hydro Flask’s unique powder coat is easy to grip – even with icy fingers.

 SOL Emergency Blanket

 SOL Emergency Blanket.

On a winter hike, being prepared for extreme weather is essential. And for emergencies, a featherweight Emergency Blanket from SOL is worth bringing on any winter adventure. Weighing just 2.9 ounces, the ultralight blanket reflects 90% of your radiated body heat, and in gnarly conditions, the tear-resistant HeatSheets material blocks both wind and rain. And for backcountry emergencies, the blanket’s bright orange exterior is also easy to spot.

Outdoor Research Crocodile GORE-TEX Gaiters

Outdoor Research Crocodile GORE-TEX Gaiters.

On snowy winter hikes, a pair of gaiters can be a lifesaver. And, in extreme conditions, the Crocodile GORE-TEX Gaiters from Outdoor Research provide a reliable buffer from snow and debris – keeping your boots drier, and your feet happier. A blend of GORE-TEX and nylon ensures the gaiters offer breathable protection against water and wind, while abrasion-resistant Cordura and triple-bartacked BioThane webbing guarantee the aptly named Crocodiles are tough enough to handle anything you encounter on a winter trek, from knee-deep slogs through the snow to icy stream crossings.

Bare Republic Mineral SPF 50 Sport Sunscreen Stick

Bare Republic Mineral SPF 50 Sport Sunscreen Stick.

While the chances of being scorched by harmful Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are greater during the summer, there’s still a risk of getting a blistering sunburn during the winter. In particular, snow can reflect as much as 80% of the sun’s ultraviolet light, meaning you can get a double dose of sun on a winter hike. Protect yourself with Bare Republic’s Mineral SPF 50 Spot Sunscreen Stick. The zinc oxide-based formula provides broad-spectrum protection against Ultraviolet A (UVA) and UVB rays, without parabens or chemicals. And, the palm-sized stick goes on sheer and is easy to stash in your backpack or pocket.

HydraPak HydraSleeve Reservoir 3L

HydraPak HydraSleeve Reservoir 3L.

Staying hydrated is just as important on winter hikes – so make it easy with the HydraPak HydraSleeve. More innovative than a standard hydration bladder, the reservoir is designed for year-round use, with an insulated drink tube, internal foam insulation, and a heat-reflective liner to help keep liquids from freezing. The insulating ripstop nylon sleeve also provides a layer of abrasion resistance, making the hydration system sturdy enough for any rough-and-tumble winter adventure — from day hikes to ski tours.

SunSki Treeline Sunglasses

SunSki Treeline Sunglasses.

It may seem counterintuitive, but sunglasses are also crucial for colder months – especially in the snow. Intense overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause photokeratitis, also known as snow blindness, a condition that can cause painful damage to your corneas. Ensure your eyes are protected on winter adventures with Sunski’s Treeline Sunglasses. Inspired by the iconic glacier goggles worn by mountaineers, the Treelines feature polarized lenses and detachable magnetic side shields for added protection from the debilitating glare cast by snow or ice. Made from recycled plastic, the shades are also stylish enough to wear for post-hike libations – and they’re backed up for life by Sunski’s Forever Warranty.

Black Diamond Spot 350 Headlamp

Black Diamond Spot 350 Headlamp.

Winter means less daylight – and sometimes, hikes go longer than expected, and the sunset sneaks up on you. To avoid getting caught in the dark at the tail end of a hike, toss a headlamp in your pack just in case. And, for winter excursions, Black Diamond’s Spot 350 Headlamp is worth its weight. The three-ounce headlamp packs 35 lumens of brightness – and comes with plenty of intuitive perks. Two different beams and six different settings make it easy to adjust the brightness level to suit your activity, whether your need a broad beam to scan the trail for critters or a narrow beam to sift through gear in your pack. There are other innovative touches, too. Brightness Memory allows you to maintain your chosen light setting, even after turning the lamp off, and Power Tap Technology allows for instant adjustments. And, sleet and soggy snowflakes are no match for the Spot 350, while the IPX8 waterproof casing ensures the headlamp will still work even if submerged in a meter of water for 30 minutes.

Ruffwear Vert Dog Jacket

Ruffwear Vert Dog Jacket.

Of course, your favorite four-legged adventure buddy also needs to be comfortable on frosty winter hikes. Enter Ruffwear’s Vert Dog Jacket. A windproof and waterproof shell crafted from 70 denier nylon ripstop and 30 denier polyester provides protection from icy gusts and wet snow, while recycled polyester insulation keeps your pup toasty on the trail. For adjustments on the go, side-release buckles make the jacket easy to tighten or remove, and the handy leash portal makes the coat compatible with a harness. In extreme weather, the elastic leg loop can be used to keep the coat in place, while the oversized collar provides added protection – and plenty of style.

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