Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Travel and Photography

We enjoy traveling during the winter when it’s the off season at many locations. But winter exploration and photography can be a love-hate struggle.

Winter provides unique opportunities to see landscapes and scenes with glistening snow, festive lights, and rosy cheeks.

But cold, snow, ice and wind also create challenges for hikers and photographers in the winter.

This winter clothing guide is our formula to keep our bodies warm when exposed to the elements.


Your Photography Journey FREE 5 Day Mini Course

Some of the links on this site are affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links,
we may earn a small commission – at no extra cost to you! Read the full Disclosure Policy.

 

WINTER CLOTHING GUIDE FOR OUTDOOR TRAVEL 

Hats

Winter-Clothing-Guide-Outdoor-Travel-winter beanie hat       Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Travel - Women's Sherpa Hat

Select a hat based on the temperature and length of any hiking you may do.

  • A lightweight wool or synthetic hat is best for warmer days or if the hike will require high exertion.
  • A warmer, heavier weight hat is best for later in the day or if temperatures are very low.

I find that hats don’t always stay over my ears, especially if I have my hair in a pony tail. I like to wear a thin running headband under my warmer hat. This way, my ears and the top of my head stay warm, even if the hat rises over my ears.

We both really like fleece BUFFS to use as a hat, headband or neck gaiter.

SHOP AMAZON: Men’s HatsWomen’s HatsFleece Buffs

 

Boots

Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Travel - Merrell Moab insulated boots               Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Travel - Merrell Moab insulated boots

Insulated winter boots should be rated for 20 below zero Fahrenheit or colder. Single layer insulated boots with the equivalent of 400 grams of Thinsulate insulation or the equivalent are recommended.

Be sure to size your boot by wearing a thicker sock or sock liner to make sure blood circulation isn’t compromised.

Some winter conditions won’t be so extreme in temperature, and waterproof boots will suffice. We always recommend the Merrell Moab Waterproof boots for all hiking needs that don’t require additional insulation for extreme winter temperatures.

If you enjoy winter hiking, use this Winter Hiking Guide to prepare and stay safe (by Overhere.com).


SHOP AMAZON: Merrell BootsSorel BootsKeen Boots
SHOP REI: Hiking BootsInsulated Boots

 

GLOVES

Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Travel - winter mitts                Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Travel - soft shell gloves

Mitts provide more warmth that gloves, but gloves allow individual finger movement. If it’s extremely cold, use an insulating glove inside a waterproof shell mitt to provide dexterity and warmth.

Soft-shell gloves are lighter weight and best used when body movement will heat up your hands and keep them warmer.

Fleece and leather gloves are not recommended for outdoor hiking or photography in the winter.

SPECIAL PHOTOGRAPHY GLOVES: When you operate a camera in cold weather, you quickly realize that fingers are very vulnerable to the cold, and it’s hard to control settings on a camera while wearing heavy gloves.

Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Travel - photographer's convertible gloves

Special photographers’ gloves provide protection while being thin enough to allow you to operate your camera. Some have fingertip covers that can be opened briefly to allow you to open the battery-compartment door, change memory cards or make camera settings, then resealed to continue providing warmth.

Dave finds it hard to operate the camera buttons when using the new touch screen gloves with the rubberized pads at the ends of the fingers.

Also keep hand warmers in the flap of the photographer’s gloves and in your coat pocket to provide extra warmth to hands when needed. Warmers in your coat pocket also helps keep batteries warm.

SHOP AMAZON: Convertible GlovesMittsSoft Shell Gloves | SHOP REI: Gloves

 

WARM SOCKS

            

The topic of warm socks is really a matter of personal preference. The important thing with socks is to make sure that there is plenty of space in your boots to wiggle your toes around as this increases blood circulation and foot warmth.

Things to consider with socks:

  • thermal qualities
  • durability
  • moisture management
  • anti-odor
  • comfort
  • price

Not all socks are created equal. Find the socks that best meet your needs and personal preference to minimize the stress on your feet.

We like merino wool socks from Darn Toughseriously the BEST SOCKS EVER! No, this material is not the scratchy material you typically think when you hear the word wool. Merino wool is made of fine, itch-free fibers that are temperature-regulating, so your feet stay comfortable in a wide range of temperatures. Wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water, which helps feet stay dry in most conditions.

On EXTREMELY cold days I will need to also use toe warmers, but usually the Darn Tough socks do the trick to keep me warm!

SHOP AMAZON: Darn Tough Socks | SHOP REI: Darn Tough Socks

 

WINTER CLOTHING

One word: LAYERS!

What does this mean? Where do you start? And when is enough, enough?

Avoid looking like the Michelin man by following these guidelines by REI on How to Layer Clothes:

  1. Base layer (underwear layer): wicks sweat off your skin
  2. Middle layer (insulating layer): retains body heat to protect you from the cold
  3. Outer layer (shell layer): shields you from wind and rain

Even if you don’t wear all three layers at the outset, it’s a good idea to take all layers on every outing: You can peel off layers if things heat up, but you can’t put on layers that you didn’t bring along.

BASE LAYER – Wick Moisture

base layer

The base layer is next-to-skin, or the underwear layer. It helps regulate your body temperature by moving perspiration away from your skin. This base layer should be merino wool, synthetic or silk. The most important factor in choosing a base layer is that it should wick moisture away from your skin to the next highest layer of your clothing.

A base layer can be briefs, sports bras, long underwear tops and bottoms, tights and T-shirts. It’s up to you if you like it to fit snugly or loosely. For very cold temperatures, thermal underwear is available in light-, mid- and expedition-weights. Choose the weight that best matches your activity and the temperature.

Find BASE LAYERS at Amazon | Find BASE LAYERS at REI 

 

MIDDLE LAYER – Insulation

fleece jacket         fleece pants

The insulating layer helps you retain heat by trapping air close to your body. Fleece is usually the best insulating layer because it stays warm even if gets damp, and it dries fast. Fleece also breathes well, so you’re less likely to overheat in it.

The breathability of fleece is great, but the downside is the wind blows right through and takes away the warmth. That’s why you need to have a shell layer with you if you’re going with a fleece middle layer.

MID-LAYER TOPSFleece jackets, pullovers, or vests will keep you warm when it’s wet and wick moisture away from your skin and base layers. Add a soft-shell jacket or a down or synthetic fill vest for a bit more warmth (see below).

We have found Columbia fleece jackets to be the best!

MID-LAYER BOTTOMS: Fleece pants are breathable and form-fitting. They are water and wind resistant but not waterproof or windproof. The main function of the soft shell layer is breathability. Add soft-shell pants for a bit more warmth (see below).

FLEECE at Columbia | FLEECE at Amazon | FLEECE at REI 

 

SHELL LAYER – Weather Protection

soft shell jacket           rain pant

The shell or outer layer protects you from wind, rain or snow. Most allow at least some perspiration to escape; virtually all are treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish to make water bead up and roll off the fabric.

An outer shell is an important piece in bad weather, because if wind and water are allowed to penetrate to your inner layers, you begin to feel cold. Furthermore, without proper ventilation, perspiration can’t evaporate but instead condenses on the inside of your shell.

Fit is another consideration. Your shell layer should be roomy enough to fit easily over other layers and not restrict your movement.

WATERPROOF/BREATHABLE SHELL: The rain pant helps shield you from high winds and sustained rainfall, and traps the heat held by your mid-layer garments. Look for waterproof, breathable shell jackets with an integrated adjustable hood and at least two exterior pockets to stash hats and gloves. Find waterproof, breathable shell pants that have zips at the bottom of the leg so you can put them on or take them off without having to take off your boots.

WATER RESISTANT/BREATHABLE SHELL: The water resistant, breathable jackets and pants are best for light precipitation and high activity levels. They’re usually made of tightly woven fabrics (such as mini-ripstop nylon) to block wind and light rain.

SOFT SHELL: Soft shell jackets and pants emphasize breathability. Most feature stretch fabric or fabric panels for added comfort during aerobic activities. Many offer both shell and insulative properties, so they in effect combine 2 layers into 1. Soft shells include cold- and mild-weather options.

SHOP REI: Shell JacketsShell Pants | SHOP COLUMBIA: Shell Jackets
SHOP AMAZON: Shell  JacketsShell Pants


winter insulated puff jacket     soft shell winter pants

INSULATED SHELL:  Insulated jackets and pants offer the best protection for extreme cold. Some outer shells have a layer of insulation built in—such as fleece—making them convenient for cold, wet conditions, but not as versatile for layering in fluctuating temperatures.

The insulated jackets at Columbia are amazing! The TurboDown and OmniHeat products really do keep you warm. And that’s saying something from someone who gets cold so fast. Columbia is my go-to jacket every time!

When you’re taking a break during a winter hike and have stopped moving, it’s best to pull a big puffy insulated jacket out of your backpack and wear it over your other clothes to stay warm.

SHOP REI: Insulated JacketsInsulated Pants
SHOP COLUMBIA: Insulated Jackets | Insulated Pants
SHOP AMAZON: Insulated JacketsInsulated Pant


Shop The TurboDown Collection at Columbia.com.
    

RELATED READING

 

Cold Weather Gear List

WINTER DESTINATIONS TO VISIT

man and woman dressed in winter clothing during the winter at Arches National Park

 

PIN FOR LATER

Must have items for outdoor winter adventures   Best Cold Weather Gear like hats, boots, socks, gloves, fleece and coats    best winter clothing for outdoor hiking and photography, plus how to use layers

If you enjoyed this, please share and let us know your thoughts below.

 


As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *