GEARHEAD Gear Guide - Winter Packing


Article by Lindsey Mills of Gearhead Outfitters

Gear Guide for Winter

Ever heard, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear”?

We believe that. Or at least, there’s not having the correct gear or clothing to take on different elements. A few minor changes in wardrobe can turn uncomfortable conditions into no big deal, or seemingly unbearable weather into a minor inconvenience. With the right gear, properly selected and utilized, you’re sure to be in the right state to get the most out of your adventure!

Here we’re providing you with some helpful information to make the right selection of apparel when preparing for your cold-weather trip.


Layer Up

Layering is important for keeping your body warm and dry when it’s cold. Depending on HOW cold and what your own temperature scale is (some people love a chilly thirty degrees while others feel more comfortable at seventy), you will adjust your layering accordingly. The great thing about layering is that you can add a jacket on type when the cold is seeming to bite and shed a layer when you’re starting to run warm.

Baselayer: A synthetic, moisture-wicking, antimicrobial base is ideal. Synthetic is preferred because, well, cotton is rotten. Cotton holds onto water, bacteria and everything else which means it won’t keep you as warm (water carries heat away from the body) and it’s going to start to smell bad faster after you sweat in it. There are all kinds of great synthetics out there that will help keep you warm and keep from smelling bad since sweat is inevitable when exerting yourself. The goal is to pull that sweat away from your skin and keep it from finding the kind of microbes that are going to start giving off odor. You can wear your favorite sweatshirt or t-shirt around home but it is not ideal for being active outdoors. Look for moisture-wicking and antimicrobial when searching for a baselayer. Some great options include merino wool layers from Smartwool and Capilene from Patagonia.

Midlayer: This is what’s going to trap most of your heat. Materials known for their great insulation include fleece, down, and synthetic insulation(which is engineered to mimic down but unlike the real thing, it will keep you warm when wet). Fleece is often made from a polyester and is a great extra layer when it’s very cold, though should only be used by itself when the weather is mild because it’s not as warm as feathers and wind will cut right through it! Down is the warmest option and is sometimes the best option because you’re facing colder conditions or might be relatively stationary. However, if there’s a chance you’ll get wet and you’re going to be moving a lot, a synthetic is often a less puffy layer that’s easier to move in and will still perform when wet.

Shell: There are two main types of shells: soft shell and hard shell. A soft shell is usually windproof and water resistant while a hard shell is windproof and waterproof. If you’re only encountering a light rain, water resistant is usually fine because it likely boasts a DWR (Durable Water Repellent Finish) that will cause water droplets to bead up and roll off. Hard shells will either have GORE-TEX or the brand’s own waterproofing that means waterproof materials, taped seams, and DWR coats to keep out all water. Waterproof  jackets are important when there’s a good chance you’ll be getting rained or snowed on. The great thing about shells is even thought their mostly to keep wind and rain out they also do a great job at keeping heat in.

Hiking pants

Look for synthetics in your pants, too, and something that fits well so you’re not fighting a pant that’s too tight or too loose. Stretchy, sturdy materials that dry quick are ideal.


Gloves, scarves, ear warmers, beanies, neck gaiters, baklavas, and so much more are a great way to trap heat that is trying to escape through your extremities. Depending on your activity, some of these things may be excessive, but if your hands are always cold make sure to have a good pair of gloves! And if it’s going to be windy, it might make a world of difference to wear a neck gaiter or baklava in order to protect your face against stinging wind and rain. While hopefully the weather will be perfect and throw you no surprises, always check the forecast to see if some extra items might help cushion your comfort on your adventure.


Good socks are so, so important to having a comfortable outdoor experience! Refer back to the notes under baselayer for the picking out appropriate socks. Remember to stay away from cotton and look for moisture-wicking, antimicrobial materials. Smartwool is one of our favorites because the merino wool is itch-free, odor-free, and blister-free!


Your feet are arguably the most important thing to take care of when it comes to preparing for your trip. Your feet carry you everywhere you need to go, after all, and it’s a good idea to take good care of your transportation! While tennis shoes or low-cut hiking shoes might be okay for some walks, a waterproof is recommended for keeping your feet warm and dry on your trek. Similar to a hard shell jacket, waterproof jackets will either utilize GORE-TEX or the brand’s own waterproof liner. The same thing that keeps water out will help keep heat in, so unless you’re expecting extreme cold and snow, an insulated boot isn’t necessary.



When selecting what kind of backpack you want to carry it’s important to think about what you’re going to have in it. Food? Water? Extra jacket? Camera? Your partner’s or kid’s jacket? (There’s some of you that know you’ll be stuck carrying someone else’s stuff.) After figuring out what all you’re going to have, find the bag that best holds all of it. Some bags offer more organization for keeping things separate while others are minimalist to keep them as light as possible. Some bags are bladder compatible while others have extra water bottle holders. Think about what’s important to you and then carry a bag that meets those needs and fits comfortably.

Trekking Poles

While these aren’t necessary and their usefulness depends on the trail, having trekking poles is extremely beneficial when navigating tricky terrain, alleviating impact when walking down hill, and a variety of other things when out on the trail. Trekking poles can make your experience much easier by helping descend steep terrain or traverse uneven, rocky ground. Trekking poles should be adjusted to your height so that when gripping the handle with the tip of the pole on the ground, your arm is held at a ninety degree angle.

We hope we’ve provided you with some information that will help you figure out what to wear and what not to wear, and decide whether you have something that fits the bill or need to snag a something new. For more information and to be properly fitted for items for the trails, go visit our friends at Gearhead Outfitters. The staff would be happy to help you figure out what you still need to get ready for your adventure!

Daniel Collins