We’ve seen a few snowflakes recently so thought it high time to give you my winter hiking clothes round-up. (Mainly because all public transport will probably grind to a halt and you’ll be walking to work.)
It’s a no holds barred review, so if any of my winter hiking clothes were pants, so to speak, I’ve said so. Most of it was used for half a year on my 3,500-mile hike through Britain. The kit comes in men’s versions, too, though I’m not so sure about the bra and fleece tights…
Winter Hiking Clothes – Jackets
Montane Phoenix Insulated Jacket – £100
Love, love, love this jacket for winter hiking. It uses PrimaLoft ThermoPlume which in layman’s terms is synthetic insulation. That means it performs when wet and dries out far faster than down and is windproof. It has ribbed sections to keep the PrimaLoft in place but on my jacket there was less padding on the shoulders – either a fault or deliberate for when you wear a backpack. The downside to that, though, was my shoulders felt cold at night when camping in freezing temps. But if you’re just looking for a winter hiking jacket it shouldn’t be an issue as your momentum will keep you warm. I was never too hot in the Montane Phoenix when hiking in winter and could layer up with my Icebreaker top and a fleece beneath it when needed.
The hem, cuffs and hood are elasticated around the edges but there are no cords on the hood, but this surprisingly worked well throughout my winter hikes as it never blew down. There’s a chin guard so the zip doesn’t rub you and two hand pockets. The zip is one-way, if it had been two-way the jacket would have been absolutely perfect. In terms of drying, it got soaked on many occasions due to my waterproofs not performing, but with my body heat and the wind or sun on it, it’d dry out in a few hours.
+ windproof, comfy, warm, durable, dries quickly, regular sizing
– reduced padding on shoulders
Mammut Pike Jacket – £80
My Mammut Pike jacket features Pertex Quantum nylon to keep the wind at bay and is a great autumn piece or in addition to a thicker winter walking jacket. The Mammut Pike has a large hood (no drawcords) and two zipped pockets. The main zip is two-way and occasionally needs a bit of assistance to get it in the right track to fasten, but beyond that, there are no qualms at all. Size-wise, Mammut seems to be on the big size, so think about dropping down a size if need be. Thanks to Adapt Outdoors for my Mammut Pike.
+ windproof, comfy, dries quickly
– zip can sometimes take a few seconds to fasten, big sizing
🏕 I had two insulated jackets on the walk because when one got wet, I still had the other to wear or sleep in and when it was bloomin’ freezing, I’d wear both. 🏕
Icebreaker MerinoLoft Hyperia Hooded Jacket – £220 (half price in old season sales direct from Icebreaker)
While I didn’t use this jacket on the mammoth hike, I’m including it as it’s amazing. It’s made from 180g merino wool and it is SUPER toasty. It’s way warmer than my Montane jacket which means that it’s a great piece of kit for winter hiking in really cold temps but when it’s warmer than +4C it’s too hot to wear. However, it is good for city use in milder temperatures. The Icebreaker Hyperia hooded winter jacket is fitted, really windproof (it uses Pertex Quantum) and has a DWR coating on the outer so it will hold off a smattering of rain. It also dries out easily, a huge plus when winter hiking over down jackets. The only downside is the depth of the neck, I think it’s too deep and it covers my chin, but I probably should have bought a size smaller.
+ super warm and good for winter hiking in temps lower than +4 C, really windproof, comfy, hood stays on in the wind
– chin/neck area a bit high
Why I won’t use down jackets while winter hiking in Britain
Two reasons: it’s not cold enough and the climate is too damp. While hydrophobic down is pretty much standard these days (down that has been treated with a waterproof chemical such as Nikwax) and it does help slightly, when you’re subjected to continual wet conditions then the down will lose its loft and therefore its ability to insulate. It then becomes pretty useless when camping as you can’t dry it out. When it’s raining and under a ‘waterproof’ jacket, the down will get damp from condensation or rain.
Winter Hiking Clothes – Pants
Craghoppers Women’s Kiwi Pro Winter Lined Trousers – £35-£60
These are epic. And I really mean that. I thought I’d either be too hot or too cold in them, but I was neither in winter. Hiking on those baltic days when the snow, ice and wind was slamming me and I’d layered up with my baselayers underneath, I did find myself being a bit too warm, but just by themselves, the Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Winter Lined Trousers are perfect for winter walking. They’re windproof, nettle proof (not that there are many stingers in winter, but just so you know), and Jane proof. They survived everything that I dropped on them in addition to what the elements threw at them. I wore them every single day from mid-November to mid-May. Even when the weather finally went warm (May), I didn’t boil to death in 22 degrees. That’s because the outer section gets the heat but it’s the lining that touches you, and that magically stays unaffected.
The outer is made from nylon and elastane so they stretch which helps when you’re clambering over stiles. The inner is fleece which keeps you warm and because of the two layers, they can get a bit damp and you won’t really notice it. They have two side pockets and a back pocket in both the men’s and women’s versions. These winter hiking trousers are available in short, regular and long but they are on the large side, so you need to drop one or two sizes for them to be an accurate fit. That means if you’re a real size 8 or lower then you won’t be able to wear them as that’s the smallest size (and they’re really a 10). The other downside is that they are very low cut, which means the base of your back will be left exposed when you bend forward or crouch down unless your top is ultra long.
+ comfy, windproof, warm, stretchy, very durable, 3 pockets
– low cut, big sizing
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Winter Hiking Clothes – Baselayers
Icebreaker Bodyfit Zone Long Sleeve Half Zip (200mg merino wool) – £85
🌟RATED NUMBER 1 PIECE OF KIT🌟
This top received more abuse than a politician and still worked wonders. The New Zealand merino wool has ensured my Icebreaker Bodyfit Zone retained its shape, didn’t smell (I did use deodorant, though), was comfy, and didn’t bobble at all. The only evidence that I wore it 75 percent of the time on my year-long hike (sleeping in it in winter, too) has been under the arms where there were a couple of ladders. But nothing major and only visible when leaping up and down in a rage at having to pitch my tent. It’s great for both summer and winter hikes.
The Icebreaker Bodyfit Zone has fabulous long sleeves that you can roll up and they still don’t go baggy, a collar to keep you warm or the sun at bay, a half zip to help regulate your temperature and a great figure-hugging shape to retain warmth. To say this piece of winter hiking kit is absolutely bloomin’ fabulous is an understatement. All I shall say is the cost is worth every single penny and more, and I’d recommend every outdoorsy person to have an Icebreaker Bodyfit Zone top.
+ retained shape, didn’t smell, comfy, didn’t bobble, warm
Icebreaker Oasis Leggings 200mg – £65
I used these thermals to sleep in but you could easily pop them under your trousers to walk in on winter hikes, too. They’re not as stretchy as some other Icebreaker thermal pants, and the knees did go baggy, but that’s damn good going considering they were worn each night for a year. They are a tightish fit which is what you want for thermals to retain the heat.
+ quite warm, good quality
– went a bit baggy round the knees
Winter Hiking Clothes – Mid Layer
Jack Wolfskin Vertigo Fleece – £35
I’d used this for a whole season of winter hiking before I started my huuuge hike and for six months winter walking on the mammoth hike. It kept its shape, was warm, had strong zips, didn’t fade and was a great piece of winter hiking kit. It did start to do that ‘rough’ material thing that all fleeces do but it didn’t look old and battered, it’s just that me that did.
+ retained its shape, warm, strong zips
Winter Hiking Clothes – Underwear
It’s Icebreaker because in my not-so-humble opinion, they’re the best on the market for baselayers and next-to-skin summer and winter hiking clothes. (I was not endorsed or sponsored by Icebreaker, but think I probably should be! 🤣)
Icebreaker Sprite Racerback Sports Bra – £30
I wore this all the time. It never smelt, never lost its shape, dried fast, didn’t hurt and was ultra comfy. There was no horrible underwiring and even now I’ve finished the hike, it doesn’t even look well worn. In winter it also added extra warmth. Hoorah!
+ retained shape, didn’t smell, comfy, didn’t bobble, warm
Icebreaker Sprite Hot Pants – £33
A few pairs of these and I was sorted. They’re comfy, never chaffed, dried fast, never bobbled and retained their shape. The plus side of boxer-style underwear is they keep your bum warm in winter!
+ retained shape, didn’t smell, comfy, didn’t bobble, warm
Winter Hiking Clothes – Socks
Sealskinz Waterproof Socks – £35
These are amazing! I went through two pairs of Sealskinz Waterproof Socks when I was winter hiking and did what I never do – double sock with a non-waterproof pair. Reason being, the thicker Sealskinz waterproof socks never dry and they smell dreadful after a while. This thinner pair, however, dry much faster, keep your feet about 90 percent dry (hiking boots’ waterproofing will fail you, believe me), are comfy to wear but they do need an extra pair of merino socks beneath in cold winter months. They were saviours for my feet, that coupled with my Scrapa Delta GTX boots meant I didn’t get one single blister in a year. Not bad going.
+ waterproof, comfy
– need to double sock in winter to make them warm enough
Bridgedale Woolfusion Trekker Sock – £17
Bridgedale is my fave brand for hiking socks for the simple reason that they don’t go threadbare or bobble massively. The woolfusion ones use enduro wool which isn’t as fine as merino but the next best thing to it. I slept in these (had two pairs plus the thermal socks on ultra cold nights during the winter hikes) but would wear them in my boots when the weather warmed up and I could chance not wearing waterproof socks. They were comfy and my feet didn’t sweat in them.
+ comfy, didn’t go threadbare, not sweaty
Thermal Socks (for camping) about £3-5
I get really cold feet, especially when I’m camping in winter, so I need about a million pairs of socks to sleep in. These thermal ones went over my others and fleece tights (yes, I’d be in four layers on my feet plus using foot warmer crystal packs on mighty cold nights). They added more warmth, were cheap, not tight and a good little investment. I wouldn’t recommend winter hiking in them, they’d rub your feet.
+ good for winter camping, loose fit, added warmth
Fleece-lined Tights – £5
I wore these and my Icebreaker merino baselayer trousers to sleep in, and when the winter temps went lower than my sleeping bag could cope with (below -8 C), I’d have my Craghoppers on, too, providing they weren’t soaked. The benefit of fleece tights is they’ll add warmth to your feet. The downside is they’re restrictive. But they’re warm and cheap and that’s always a bonus. No need to fork out on expensive brands that are pretty much the same as these but pushing £55.
+ cheap, warm, keep feet warm
– restrictive, heavy
Winter Hiking Clothes – Waterproofs
Montane Alpine Goretex Pro Jacket – £189-339
I was soooo disappointed with this jacket. It uses Goretex Pro which, without getting too technical, is ‘supposed’ to be more waterproof than regular Goretex. This jacket got through 2 hours of a Scottish hammering and my arms were soaked. From that moment on, it took between 5-20 minutes before my arms were drenched. It also let water in where the zip was and my chest was normally wet from rain (you can tell the difference between rain and condensation – you’re damp from condensation, you’re soaked from rain). It fitted well, the hood stayed on but I was always wet in it. I gave up and went for a plastic poncho. That was a million times better and lasted about 2-3 months.
+ good fit, windproof
– not waterproof
Rohan Elite Jacket – £225 (on sale for £159)
I went into Rohan to look for tent pegs and came out with a waterproof jacket. As you do. This Elite jacket worked far better than my Goretex Pro jacket and so far has remained waterproof but I did get damp from condensation, though it wasn’t particularly noticable. Rohan have developed their own membrane, Barricade, it has the same hydrostatic head as Goretex (20,000mm) and from experience it works far better – all my Goretex clothes and footwear have let me down really quickly in rain. The Elite jacket is a 3-layer membrane which matches Goretex Pro.
+ waterproof (so far), lightweight, thin, waterproof zip,
Berghaus Paclight Goretex Trousers – £55-£100
My Berghaus Goretex Paclite waterproof trousers were really easy to put on as they have waterproof zips right to the top which can be left fully or partially open on warmer days. They’re also really lightweight but the calf and ankle on my hiking trousers underneath were normally damp/wet.
+ lightweight, full-length waterproof zips
– the ankle/calf area does get wet in torrential rain
Winter Hiking Clothes – Gloves
I’ll just say it now that I didn’t have much luck with gloves and my hands were normally cold and/or wet. Ugh.
Rab Womens Icefall Gauntlet Gloves – £60 (on sale for £35)
I have one word for these gloves: rubbish. The waterproofing, which uses eVent (competitor to Goretex) lasted about 1-2 hours in Scottish rain. So much for the DWR coating on the exterior, too. The gloves didn’t keep my fingers warm and this was in May in Shetland, not even when I was walking in winter. They’re also heavy and bulky. No surprise Rab has discontinued them and I got rid of mine.
– everything – not waterproof, not warm, heavy, bulky, cold air goes up the wrist area
SealSkinz All Season Gloves -£35-£47
While these winter hiking gloves were not as bad as the Rab gloves, they weren’t great either. The waterproofing got me through a full day of rain before caving in to it. They have a Micro-porous membrane (which doesn’t work) but they dried faster than the Rab ones because they’re thinner. They also have a touchscreen fingerpad. I was shocked at how they failed, they became wet after a couple of hours in the rain beyond that first soaking. I’m a huge fan of Sealskinz waterproof socks so I think I’ll just stick to them instead for my winter hikes.
+ dry fast, touchscreen friendly,
– not waterproof, thin (need to layer with glove liners)
Trekmates Silk Glove Liners – £10-£15
I put silk glove liners under my SealSkinz gloves or wore them on their own on mild days. They felt comfy but they got holes in the finger tips after a few weeks. Still, sewing them up gave me something to do in my tent at night. (Providing my hands were warm enough to do so!)
+ fitted under other gloves, warm, cheap
– easily got holes in them
Winter Hiking Clothes – Gaiters
Trekmates Cairngorms Goretex Gaiters – £35
I wore these winter hiking gaiters mainly to keep the mud at bay so I could fool people I hadn’t just crawled out of a swamp. In that respect they worked brilliantly. I did wade through calf-high water several times (but really quickly) in them, too, and my legs were mainly dry. The Velcro opening didn’t lose its grip, the tightening cords never failed, the underfoot stirrup didn’t break and they added warmth when it was cold. I’d say they were about 80 percent waterproof.
+ easy to put on, quite waterproof, good durability, cheap
For more kit reviews (including winter tent, summer tent, summer hiking gear) click here
Jane Batchelor hiked 3,500 miles through Britain for a full year, camping as she went. While it was hardly the same as hiking through a Siberian winter, it made her really appreciate central heating and hot showers. In fact, just showers! (Confession: She is writing this from the comfort of a centrally-heated room and she’s not budging.)