Winter Climbing Clothes and Gear for the White Mountains of NH

Winter Hiking Clothing and Gear for the White Mountains of NH

When gearing up for winter day mountaineering in New Hampshire’s White Mountains you need footwear, clothes, and traction aids that can be utilized throughout a variety of temperatures, wind speeds, solar, precipitation sorts, and floor situations. For instance, typical winter climate contains:

  • Temperatures: from 40 levels right down to 10 under zero (Fahrenheit)
  • Wind speeds: as much as 40 mph (over that, you get knocked down)
  • Daylight: from intense sunshine and snow glare to heavy clouds or dense forest cowl
  • Precipitation sorts: together with blowing snow, freezing fog, sleet, freezing rain, and rain
  • Floor situations: starting from deep snow to reveal rock, naked floor, packed trails, powder, frozen our bodies of water, and comfortable or laborious ice

Layering Garments

As well as, you must gown for a variety of exercise ranges, akin to if you end up exerting your self and producing a number of physique warmth or if you end up at relaxation and must bundle up.

The beneficial strategy for winter dressing is so as to add clothes layers while you get chilly and take off layers while you begin to sweat. Sweating must be averted in winter as a result of moist or damp clothes, significantly baselayers, will chill you while you cease shifting. Take off layers when you begin to sweat or decelerate your tempo to generate much less physique warmth.

When beginning a hike in winter, you’ll most likely be sporting gloves, a hat, lengthy sleeve jersey, lengthy underwear, boxer jocks, hardshell or softshell pants, a fleece pullover, a hardshell jacket, heat socks, insulated boots, and excessive gaiters. After about quarter-hour, you’ll most likely take off your hardshell and unzip your pants to vent physique heat. That’s referred to as layering and it happens when somebody in your group shouts out “layer break!”

Essential: Don’t put on cotton on winter hikes as a result of it takes so lengthy to dry. The identical holds for clothes made from wooden fibers together with modal, rayon, viscose, Tencel, and lyocell.

A hooded fleece is a versatile layering piece. Mt Madison in March.
A hooded fleece is a flexible layering piece. Mt Madison in March.

Winter Day Climbing Gear Listing

The next day winter day mountaineering clothes and equipment will maintain you secure and comfy in below-treeline situations. Under-treeline hikes are normally protected by forests and are hotter and fewer windy than above-treeline hikes, that are on high of uncovered mountains or ridgelines.

  • Footwear
    • Insulated mountaineering boots
    • Heat socks (sock liners optionally available)
    • Excessive gaiters
  • Hats
    • Light-weight fleece or wool hat
    • Heavyweight fleece or wool hat
  • Gloves
    • Light-weight fleece or wool gloves
    • Waterproof shell mitts or gloves, with insulated liners
  • Jackets
    • Puffy insulated jacket with connected hood
    • Waterproof and windproof jacket with connected hood
  • Pants
    • Rain pants which are waterproof and windproof with full-length zippers alongside the perimeters
    • Softshell pants which are reasonably windproof
  • Mid-Layer Insulation
    • Fleece jacket, fleece pullover, fleece vest, insulated vest, or softshell jacket (a minimum of one, presumably a number of)
  • Base-Layer Insulation
    • Lengthy sleeve jersey
    • Lengthy underwear (good for individuals who run chilly)
    • Boxer jock underwear to stop chafing, wool or artificial solely
  • Spare Clothes (optionally available, however typically helpful)
    • Lengthy sleeve jersey
    • Lengthy underwear
    • Additional pair of socks
  • Winter traction aids
    • Microspikes
    • Snowshoes (relying on situations)
    • Crampons (relying on situations)
  • Water Bottles
    • Two or three 1-liter wide-mouth water bottles (hydration system hoses freeze up and must be averted)
    • Water bottle insulation, if bottles are saved outdoors your backpack
  • Backpack
    • 35-45 liter backpack with aspect compression straps or a shovel pocket for attaching snowshoes and microspikes to the pack
    • Additional webbing straps as wanted for attaching extra gear
  • 10 Necessities
    • Map
    • Compass
    • Whistle
    • Headlamp (1 or 2)
    • Private first support package
    • Fireplace beginning supplies (wax in paper egg containers make the perfect firestarter)
    • Small knife or multi-tool
    • Gear restore provides
    • Excessive-energy snacks that received’t freeze
    • Sun shades and sunscreen
    • Rest room paper
  • Survival Gear – this may be distributed amongst mountaineering group members, or carried if mountaineering alone
    • Sleeping bag
    • Sleeping pad
    • Light-weight bivy sack or tent physique with out tent poles
    • White gasoline range, gasoline, pot, range base
    • Group first support package

Additional Gear for Above-Treeline Day Hikes

In the event you’re headed above treeline on a day hike, you’ll usually wish to carry additional wind safety in your face and beefier traction aids, like full crampons. Avalanche instruments are hardly ever wanted within the Northeast until you’re mountaineering in high-risk mountain areas.

  • A face masks or mixture face masks/balaclava
  • Snow goggles
  • Crampons
  • Ice ax (relying on the route)
  • Avalanche shovel, beacon, and probe in hazardous terrain
Dressed for wind. North Kinsman in February
Dressed for wind. North Kinsman in February

Winter Climbing Clothes and Gear Shopping for Information

Whereas gear lists are helpful, I’ve additionally offered some recommendation under about what to search for when buying gear for winter use to steer you in the best route concerning the capabilities you need in winter mountaineering gear. I’ve used each single merchandise listed under so I do know what’s good and what’s not good.

Insulated winter boots

Most individuals day hike in “comfortable” insulated winter mountaineering boots that wouldn’t have a detachable liner and are appropriate with microspikes, snowshoes, and crampons which are appropriate with non-rigid boots.  These can be found with 400-gram insulation and 200-gram insulation. This refers back to the thickness of the insulation used, not its weight. Boots with 400-gram insulation will maintain you heat to twenty under zero levels (F), whereas boots with 200-gram insulation are good to about 10-20 levels above zero levels (F). These temperatures assume you’re strolling, not standing round. In the event you plan on mountaineering the place temperatures get under 10F-20F levels, I like to recommend 400g insulated winter boots. In any other case, a 200g insulated boot must be adequate.

We advocate:

You can even put on mountaineering boots which have a inflexible sole able to getting used with crampons for mountain climbing and mountaineering. These are tougher to stroll in for any distance, however some can be found with detachable liners that are helpful for winter backpacking as a result of you possibly can dry them in a sleeping bag at night time. Keep away from so-called Pack Boots, that are much less comfy for vigorous mountaineering and are too giant to be used with microspikes and most snowshoes.

Heat socks

Most hikers put on heavier wool socks in winter than throughout different occasions of the 12 months, however that is an space of non-public choice, and the sock “programs” folks use differ broadly. Sock liners are optionally available however may be helpful in case you are blister-prone. No matter mixture you utilize, be sure that there may be loads of house in your boots to wiggle your toes round as this will increase blood circulation and foot heat.

We advocate:

Excessive gaiters

Excessive gaiters assist forestall snow from getting into your boots or making your socks moist and supply additional insulation under your knee. In the event you use crampons, in addition they shield your ankles from self-inflicted wounds while you tire. Keep away from gaiters that shut with zippers as a result of they break rapidly. Search for gaiters that seal round your leg utilizing velcro as an alternative.

We advocate:


A minimal of two hats is beneficial for winter day hikes: a light-weight wool or artificial hat for high-exertion actions and a hotter, heavier-weight hat for later within the day when temperatures drop. You’ll most likely sweat a minimum of certainly one of them out.

We advocate:


A minimal of two pairs of gloves is beneficial, though hikers usually convey three or 4 pairs if their palms sweat rather a lot whereas mountaineering. Experiment with this. You’ll be glad to have extras when you moist out your gloves with sweat.

One pair of gloves must be modular with an unlined outer waterproof/breathable shell layer and an interior insulating glove liner. Mitts present extra heat than gloves, however gloves present extra dexterity. One strategy is to make use of an insulating fleece liner glove inside a water-resistant mitten shell to supply dexterity and heat. When buying a modular mitten system (mitten plus liner) or a mitten shell, I like to recommend getting ones with wrist gauntlets, which is able to insulate your wrists and maintain your palms hotter. In case your palms are too heat with a mitten shell and liner they usually begin to perspire, you possibly can take away the mitten shell and pack it away till it’s wanted.

We advocate the next modular mitt programs and mitten shells:

I normally carry a number of pairs of cheap REI fleece gloves or Decathlon liner gloves, so I can swap them out if one pair will get moist or soaked by perspiration. Trace: Purchase a number of pairs, all in the identical shade, so you possibly can swap in a alternative when you lose certainly one of a pair or put on it out.

If you must grip an ice axe in your hikes, you’ll additionally wish to store round for an insulated high-dexterity glove so that you maintain the choose within the ice-axe ready-position. A mitten shell doesn’t present sufficient dexterity to wrap your fingers across the choose and a glove liner doesn’t present sufficient insulation from the chilly steel. Black Diamond has some good gloves for this, together with the Black Diamond Punisher Glove and the Enforcer Glove.

Short Food break on Mt Moosilauke in February
Sporting puffies throughout a brief meals break on Mt Moosilauke in February

Puffy Insulated Hooded Jacket

Once you’re taking a break throughout a winter hike and have stopped shifting, it’s greatest to drag an enormous puffy insulated jacket out of your backpack and put on it over your different garments to remain heat. You’ll need a parka-weight jacket and not a light-weight 3-season jacket. This coat must be sufficiently heat that you would stand round in it for just a few hours if somebody in your group has an accident and you must stick with them till assist arrives. You need one thing with an built-in hood that can actually maintain you toasty heat in frigid climate.

We advocate:

Light-weight insulated jackets just like the Mountain Hardwear Hooded Down Ghost Whisperer 2 are too light-weight and are extra appropriate as a mid-layer.

Mt Israel, December

Onerous Shell or Rain Jacket

You additionally wish to carry a windproof and waterproof rain jacket/or hardshell with an adjustable hood that may be worn while you’re mountaineering. They don’t have built-in insulation, however they’ll protect you from excessive winds and lure the warmth held by your mid-layer clothes. Search for jackets with a minimum of two exterior pockets to stash hats and gloves. Hardshell jackets or rain jackets with pit zips present probably the most flexibility for regulating your temperature. For instance, the Out of doors Analysis Foray II with full torso-length aspect zips is a wonderful choice that I exploit in winter. The ladies’s model is named the Out of doors Analysis Aspire II Jacket.

Onerous Shell Pants or Rain Pants

Hardshell or rain pants are fully windproof and waterproof. Many individuals discover it useful to make use of pants which have full zips alongside the perimeters to assist vent additional warmth whereas mountaineering. Ankle zips are required at a minimal, so you possibly can put them on or take them off with out having to take off your boots. Check this out earlier than you hike with them. Most hikers who put on hardshell pants as their major pant layer, additionally put on lengthy underwear beneath them for heat. Marmot Precip Full Zip Pants are a superb, economical full-zip waterproof pant choice.

Softshell Pants

Many hikers, myself included, desire sporting softshell pants in winter as a result of they’re extra breathable and form-fitting than full-zip hardshell pants. If that’s the case, you continue to must convey a pair of laborious shell pants for cover towards sustained precipitation and excessive winds since most softshell pants are water and wind-resistant however not waterproof or windproof. Softshell pants are usually a lot hotter than hardshell pants, so that you usually don’t must put on lengthy underwear with them besides in very chilly climate. REI makes a cheap softshell pant referred to as the Males’s Activator 3.0 Pant (and Girls’s Activator 3.0 Pant) that I exploit and advocate.

Mid-Layer Insulation

There are loads of choices out there for mid-layer insulation and it’s greatest to experiment to determine what you want greatest. Midweight fleece jackets, hoodies, pullovers, or vests are all cost-effective and well-performing choices as a result of fleece will maintain you heat when it’s moist and wick moisture away out of your pores and skin and base layers. The identical holds for wool sweaters when you desire it over fleece. There are a lot of producers that promote fleece clothes. You can even increase a mid-layer with a softshell jacket or an insulated vest for extra heat relying on whether or not you run scorching or chilly.

Listed here are a few of our favourite layering clothes and ones that we advocate:

Base layer insulation

Most winter hikers put on a wool or artificial base layer consisting of an extended sleeve jersey, lengthy underwear pants, and a few sort of boxer or bikini underwear below that. All your base layers should be artificial or wool and never cotton as a result of they’ll dry sooner and received’t trigger chafing in the event that they get damp.

An important consider selecting a base layer is that it must be wicking in order that it transports sweat away out of your pores and skin to the following highest layer of your clothes. Light-weight and skinny layers do that higher than heavier layers, however once more that is an space of non-public style. Patagonia Capilene Light-weight, out there in jerseys and lengthy underwear, is a wonderful choice. A Smartwool Merino 150 LS Baselayer shirt can also be a sensible choice. In the event you run actually chilly, attempt a fishnet-style jersey from Brynje. They actually do work!

Route-finding in winter is very different than in the summer
Route-finding in winter could be very completely different than in the summertime.

Spare Clothes

It’s necessary to convey some spare clothes on longer hikes (jersey, lengthy underwear, socks, gloves, hats) in case yours get moist, both from sweat or since you’ve had some sort of accident, akin to falling right into a stream. That is pretty frequent when you need to do any stream crossings on a hike and a snow shelf you’re standing on collapses into the water. It’s additionally good to have a dry layer to vary into if you must cease for an prolonged time and the garments you’re sporting are damp with sweat.

Winter Traction-Aids

The traction aids that you simply convey on a hike are more likely to differ, relying on the climate and whether or not you’re mountaineering on a path that others have hiked beforehand and packed down. Most hikers carry microspikes on all hikes as a result of they supply additional traction on packed snow and ice they usually’re fairly light-weight. Snowshoes can also be required, significantly on much less traveled trails or after a snowfall. Heavier-duty crampons can also be required for steep routes lined with rock or thick ice, whereas snowshoes present floatation for mountaineering by means of unconsolidated snow. It’s not unusual so that you can have to hold some or all of those on a hike, relying on the place you go and what number of different folks use the paths you comply with. When shopping for snowshoes for mountainous terrain you need ones which have a televator elevate below the heel, which makes it simpler to climb hills. We advocate the next traction aids, that are appropriate with all kinds of winter boots.

Water Bottles/Water Bottle Insulators

Hydration reservoir hoses freeze very simply in chilly temperatures, so it’s greatest to hold two or three 1-liter wide-mouth bottles on winter hikes since narrow-mouth bottles additionally freeze shut extra simply. In the event you carry your water bottles outdoors of your backpack, it’s greatest to retailer them the other way up in an insulated sleeve so the cap received’t freeze shut. White wide-mouth Nalgene bottles are the perfect for winter use as a result of they don’t crack.

For insulation, attempt insulated Nalgene water bottle sleeves or 40 under Neoprene Bottle Boots. Insulated Hydroflask 32oz. steel bottles additionally work however are heavier. You can even retailer your bottles in a wool sock inside your pack, surrounded by your down parka. Boil your water earlier than placing it into the bottles and it’ll keep heat for a very good a part of the day. Add tea, electrolytes, or different flavorings to make it fascinating to drink so that you keep hydrated.

A synthetic vest keeps the torso warm. Mt Moriah in March.
An artificial vest retains the torso heat. Mt Moriah in March.

Winter Dayhiking Backpacks

You’ll need a 30-50 liter backpack for winter day mountaineering since you’ll be carrying extra additional garments, meals, and water than the remainder of the 12 months. Winter packs ought to have loads of exterior attachment factors, daisy chains, and aspect compression straps to which you’ll connect traction aids akin to snowshoes, crampons, or microspikes. These are both too giant to pack inside a backpack, they’ve sharp factors that may slice up your additional packed clothes, or they are going to be encrusted with snow and greatest saved separate. A full complement of traction aids can add as a lot as 6-8 kilos to your backpack load, so that you’ll need a pack with a body that may carry the additional weight in your hips and never in your shoulders.

Daisy chains, that are webbing loops discovered on shoulder straps or the perimeters of a pack, are good for hooking gear, together with water bottles or Nalgene bottles stuffed with bite-size snacks which you can shake into your mouth. It’s additionally handy to have a high lid on a winter backpack with a number of pockets to retailer gear you need simply at hand like your headlamp, additional hats, extra snacks, and gloves.

The next backpacks are wonderful for winter day hikes:

10 Necessities

The ten necessities are simply as necessary in winter as throughout the remainder of the 12 months, maybe extra so, since winter mountaineering requires extra self-sufficiency.

A map and compass are necessary as a result of it’s straightforward to lose one’s means, path blazes are sometimes buried in snow, and there are far fewer landmarks seen in winter when every thing is roofed in white. A plastic whistle is healthier than a steel one which is able to freeze to your lips, and helpful when you get misplaced as a result of it’s louder than a human voice. You must use lithium batteries in your headlamp and different digital units as a result of they’re immune to chilly temperatures: nickel-metal hydride and alkaline batteries drain a lot sooner in chilly climate. Rechargeable headlamps are additionally okay since most have lithium batteries. You may also wish to carry two headlamps since you’ll be mountaineering after sundown as a result of there are so few hours of daylight.

Whereas you should purchase business first support, gear restore, and fire-starting kits, they’re additionally straightforward to make by your self at dwelling. It additionally helps to convey some sort of multi-tool or plastic ties with you on a winter hike to restore gear, particularly traction aids which take loads of abuse. Solar safety, together with sun shades and sunscreen, is necessary to hold as a result of it’s very straightforward to get a sunburn, from mild mirrored off the snow.

Survival Gear

In the event you’re winter day mountaineering alone, it’s necessary to convey additional insulation together with a sleeping bag and sleeping pad with a purpose to forestall hypothermia in case you are immobilized and you must survive till assist arrives. A 20-degree sleeping bag, a foam accordion sleeping pad like a Therm-a-rest Zlite, and a light-weight bivy sack will normally suffice to maintain you alive when you additionally placed on the entire clothes you’re carrying. These may be break up amongst completely different hikers if touring as a gaggle.

If you need to spend an sudden night time out, you additionally must have a way of melting snow to create ingesting water. Whereas carrying a liquid gasoline range like an MSR Whisperlite and a cookpot is probably the most dependable means of doing this, a Jetboil can even work when you can maintain the gasoline canister heat. Hypothermia is accelerated by dehydration and may have dire penalties. When mountaineering in a gaggle, this gear is normally distributed between group members, in any other case, you’ll most likely want an even bigger backpack to hold all of it.

Full face protection on Franconia Ridge (March)
Full face safety on Franconia Ridge in March

Additional Gear for Above Treeline Hikes

For above-treeline mountaineering, your greatest priorities are additional wind safety in your face and further traction to stop uncontrolled slides on ice and snow. The simplest strategy to shield your face is to make use of a balaclava with a completely built-in facemask just like the Serius Comboclava. You’ll want to mix that with ski goggles to guard your eyes from blowing snow and stop them from freezing shut. Apply sporting these earlier than you get above treeline as they will fog simply.

For additional traction, you’ll wish to purchase toothier crampons and presumably an ice ax. It is a pretty superior stage of winter day mountaineering, so it’s greatest to learn to use these instruments from a professional teacher, both a mountaineering information or in one of many winter mountaineering faculties run by outside golf equipment within the northeast such because the Appalachian Mountain Membership or the Adirondack Mountain Membership.

See Additionally:

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In regards to the writer

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 8500 miles in the USA and the UK and written over 3000 articles because the founding father of, famous for its backpacking gear evaluations and mountaineering FAQs. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine mountaineering and backpacking, Philip has hiked all 650+ trails within the White Mountains twice and has accomplished 10 rounds of the 48 peaks on the White Mountains 4000 footer record with over 550 summits in all 4 seasons. He’s additionally the writer of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free on-line guidebook of the perfect backpacking journeys within the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in New Hampshire. Click on right here to subscribe to the SectionHiker e-newsletter.

Up to date December 2023.

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