Some of the most scenic hiking can be done during the springtime when flowers are blooming, or during the fall when the leaves are turning beautiful colors.
However, hiking during these times of the year, or at higher elevations, can be quite chilly, with temperatures reaching down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Knowing how to dress properly for hiking expeditions in colder weather can make the hike much more comfortable and enjoyable.
Forty degrees Fahrenheit is chilly, but as you hike, your body temperature will increase, and you’ll feel warmer.
In addition, if you start your hike in the morning, the air temperature will gradually become warmer as the day goes by.
For these reasons, dressing in layers is often the best option.
As you hike, your body sends blood, and therefore extra warmth, to your legs. This means that your legs will most likely feel warmer than your upper body.
For particularly chilly or windy hikes, however, you may still want to consider wearing two layers on your lower body.
The first should be a thin, warm, moisture-wicking layer, such as leggings, over which you can wear more weather-resistant pants.
On the upper body, wear either a short-sleeved t-shirt or a thin long-sleeved shirt as your first layer. This layer should fit snuggly and help to draw moisture away from your skin.
A slightly heavier shirt, sweater, or hoodie is a good option for a warm mid-layer. What you wear will depend on your own personal temperature comfort level.
A heavier jacket can be worn over this layer.
Always choose clothing that’s comfortable and allows you plenty of freedom of movement.
Hiking often requires wide strides or climbing, so wear clothing that doesn’t restrict you in any way.
Choose Moisture-Wicking Fabrics
As you hike, particularly if the hike is strenuous, you’ll begin to sweat. Sweat is designed to cool the body through evaporation, and this can happen even in cold weather, making you feel much colder than you would otherwise.
Fabrics that wick away moisture and keep it off your skin, however, can help to reduce this process.
Synthetic fabrics are often some of the best choices when it comes to moisture-wicking properties.
These fabrics are specifically designed to move moisture away from the body, keeping you warmer, drier, and more comfortable.
If you’re looking for a natural option, however, merino wool is a good choice. This warm material wicks moisture away quickly and also offers excellent protection from the elements.
Cotton is not a good choice when hiking in cold weather, as it holds on to moisture. Try to avoid wearing any cotton clothing, including socks and underwear.
Consider the Weather
If you know that the weather is going to be sunny all day, you may want to consider a breathable outer layer.
If air can move through this layer, your other clothes are less likely to retain moisture, which in turn helps you stay warmer.
However, if there’s a possibility of precipitation, or if the wind is strong, choose a durable outer layer, such as a windbreaker or parka.
A weatherproof outer layer will protect you from any moisture and stop the wind from penetrating your clothes, and this will lead to a warmer hike overall.
Remember that if you’re hiking up a slope or if your path takes you higher in elevation, the weather can change as you go.
You may want to start with a breathable outer layer but carry a windbreaker in your backpack for any weather shifts.
Choose Good Hiking Boots
The right hiking boots are always an important choice, regardless of the air temperature.
However, particular care should be taken when choosing boots for hiking in the cold. Not only should your boots be durable and have good treads, but they should be well insulated so that they keep your feet warm.
Cold feet will start to hurt much sooner than warm feet. The liners should also be removable, in case you get them wet.
Wet liners can be taken out and dried either at a campfire or in the sun.
Waterproof boots are also an excellent choice in colder temperatures, as you can safely hike through any snow or ice you might encounter.
Don’t Forget a Hat
A hat and other accessories are essential parts of a cold-weather hiking wardrobe.
A knit hat or beanie is great for helping you stay warm, and if you become too warm while hiking, it can be easily tucked into a pocket or backpack.
You’ll also want to wear a good pair of warm gloves. As you hike in the cold, your body will send blood away from your hands, towards your vital organs and legs.
This means your fingers can become cold very quickly. Gloves not only help to keep your hands warm, but they can offer some protection if you need to grab onto rocks or trees while hiking.
It might seem like any socks will do for hiking, but in colder weather, you might want to consider layering.
A thin pair of socks will help to wick away moisture, while a thicker pair, worn over the thin pair, will keep your feet much warmer.
If you get too warm, you can take off the first pair and tuck them in your backpack.
Finally, don’t forget to wear or bring along a pair of sunglasses.
Although sunglasses feel like summer accessories, the sun is still bright in cold weather, and any glare from patches of snow can damage your eyes.