A Budget Guide to Women’s Cold Weather Hiking Clothes

Don’t let low temperatures keep you down; winter hiking is beautiful, rewarding, and can be more comfortable than hiking in summer! Get equipped with this women’s winter hiking guide listing what to wear hiking in the cold and snow! ❄️

This guide includes top-rated and highly reviewed gear 🌟 along with the best budget-friendly options.

Hiking when the temps drop here in New England (or wherever you experience winters) requires a little more preparation and thought.

But once you get the hang of it and put the layers on once – it’ll be second nature! ❄️❄️

❄️Below is a list of 10 essential women’s clothing and gear (budget-friendly options & best overall 🏆) to get you out there and warm on the trails this winter!

I’ve been hiking for 2 decades now and I want you to know two things;

  1. Winter hiking is not as intimidating as it looks
  2. You WILL warm up once you get going! 🔥

🗝 The key is having clothes that will keep you warm yet wick away sweat. (No cotton!)

While it might feel like a small investment upfront, getting each layer is important so you can enjoy your time out there and actually want to hike in the cold again! 🙂

Think of getting ready for a winter hike as assembling a cake, from top to bottom. 🎂 Let’s cover all the essential layers below! ⬇️

Women’s Cold Weather Hiking Clothes & Gear List

1: Wool socks 🧦

👣 A warm, wool sock is super important for staying warm on cold hikes. As you work up a sweat, wool will be your friend as it is moisture-wicking and known as the best all-season natural insulator on Earth.

Mount Jackson in NH with my Smartwool socks 🧦
womens hiking gear for cold. wool socks
The snow may cling to them but the water will not get through! 💪🏼

A favorite is the Smartwool brand, which uses Merino wool.

Here at two choices below!

  • Smartwool Classic Full Cushion Crew Socks ($22) Best for Mild Winter Hikes 🏆 Top Rated on REI: This gear gets raves! Our most popular products–the best of the best–rated 4.5 stars or more 🥇
  • Smartwool Classic Mountaineer Maximum Cushion Socks ($26) Best for Below Freezing Temps or Snow: 🏆Also Top Rated on REI! 🥇 I trusted these on my winter hike up Mount Washington in New Hampshire (known for most dangerous weather in the world!) 💪🏼

💡💰Make it last tip! Lay your wool socks out to dry instead of putting them in the dryer.

2: Wool/Thermal Baselayer Shirt

A base layer is the first thing you put on! Never ever choose cotton. Material can be a synthetic polyester blend or 100% wool. Both will retain body heat and dry fast/wick away moisture as you sweat.

Winter Hiking clothes for women, a warm wool top
My favorite baselayer, Smartwool Classic Merino Wool Thermal

💬 Fit Tip: You want this layer tight and close to the skin. It should fit like a glove so cold air can’t get into skin. 🧤 (no gaps!)

3: Mid layer (more options below)

This women’s winter hiking layer is the insulating layer. It traps and retains body heat. 🔥

Materials for this layer can be a polyester fleece (keeps you warm and also dries fast), wool/wool blend, or a down/synthetic insulated down jacket. Generally, the thicker it is the warmer it will be.

4: Outer Layer/shell Jacket

An outer layer protects you and the baselayers from snow, wind, or rain while you’re on your winter hike.

❄️💦 Remember that snow turns to water. You want this last outer jacket to be waterproof or water-resistant.

Splurge/Top Rated Pick:🏆 Arc’teryx Atom Insulated Hoodie 💪🏼pictured above ($260-$300, 3 colors on sale for $210!) 🏆✅ REI Top Rated Item: This gear gets raves! Our most popular products–the best of the best–are rated 4.5 stars or more by people who tried and loved them.

Another Top Rated Pick: ⬆️ 🏆 Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket Pictured above. ($239, 3 colors on sale for $142!) Another “Top Rated” women’s hiking jacket at REI. The Nano Puff is a hiking classic and you can trust it to keep you warm. It’s been a go-to of mine for years!

Budget Option: Little Donkey Andy Women’s Softshell Jacket, with Removable Hood, Fleece Lined, and Water Repellent ($34-$49.99) Good for 10-40 degrees F/average winter day hikes

-I know it’s expensive but I’ve owned the Acr’teryx it for 5+ years now. I can trust it in the bitter cold of New England! The only hike I did not wear it on was the winter hike up Mount Washington.

💬 Final thought: Go for the Arc’teryx for warmth without the bulk. The Patagonia is great as well but more boxy fit.

5. Pants for Cold Weather or Snow

You have two options here and it depends if you are hiking in the snow or not…

Option 1: If you’re not hiking through deep snow, the leggings below will work great! If you’ll be hiking through fresh snow you can wear fleece-lined leggings (see below) plus gaiters which turn your pants waterproof from the knee down.🪄

Best Overall: ⬆️🏆 G Gradual Women’s Fleece Lined Winter Leggings with Pockets ($25-35 on Amazon) Pictured above. I love these water-resistant thermal pants. I wore them hiking in 20-degree temps in Vermont and my legs never felt cold. Lots of colors to choose from!

Option 2: If hiking in deep snow and you don’t have gaiters then you will want to wear wool or thermal tights plus an outer shell snow pant. (see below)⬇️

Best Thermal Tights (to wear under snow pant shell): 🏆 Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer Bottoms ($115) ‘Top Rated’ on REI and pairs well with the Merino Wool base layer top mentioned at the top of the post.

Best Overall Shell Pants: 🏆 REI Co-op Rainier Full-Zip Rain Pants ($59-$99) Full waterproof protection.

6: Women’s Winter/Snow Hat

A fleece-lined hat with a thicker band to keep your ears warm in case of wind or snow is ideal! You can always pack a hat if you’re unsure if you’ll need it. It tends to be windier and colder on top of a mountain!

🏆Top Rated on REI: REI Co-op Wallace Lake Wool Pom Beanie ($32)

DAKINE Mia Beanie ($40) This hat is longer/taller than the above option. You will be able to fully cover your ears and pull this hat down over to them.

7: Gloves/Mittens🧤

Mittens over gloves, any day! Being next to someone helps you stay warm and retain body heat, right?! Same for your fingers! Just think of them as separate people. Keep them close!

💰Budget Option: Tough Outdoors Waterproof Mittens ($22.95) Pictured above. Adjustable fit, multiple sizes. Over 5,600 reviews on Amazon! “For the price very impressed. Great for walking in Montana winter.” Amazon Review.

🏆 Best Overall/Top-Rated on REI: REI Co-op Gauntlet GTX Mittens 2.0 ($79.95) These are what I wear when it’s below freezing, snowy, or windy. Waterproof, windproof and breathable GORE-TEX® shells are backed by lightweight synthetic insulation and cozy, fleecy interiors for warmth.

🧤Best Glove Option: Patagonia Better Sweater Weather Gloves ($55) The best of a glove and a mitten! Not waterproof so I wouldn’t wear them in the snow, below freezing temps, or on very windy days. But these would be great for hikes when temps are above freezing. 🌞

8: Insulated Winter Hiking Boots 🥾

Insulated and waterproof hiking boots are essential if you are going to be hiking in the snow. If you’re new to winter hiking then this might be your biggest and most important purchase. Insulated hiking boots will keep your feet warm in the cold temperatures! You can’t really skimp on the items that literally carry you through a hike with every step. Below are two great options I’ve tried!

Best Overall: 🏆⬆️ Merrell Thermo Chill Mid Waterproof Boots ($129.95) A ‘Top Rated‘ women’s winter boot on REI! Low-bulk insulation and waterproof uppers keep you warm and dry for miles of adventure.

Another Great Option: Foxelli Women’s Hiking Boots – Suede Leather Waterproof Hiking Boots for Women, Breathable, Comfortable & Lightweight (on sale for $109) I wore this pair for several winters. They worked great on dry and cold hikes.

💬How to choose? 🥾 The Merrell boot has leather on the outside which has all-natural water resistance making this boot the better choice if hiking in the snow. The Foxelli boot is suede which is less water resistant than leather.

9: Snow Gaiters for Boots & Shins ❄️

If you plan on hiking through a few inches of snow gaiters prevent snow from kicking up and getting inside your boot. If snow does kick up into your boot as you walk it will melt and cause your socks and feet to get wet! ❌

Best Overall: 🏆 Unigear Snow Leg Gaiters, 1000D Fabric Waterproof Boot Gaiters ($19.99) Different sizes available. Made with water-resistant material to protect your legs against cold, snow, and wet. Great for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing!

I haven’t found the need to purchase anything more than $20 gaiters. There are more expensive ones but these have always worked well for me!

10: Microspikes and/or Snowshoes

It can be tricky to know whether to wear snowshoes or microspikes so I have a post just for that linked here. (It includes links to websites that tell you trail conditions here in the Northeast).

💬 If you are going out after several inches of fresh snow then you will want to wear your snowshoes. If it’s been several days since it snowed and others have been walking on the trail packing down the snow then microspikes are fine.

Budget & Top Rated Microspikes on Amazon: 🏆 Crampons Ice Cleats for Traction/Non-Slip ($26.95) #1 Bestseller in Mountaineering and Ice Climbing Crampons on Amazon! Choose your color and size

Best Snowshoe Overall: ⬆️🥇 Atlas Access Snowshoes – Women’s ($179.95 on REI) Pictured above. This is the snowshoe I have had for, wow, almost 15 years. They last!

Best Budget Snowshoe: ⬆️🥇 G2 Snowshoes – #1 Bestseller in Snowshoes on Amazon (~$70) These come with trekking poles and carrying bag! 👏

⬇️💡Quick tips for deciding between spikes or snowshoes: ⬇️

  1. Bring both in the car and make the decision when you get to & see the trail
  2. Check the recent trail reviews on AllTrails – what are people saying?

Optional Women’s Snow Hike Item! Hiking Poles

Hiking poles can help when you’re trudging through snow or to brace yourself walking along any icy trail. It can be helpful to have one or two hiking poles but I usually opt for one. Having a pole to help as you go downhill is super helpful too!

Best Overall: REI Co-op Trailmade Trekking Poles – Pair ($79.95)

💡Hiking Poles Tip: When walking along flat trails your poles should be about waist height. When walking uphill shorten pole height a bit. When walking downhill lengthen them.

❄️Final 6 Tips for Cold Weather Hiking

🌞 1. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses

The sun is still bright and the rays are still strong even in the winter. And if the combo of snow and sun can be blinding! Really, snow blindness is a thing. 😱 Protect your eyes and skin! I recommend chapstick, too.

🍫 2. Bring extra snacks for the energy you’ll burn in the snow

One mile can feel like two if you’re wearing snowshoes through deep snow. Even if it’s just freezing with now snow, your body is working hard to keep you warm! Either way, you’ll work up an appetite so bring extra snacks!

💡 3. Be mindful of winter daylight hours (long hikes and short days!)

Really want to do that 8-mile hike? Better get an early start. It can get dark as early as 4:30 pm in the winter here in New England. Plan your hikes accordingly!

✅ 4. Check weather & trail conditions prior to leaving for the hike

If hiking in New England check here for local trail conditions. And I’m sure no matter where you live there’s a website like that. I would Google “trail conditions in X location” and ALSO read the recent reviews for the hike on AllTrails! Someone will be kind enough to say – “very deep snow at the top, snowshoes a must” for example. 🙂

📱5. Start with a full phone battery- they drain quickly in the cold!

Also, keep your phone warm and tucked away in an insulated pocket or backpack. It’s always a good idea to bring a portable charger with you too!

🗺 6. Download trail map on Alltrails ahead of time.

What is the best fabric for hiking in cold weather?

As REI states in their ‘choosing base layers’ post, Fabric is your most important decision. For your base, you want a moisture-wicking fabric, so choose a synthetic polyester or Merino wool. Avoid cotton at all costs as it will get wet when you sweat and become a cold layer on your skin!

What do you wear for snow hiking?

When hiking in the snow it’s most important that your outer layers including boots are water-resistant. You’ll also want moisture-wicking base layers along with an insulating midlayer (fleece works well) and outer shell jacket. Microspikes or snowshoes will be necessary depending on how deep the snow is.

How should I dress for a 40-degree weather hike?

While 40 degrees is above freezing, the ‘real feel’ temperature cam be colder with the wind and whether or not the sun is out. It’s best to wear the layers listed in this post; base layer, mid layer, and outer shell. As you warm up you can pack your jacket in your backpack and save it for the summit which is the coldest and windiest part of a hike!

What layers to wear hiking in cold weather?

You want a base, mid, and outer layer. Your base layer should be a moisture-wicking fabric like synthetic polyester or wool. Your mid layer is the insulating layer so fleece works well. Your third and outer layer should be a water-resistant jacket. The colder the temps (if below freezing) the thicker the outer layer jacket can be. Pants can be thermal leggings plus water-resistant shell pants.

What kind of pants to wear in cold weather?

When walking or hiking in the cold it’s best to wear fleece or wool leggings/tights and then water-resistant pants over them. One pair of pants listed here in this post are fleece-lined leggings which can be worn without a second pants layer if you’re not hiking through the snow.

Got more questions about layers needed for cold weather hiking? REI has a helpful post here that compares the different types of base layer materials and ranks what each is best for.

I hope you enjoyed this cold-weather budget-friendly hiking guide for women, featuring hand-picked clothing and favorite essentials.

It might seem like a lot to get started, but once you do, getting dressed for a winter hike will be like second nature!

And watch how good that hot chocolate or your favorite warm beverage is after a cold winter hike. 🥰☕️

woman on snowy hike with her two dogs
Winter hiking is fun for both you and the pups!!

Have fun out there and let me know if you found this hiking list helpful or drop any questions below!

And speaking of winter hiking, here is a guide to 25 gifts for women hikers! 🎁🎁

See you out there, winter hikers! 😍❄️

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