Tips for Cold Weather Day Hikes

Good morning! I am writing this at the request of my friend Diana…. (Hey girrrrrl!) Packing for your hike can prove to be one of the most challenging aspects, one I feel like I am only beginning to fine tune after years of hiking. I always bring too much stuff and it weighs me down. So, I am hopefully going to save you a little time and a little stress by sharing some of our Packing Hacks for Spring Hiking in the Northeast! This is also good for winter in other places. (Ha!)

First off, you always need a base layer, and it should NOT be made of cotton. Pick a nice spandex or polyester undershirt (Willow prefers wool and has numerous Smartwool baselayers). This weekend was warm, in the 40’s, so we chose a short sleeve base layer, so it wouldn’t make us too warm, but it would absorb moisture. Last weekend was cold in the Whites, so we chose long sleeve. You get the drift. For your bottoms, depending on the temps and the hike, you’ll need one, two, or all of these things… long johns… waterproof spandex layer…. or waterproof pants. EMS makes affordable trail pants (and they usually have decent sales or coupons going on).  You’ll see that we love the funky leggings – I typically wear my long johns underneath them or a layer of fleece. I did not wear my waterproof pants in the Whites last weekend, and that was a total mistake, as we went butt sliding a lot and my bottom half was just totally frozen by the time we got back.

You can see why that might be necessary. Also – I fall. A lot. So if you don’t like a wet butt, waterproof pants are the way to go!

I always have a layer of fleece for my top half, whether or not I need it is a day to day decision. I put it over my base layer and under my water resistant top layer. Unless of course it’s a warm day and I am only wearing 2 layers underneath my standard vest. I can’t recommend a vest enough. It keeps your core warm while keeping the rest of your body cool. I wear one of these, always. Sometimes it’s puffy, sometimes it’s not. If you’re a baller like Willow,

is her favorite line. If you’re a paycheck to paycheck kind of girl, like me, I’ve been able to score some great name brand vests at resale shops. Actually, now that I think of it, all of my vests have been from resale shops.  And your final layer, which I pack in my bag and typically only use at the top, is a rain jacket if it’s warm, or a puffy jacket if it’s cold.

Packing Hacks for Spring Hiking in the Northeast

Ok to recap –

  1. Drifit or smartwool layer for your first layer
  2. Long johns for your first layer or  waterproof pants for a bottom
    1. if you are not wearing waterproof pants, you’ll need a water resistant top layer of tights over your long johns.
  3. Fleece layer – to bring with you or to wear
  4. Water resistant top layer – both top and bottom
  5. Vest, if you want to be cool like me. (haha!)
  6. Rain Jacket or Puffy jacket top layer to have in your bag.

Now, for your extremities!

    1. Wool socks. Very important.
    2. Light waterproof gloves. DD got these from Craft in her Cairn box and she loves them.
    3. Warm headband or hat. Again, depends on the weather. We love Skida headwear.
    4. Kahtoola MicroSpikes. Don’t leave home without them!
  • Gaiters – if you have deep snow you’ll need them so you don’t get snow in your shoes. We love the Rocky Mountain High ones from Outdoor Research. 
  • Heavy gloves – if you’re in the Whites or another high altitude, you might need these at the top
  • Buff or Neck Warmer- this baby will overheat you fast but will keep you surprisingly warm if you need it. I always have one in my bag bc it’s super helpful in the wind and can give you a lot of warmth, quickly. I like Turtle Fur. 
  • Warm, waterproof shoes with good treads, because this is put your spikes on, take your spikes off season, especially in Acadia!
  • Hiking poles I always recommend. Hiking is hard on your knees, and especially with the ice still everywhere, it can help you keep your balance.

Ok – now for your bag!

The girls both have the Deuter and they love it. It’s a 40 liter bag, so it’s perfect for storing all of your extra layers if you’re hiking a big mountain.You don’t really need all of this space for day hiking, but it’s nice to have. But – with a bigger bag – more stuff. A basic backpack will do just fine for this hike. We prefer lots of pockets and a place for a water reservoir. I also like to store my poles on the outside of my bag so I look for that feature.

In your bag –

    1. Fleece layer (if you’re not wearing it)
    2. Top layer (if you’re not wearing  it)
    3. Gloves – light and heavy if needed
    4. Buff/neckwarmer
    5. Rain jacket or puffy jacket
    6. Hand Warmers
    7. Emergency blanket – We recommend Open World Outfitters pocket blanket!

  1. First Aid Kit
  2. 5 hour energy or some sort of kick
  3. An energy bar or trail mix
  4. I always bring baby food. I know it’s weird. But I am never really that hungry to begin with and I need the carbs for energy so it’s easy to ingest.
  5. Water
  6. Fireball, if you like to celebrate at the top
  7. A sandwich or lunch bundle  (ok it’s clear now that I eat like a toddler) depending on how long the hike it.
    1. I always make a sandwich on one of those thin 100 cal sandwich buns w/ low sodium turkey or roast beef, spinach, cheese, mayo, mustard and wrap it in foil. And I bring some BBQ Kettle chips. That’s my default! And sometimes a green tea.
  8. Headlamp – just in case!
  9. Map
  10. Compass

I always bring a dry headband or Willow brings a hat for the car ride back. Also, dry socks and shoes. You will thank me.

OK – I hope these Packing Hacks for Spring Hiking in the Northeast help! Let us know if you have questions – we are here to help!

Love + Light from Maine –


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