What to Wear in the Mountains During the Winter

Clothing requirements in the mountains are special in winter. At high altitudes, it is cold all year round, and in winter it is also chilly at low altitudes. The weather in the mountains is changeable, the wind blows through, or the high mountain sunburns. A mistake in clothes may cause discomfort, frostbite, or even death.

Natural materials have been replaced by special synthetic ones. Only feather down for down jackets and sleeping bags, very light and warm, do not give up positions. But even so, it is backed by less fussy, not afraid of moisture synthetic materials.

At altitude every step is with effort, a man walks and sweats. And when he stops, an icy wind blows through him. Therefore, the materials in clothes for hiking in the mountains, mostly breathable, take moisture away from the body.


The first layer of clothing for the mountains: thermal underwear

Underwear is comfortable in the mountains, practically does not get wet, and micropores release sweat in the form of steam. Do not wear cotton underwear under thermal underwear, it will get wet and prevent you from getting rid of excess moisture.


The second layer of clothing for the mountains: is the penguin

The warmest is worn over thermal underwear – usually a Polartec (Polartec) sweatshirt and pants, often referred to as “penguin”. They also breathe well, but they also keep you warm. But the piercing wind may not let them do that.


The third layer of clothing for the mountains (in high winds-frosts): wind block

“Windstopper” windbreaker fabric aka “windblock” does not blow through and does not breathe. Suitable as an additional layer in strong wind and frost.


The fourth layer of clothing for the mountains: is a membrane jacket

To not give a chance to wind and snow necessarily need a windbreaker. Now these lightweight jackets, do not let the wind through if made of membrane materials, such as “Gortex” and analogs, and take out steam through the micropores, not letting moisture back. Lightweight jackets, the gasket is not even worthwhile, mountaineers of the past would be very surprised them.


The fifth layer of clothing for the mountains: a down jacket

If the frost is quite severe, even this layering may not work. The last frontier in the fight against the cold is wearing down on top of everything. Down is lightweight, a good down jacket is easy to compact. Down categorically should not get wet, otherwise, it will lose its properties. It should be washed very carefully, by hand.

Fur competes with synthetic insulators Primaloft and reliant, less fastidious to care and not afraid of moisture.

Layers can and should be combined. For example, when it’s relatively warm and it’s raining – a jacket over thermal underwear will save you from moisture. When it’s cool and windless – all warm layers, but without windproofing. Before going out, dress lightly – a couple of steps and you’ll get warm. If you put everything on at once – you’ll sweat and waste time taking off the excess.

A hat preferably made of Polartec or fleece covering your ears. Of these materials and also Windstopper gloves are good. Always take spare gloves, as another good reason to save your fingertips.

Windproof self-breakers are handy, with a zipper along the entire pant leg. You can take them off without taking off your boots. Thermal socks are good, wearing wool is not worth it. Boots are the most expensive part of such a suit, a separate topic.


Trekking boots

For winter hiking, you’ll need classic all-leather trekking boots with stiff soles and high cuffs. Not superfluous is the presence of rubberized edging along the sides of the boot. You should choose such boots with a reserve of two thick socks in case of severe frosts.

The main criteria for choosing shoes will be: 

  • A stiff sole.
  • Rubberized toe.
  • Cushioned sides.
  • Leather uppers in one piece or with a minimum of seams.
  • A size with plenty of room.
  • Good heel retention.
  • Membrane.

Please note that these boots themselves are practically not insulated. It is understood that the insulation will be regulated by socks of different thickness. As additional insulation, you can use insulated booties. You will still need the classic “lanterns” to prevent snow, dirt, and small debris from getting inside your boots.

For rest you can take light and compact stockings with synthetic or down insulation – they will take not much space, but it will be a great pleasure to change heavy wet mountain boots for them in the evening.

As an alternative to this set of shoes, you can consider double-layered or plastic mountaineering boots with insulated insides. 



It is socks (not the insulation in the shoe) that should be the main “warming” element of winter shoes. Socks, unlike the boot, are easy to dry or simply replace. On winter hikes I usually wear two pairs of socks at once. The first layer is a thin elastic trekking sock. They are seamless, fit snugly on the foot, and quickly wick away moisture. This helps avoid blisters, water spots, and abrasions. The second layer – is thick fleece or knitted wool socks, which are excellent warm even when slightly wet. Such running sets should have at least two. Plus one more warm and comfortable (so as not to interfere with circulation) sock for sleeping.

That’s actually almost all of the equipment you need for winter hiking, do not overload your backpack, remember that you have to carry it all on you.

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