Layering is the key for winter hiking. Chances are, you'll encounter cold air and cold wind, so you'll need to be equipped to keep all parts of the body warm, at all times. Layering is important because hiking is, most of the time, highly aerobic, and you'll generate lots of body heat. You will need to take off and put on garments, as required, to keep a balanced body temperature. You will also need to have waterproof / windproof garments that are very breathable (like Gore Activent-based garments) and have venting options (like pit zips, pack pockets, and two way zippers).
Your base layer should consist of lightweight moisture-wicking thermal underwear (top and bottoms)
Pick a synthetic layer (non cotton) to keep warm. This layer should be breathable to allow moisture to escape. Nylon/polyester synthetic filled "sweaters" are a great lightweight choice.
For the outer layer, it is important to have breathable wind and rain-proof jacket and pants.
You should always bring two pairs of gloves and a glove liner for every winter hike. Generally, if the weather is mild, those liners will insulate your hands, well enough, even when wet. If the weather is particularly cold, however, cover the liners with a pair of windproof, waterproof, Goretex Gloves/mittens. Waterproof mittens will do the best job of keeping your hands dry and warm.
I recommend wool socks such as smartwool worn with a pair of sock liners. Always bring an extra pair of wool socks. Never wear cotton socks!
Knee-high gaiters keep the snow out of your boots and add an extra layer against wind and cold.
Pick a synthetic or wool hat (no cotton) that covers your ears. You can also wear a hat and a headband.
BOOTS & SNOWSHOES
BOOTS: Summer boots/trail runners are not acceptable in the winter! Winter boots must be insulated- 400 grams or more (rated at least 20 degrees below zero). Look for boots with rubber bottoms and leather uppers. Make sure they are snowshoe and crampon compatible (stiff soles will work well)
Depending on the hike (It will be listed for each hike) be prepared to bring microspikes, snowshoes, or crampons. Keep light traction (such as microspikes) in your pack from November through April! It will be determined at the trailhead which traction you will need to bring so be prepared.
Light Traction: Yak Trax are not acceptable for hiking! Kahtoola Microspikes or Hillsound Trail Crampons work well. Hang them outside your pack with a carabiner or have a way to store them inside your pack.
Snowshoes: Since we will be hiking up and down steep slopes, regular snowshoes will not be beneficial. Your mountaineering snowshoes must have toe and side crampons. Make sure you size them according to your weight PLUS the load you tend to carry. Heel lifts aren’t mandatory, but they make going up steep sections easier. You must be able to store these on the back or sides of your pack when not in use.
Crampons: Make sure your crampons are not made of aluminum. They need to be
10 or 12 point crampons that fit onto your boots. Be sure to have a crampon bag to cover the spikes when storing them in your pack.
FOOD AND WATER:
Bring a wide mouth nalgene bottle. Do not bring hydration bladders as they tend to freeze in winter. Get an insulated holder (that zips up) for your bottle. Carry one outside your pack for easy access with the others inside your pack.
Bring food that does not require lots of preparation and will not freeze. In winter lunch breaks tend to be quick to avoid getting too cold. Make sure you have enough to stay properly fed throughout your trip. Keep some of your food in easy to access pockets. Bring an extra days worth of food.
Look for 100% UVA and UVB protection. This is important to block the sunlight reflected onto the snow. Proper eye wear will also protect you from wind and branches.
Make sure your neck gaiter is not cotton. Pick synthetic or wool. A balaclava is a great option as well.
This will protect your gear from any precipitation- rain or snow. You can also line your pack with a garbage bag. I recommend designating an area in your pack or have a bag for wet items, especially if you perspire and need to change clothing.
Mountaineering Ice Axe:
Many hikes don’t require an ice axe, but if you carry one make sure you know how to properly use it. Have a way to attach it to your pack when not in use and cover the pick and spike for safety. Do not bring an ice climbing axe- get one specifically for mountain climbing.
Head lamp with spare batteries
first aid kit
hand and foot chemical warmers (bring a couple spare)
map and compass
mechanical pencil and paper (pens can freeze)
emergency shelter (emergency bivy works)
foam or self inflating pad (to sit on during breaks)
nylon cord (50’)