Having the right gear can turn a winter hike from whine-fest to a magical experience. Here are our top winter hiking gear essentials (for all members of the family) to make winter strolls more fun and comfortable plus safer, to boot. Because you know what they say – there’s no bad weather, only bad equipment.
Winter Hiking Gear Essentials: Gaiters
Gaiters are amazing inventions that encase the ankle and lower leg to prevent that horrible sensation of cold, icy snow getting into boots, which can lead to wet feet and unhappy hikers. Straps loop under footwear soles to prevent bunching up, as snow pants often do. They’re an absolute must for warm, dry tootsies. Find them on Amazon and MEC
Winter Hiking Gear Essentials: Traction Devices
We’re not all surefooted like goats or children. Slip-on spikes add traction to our boots to help us avoid wiping out on icy surfaces – they make going up or downhill much easier and safer. MEC has a wide variety and we swear by the Kahtoola Microspikes, the favourite of hikers everywhere.
Winter Hiking Gear Essentials: Hiking Poles
Poles really help with stability on slippery patches. Most versions are telescoping, collapsing down into a small package that easily tucks into a hiking backpack. Use them to avoid taking a tumble. There are some pricey offerings out there, but Amazon has some great ones at better prices.
Winter Hiking Gear Essentials: Hydration Backpack
We know how important hydration is with active pursuits, even in the winter. But fumbling for water bottles in backpacks, taking off gloves and mitts to open them, and managing to get everything packed again is frustrating and can lead to lost gear. We love hydration bladders, either on their own or as part of a larger backpack, which allow everyone easy access to H20 via the spout affixed to the shoulder strap and positioned for easy water breaks – barely any hands required. Find them at Canadian Tire and Walmart.
Winter Hiking Gear Essentials: Snowshoes
We used to doubt the usefulness of snowshoes – were they really worth the storage space and price tag? And then we started winter hiking and realized that yes; they are worth their weight in gold. Falling through deep snow is tiring and chilling even for adults, let alone young ones who will demand to be carried through the slog. But unstrap the snowshoes from the backpacks (bungee cords work well), and it’s a brand new adventure. We like Canadian Tire’s line-up for a reasonably priced selection.
Winter Hiking Gear Essentials: Neck Warmers
We’ve learned that neck and face protection is a must on a frosty walk. Call it a buff, neck tube, or neck warmer, this soft layer provides warmth and also protects against chapping caused by a coat collar chafing the chin. Bonus – these also catch nose drips and warm the air, so no more complaints about freezing faces. We like this one that supports the Bruce Trail – Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath. Also check out the numerous options from SportChek.