7 winter hiking essentials I always have in my daypack

A woman hiking in winter with a jacket, backpack, and microspikes on her feet. Snow and mountains are in the background.

Winter hiking can honestly be pretty miserable (and unsafe!) if you don’t have the right gear with you, but proper packing and planning can ensure that you have a great time while also prioritizing safety and comfort on the trail. 

Below are 7 hiking essentials we never leave the house without in winter! Please note that this guide covers the bare minimum of what we think you should have with you for casual winter hikes. You’ll want additional equipment for inclement conditions (like heavy snow) or more technical activities (like mountaineering).

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Winter hiking essentials

A waterproof jacket

The weather can change rapidly while out on the trail so we almost always have waterproof jackers packed. They’re great for fending off rain, snow, and cold wind. We’re loving the REI Co-op Flash Stretch Rain Jacket for women and men.


Microspikes are traction devices for your feet, and help you safely navigate slick snow and ice. Trails are often icy at higher elevations or in shaded spots, so we always make sure to pack our microspikes so that we don’t have to turn around if we encounter slick conditions. We love Hillsound Trail Crampons!

Emergency bivy

We hope we never have to use it, but an emergency bivy can help retain some of your body heat if you unexpectedly have to spend a night outside on the trail. We recently started carrying this SOL emergency bivy in our daypacks “just in case.”

A SOL emergency bivvy
The SOL Emergency Bivvy with Rescue Whistle and Tinder Cord is small and lightweight, making it easy to toss in your pack for winter hikes.

Extra snacks

Winter adventures require lots of fuel so you can stay warm and energized! Lately I’ve been loving Tahoe Trail Bars, which I stash in my pack just in case I get hungry. It’s important to pack trail food that is high in calories and nutritious (and delicious!).

A headlamp

Headlamps are essential if you’re still on the trail after it gets dark. We love the Black Diamond Spot 400-R Headlamp, which is super bright, waterproof, and USB rechargeable. Speaking of charging things, don’t forget to fully charge your headlamp before hitting the trail!

Woman holding an REI nalgene water bottle

Water and a water filter

We usually have a hydration reservoir with us, and often pack an ​​REI Co-op Nalgene for extra hydration. No matter the time of year we also always travel with a small, lightweight water filter. Our favorites are the HydraPak Flux and the Katadyn BeFree, which are both easy to use, lightweight, and take up very little space in our backpacks!

Plenty of warm and waterproof layers

Weather conditions can change quickly in winter, so I always make sure to have extra layers with me! The REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket for men and women is a great mid-weight puffer jacket, and the REI Co-op Flash Hyperstretch Fleece Jacket for women and men is a great baselayer!

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