Hiking trips require appropriate equipment to keep you safe and comfortable on the trails. In order to help you pack the right equipment, we made the interactive hiking checklist below which includes all the required equipment for day hiking trips in cold to very cold conditions (temperatures below 10° C; 50° F). The checklist consists of compulsory as well as optional items; some are “luxuries”, others are for specific conditions such as avalanche safety equipment.
In the Things to Consider section you will find further advice on the hiking equipment on the checklist.
You can also check out the article How to Plan a Hiking Trip.
If you are looking for a hiking checklist for different conditions or duration, you can go to our other checklists:
Things to Consider – Day Hike in Cold Weather
The required backpack volume for a one-day hiking trip in cold conditions depends on the hike’s duration, conditions on the trail and your equipment. A daypack with the volume of less than 30 liters will suffice for most one-day hiking trips in cold to very cold conditions. However, if the trail is covered with snow or there is danger of avalanches you might need a bigger backpack to fit additional equipment such as crampons, ice axe, helmet, snow shovel, probe etc. In this case a backpack with the volume of up to 40 liters might be required. Remember that a backpack should be filled sufficiently, otherwise it will be unstable. For short hiking trips on less challenging trails you might also consider carrying only a lumbar waist pack if the weather is stable.
When choosing hiking boots, you basically need to consider two things: ground cover (snow, rocks, grass etc.) and weather. Boots with relatively stiff soles perform best on rocky or snow-covered trails while you will be better off with flexible soles on dirt tracks and grass. Boots with stiff soles allow you to easily kick steps in the snow, provide better stability and can be used efficiently with type C1 crampons. Boots with flexible soles provide better comfort and are usually very light. If there is a chance that your boots will get wet, you should make sure that they are equipped with waterproof lining (e.g. Gore-Tex).
In cold weather we recommend wearing base layers made of Merino wool as they excel at minimizing the conductive heat loss and providing warmth even when soaked with sweat. Tight fitting base layers are preferred in cold weather as they entrap body warmth better. For more information about Merino wool read Why you should wear Merino wool clothing, and for general information about base layers read Comparison of Base Layer Materials.
The mid-layer is responsible for insulation and therefore it is a very important piece of clothing when it comes to hiking in cold conditions. You should most definitely wear a fleece jacket and depending on the temperatures also a jacket with down (dry conditions) or synthetic insulation (wet conditions). In this checklist we also included a softshell jacket (optional) which can be used instead of fleece jacket and rain jacket (not compatible with jackets with synthetic or down insulation). A softshell jacket is basically a hybrid between a fleece jacket and a rain jacket as it offers insulation as well as weather protection. However, softshell jackets offer very limited weather protection and therefore they can be efficiently used only in moderate conditions (light rain, wind etc). For more information about mid-layers please read Comparison of Mid-Layer Materials.
A shell layer (rain jacket) protects you against rain, snow and wind and is therefore very important for hiking in cold conditions. There are three types of rain jackets – 2-layer rain jackets (inexpensive but limited performance), 2-5 layer rain jackets (very lightweight and decent weather protection) and 3-layer rain jackets (excellent durability and weather protection). In cold conditions you should wear the rain jacket over a fleece jacket in case of rain, snow or heavy wind – but bring it with you no matter what the weather forecast says. There is, however, no need to bring a rain jacket if you are bringing a softshell jacket and the weather is dry and not too windy. For more information about shell layers please read Comparison of Shell Materials.
Food and Water
You can bring whatever food you prefer on a day hike, but pay attention to staying hydrated. In cold weather hikers often forget about hydration which results in decreased performance. We do not recommend using hydration systems in cold weather due to problems that they might cause – frozen tube, hard to refill with gloves on etc.
Hiking Checklist – Day Hike in Cold Weather
Food and Water